It appears that 2009 could be a banner year for album releases. Bruce Springsteen has already issued the year’s first widely acclaimed recording (led by a five-star review in Rolling Stone) titled “Working On A Dream.” I’m hoping that the set is only the first of a handful of great albums that are expected to be issued this year.
On March 3, U2 returns from a long hiatus with “No Line On The Horizon,” the Irish supergroup’s 12th studio album. Lead single “Get On Your Boots” has already scored massive radio play around the world. Not to be outdone, Green Day is putting the finishing touches on its as-yet untitled follow-up to 2004’s Grammy-winning “American Idiot.” Butch Vig (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins) is handling production duties.
The good sounds shouldn’t be limited to the rock side, either. I’m excited to hear “The E.N.D.” (which stands for “The Energy Never Dies”) from the Black Eyed Peas as soon as it becomes available. Same goes for Missy Elliott’s long-delayed “Block Party.”
The best news to me, though, is that Prince, my favorite musical artist of all time, is poised to deliver three albums in 2009. “Lotus Flow3r,” the most anticipated set among fans, is guitar heavy and eclectic, with an organic full-band sound. Four album cuts, including a rocking cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson And Clover,” debuted on an indie L.A. radio station late last year and circulated online to very enthusiastic response.
Prince subsequently revealed to L.A. Times pop music critic Ann Powers that “Lotus Flow3r” was meticulously assembled over two years — a surprising revelation from an artist who is known for recording projects quickly and losing interest in them just as fast.
Apart from the “Crimson” cover, the other previewed songs on the collection include sociopolitical “A Colonized Mind,” harmony-laden love song “4ever” and a blistering guitar and thunderous drums ode to sexual fantasy called “Wall Of Berlin.”
Between the outstanding quality of those tracks and the inordinate amount of time Prince has put into the album as a whole, it seems all but assured that “Lotus” will blossom when it’s released.
The second set in this royal trio is called “MPLSound.” The name is significant because the album consciously revisits the synth- and drum machine-fueled electro-pop that defined much of Prince’s output in the ’80s. (Put on “1999” to hear this style fully explored and exploited.)
This musical signature was dubbed “The Minneapolis Sound” by critics because Prince grew up in the Minnesota city and he exported the style from his own work to several protege groups that included Vanity 6 (“Nasty Girl”), The Family (“The Screams Of Passion”) and, most notably, The Time (“Jungle Love,” “Cool” and “777-9311”).
Speaking of Prince proteges, the third planned recording is “Elixir,” the debut offering from the superstar’s newest pet project, Bria Valente. Prince has a spotty record when it comes to the music he’s produced for the string of sexy, but often marginally talented female artists he’s worked with over the years.
Thankfully, on the pair of tracks that have been previewed to date, Valente seems to have more going for her than just pin-up looks. Prince told Powers that “Elixir” is intended to fill the hole that has existed in grown and sexy R&B since Sade went AWOL. That’s almost certainly too tall an order — Sade is a goddess.
The fact is, if Valente’s album is simply solid I’ll be satisfied with it as a tasty appetizer to what I expect will be a knockout entree (“Lotus Flow3r”) and a delicious dessert (“MPLSound”).
Prince’s new website, www.lotusflow3r.com, was scheduled to open at press time with CD release information on all three recordings — and possibly even downloadable versions of them for sale. Reportedly a tour is also in the works. The site will be the place to keep up with all the latest news.
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