CD Review of Lotusflow3r/MPLSound/Elixer by Prince/Bria Valente
Prince:
Lotusflow3r

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Label: NPG Records
Released: 2009
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Prince:
MPLSound

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Label: NPG Records
Released: 2009
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Bria Valente:
Elixer

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Label: NPG Records
Released: 2009
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Reviewed by R. David Smola

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T
he Lotusflow3r record is an ambitious three-disc set in which Prince attempts to establish a new star, put out a guitar record and then put out a funk-based set which tips the hat to his past. There’s some good music on this record, just not enough of it; after two very good records (2004’s Musicology and 2006’s 3121) and one decent one (2007’s Planet Earth), Lotusflow3r is a half step backwards.

The disc requiring the least amount of analysis is Valente’s record: it’s bad. She doesn’t have the raw and deliciously dirty sexuality of Vanity or the potential naughtiness of Appolonia, nor the musical chops or talent of Sheila E, nor the voice of Rosie Gaines. So what is she doing here? This is a generic set of suggestive songs set to mainly slow jam arrangements and less-than arousing-vocal performances. I suppose this is an easy target, but this has more value as a coaster then it does as a record anyone besides the little purple guy is ever going to listen to a second time. The only keeper is "2Nite," which gets your butt moving; the beat and the groove distract from her generic vocal delivery. The Appolonia 6 record did not feature great vocals from any of the three singers, but the music and the fun made it a guilty pleasure. Valente’s effort is boring.

Lotusflow3r’s songs are designed to feature Prince’s guitar work; he’s a ferocious musician and because he can play anything and sings in different vocal patterns, his guitar playing can be taken for granted. Lotusflow3r serves notice that he can play it, play it well, and play it in all sorts of musical styles. The first track, "From the Lotus…," is an instrumental fusion piece with his guitar out front and center performing the lead vocal duties. "Boom" funks a little bit harder with a deeper bass line, and he lets it rip. The verses and chorus are filler until you get to the chunky, riff-tastic guitar pieces. He offers a psychedelic-tinged cover of Tommy James’ "Crimson and Clover," which morphs in and out of the Troggs’ "Wild Thing." His vocals sound as if he’s singing into a fan with a wavering effect but again, this is all filler until he lets his fingers loose on his guitar. This pattern is repeated throughout the 40+ minutes of music. This is good stuff. "4Ever" is beautiful, simple and has a very positive vibe and sounds as if it could have fit in very well with the Sign o’ the Times record. It has that "Starfish and Coffee" catchiness that has been sometimes missing from his post-Purple Rain work. Occasionally, lyrically he veers into one of those Prince zones that makes sense only to Prince, like on "Colonized Mind" and the flat, light jazz/Rainbow Children-flavored "Love Like Jazz." For the most part, though, Lotusflow3r is a solid album.

That can’t be said for MPLSound, which too often misfires with slow jams that feel forced and uninspired. Prince turns on the electronics and relies on drum machines to get him through, which in itself isn’t a bad thing; it’s just that the material is stretched a bit too thin. The Beatles’ White Album argument is very applicable to this entire collection. With just a bit of self-editing, he could have produced a five-star album by including only one track that featured Bria Valente ("2Nite"), removing the light jazz moments from the guitar record, and culling only the best tracks from the MPLSound, like the self-impressed and referential "(There’ll Never B) Another Like Me" and the Housequakish "Dance 4 Me." The fans shouldn’t have to work this hard to find the good stuff. You have to give Prince credit for the volume that the man can create; he just needs a better filter to help him figure out what should be released.

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