Prince -- 3121 (NPG/Universal)

Album Review by Garrett Caples
San Francisco Bay Guardian April 5, 2006

Following his massive Musicology (NPG/Sony, 2004) campaign, Prince was uncharacteristically silent for ’05, though clearly he spent a lot of time working on 3121, named after his new residence-complex in LA. The contrast between the albums is instructive, for where Musicology sounds like something Prince tossed off in a month, 3121 feels polished and composed.

Sony's publicity machine may have heavily exploited the nostalgia value of Purple Rain's 20th anniversary, but the current album is far more evocative of classic Prince.

"Love" directly quotes "Glam Slam." The cheese synth–driven "Lolita" by turns conjures "Soft and Wet," "Raspberry Beret," and the Time, far outshining its Musicology equivalent, "Illusion, Coma, Pimp and Circumstance." "Black Sweat," the hottest track, is like a combination of "Kiss" and "Housequake" — yet its freshness shows how ahead of their time such songs were. Derived from his own past rather than hip-hop's present, "Black Sweat" nonetheless sounds positively hyphy.

Having appeased fans with this high-gloss coat of purple paint, Prince proceeds to go about his business, largely devoted to his faith as a Jehovah's Witness and his desire to launch his new protégé, Tamar. Her slightly raspy, tremulous R&B vocals spice up several songs, including the bluesy title track, which, judging by the other personnel, is a souped-up outtake from The Undertaker (Warner, 1994), a live-in-the-studio power-trio album released only in Japan.

Exactly where 3121 ranks in the pantheon of Prince albums is uncertain, but even a cursory listen reveals a more substantial disc than Musicology.

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