|Prince & The New Power Generation
|Diamonds And Pearls
|Year of release
25 Years ago today, my first real Prince disappointment.
With the release of the single Gett Off all seemed to turn out great with the new Prince. A new backing band and a new sound. The previous album Graffiti Bridge was a good, and without the contributions by third parties even a great album. Even though it seemed like Prince lacked new ideas. A lot of songs on Graffiti Bridge had been lying around for several years and were leaked before though bootlegs. Gett Off raised expectations. The next single Cream made the expectations plummet again. I thought (and still think) it’s a terrible song, which I (unfortunately) heard way too much live. On the day of release in Holland I bought the cd and, because I had my walkman on me, the cassette, so I could listen to the album on my way home.
In preparation to this text I listened to the album numerous times and it didn’t go down well.
Songs side A
The cassette opens with Thunder, an okay song, but slightly mediocre. This is followed by Daddy Pop, also an okay song, except that midway through the song it turns bad, due to the so-called rap by Tony M. Amongst Prince music lovers this is an infamous phenomenon. The dear man can’t help being in the position he’s in and that Prince thought he could ride the current craze of rap. This was the first (of two) albums where Tony M. played a role and is largely responsible for my dislike of this album. The second reason is the song that follows Daddy Pop: Diamonds And Pearls, an absolute nightmare, particularly the operetta-like horns halfway through. Unfortunately this soon turned out be a public’s favorite, so I had to endure this many times in concert. The next song is the above-mentioned Cream, which is awarded T. Rex like qualities by many. It is undoubtedly my incompetence, but I don’t see, recognize or hear it. Next up is Strollin’, a jazzy triviality. The first ray of light enters at number 6 (!!): Willing And Able, a very nice song with a great beat, great horn arrangements and hooks. Even Tony M.’s rap can’t muck up this song. Finally! This if followed by the fantastic Gett Off, a killer funk song, containing excellent guitar by Prince. Top song!
Songs side B
Walk Don’t Walk starts very nice indeed. Upon entering the complete beat of the song, still very nice. But then suddenly the chorus: Sha Na Na Na Na followed by noises of traffic-horns (?). Too bad. On to the next song. Nothing could have prepared me for this nightmare: Jughead. It starts out funny with Rosie Gaines humming and some disruptive sound on the background and Tony M. responding to that: what the hell was that?, the beat is great, but then it turns out to be a Tony M.-solo-song; also a large part is dedicated to Rosie Gaines, a widely highly regarded member of the New Power Generation, but without added value in this song. At the end of the song Tony M. shouts out all kind of city-names. The only thing to hope for is that he doesn’t call out yours. My God, what has happened to Prince? Luckily he answers that question quickly: nothing has happened: Money Don’t Matter 2 Night, a beautiful, attractive song with great lyrics, that entails poverty, gambling addiction, the Iraq war, Prince turns critical, but executed very well and believable. Beautiful! Next Push, which starts with Tony M. There we go again? No, this song has a great driving beat and has some ingenious bits and pieces. Especially the way Prince is called to come and rap (04:26 minutes into the song) is great:
NPG: Prince! Get on the mic!
Prince: U don’t want me on the mic.
NPG: Get on the mic!
Prince: No man, u don’t want me on the mic.
Which is followed by a nice Prince rap. Time for a ballad, Insatiable: a good song. Nothing new (Do Me, Baby and Scandalous are way better), but nice nonetheless. Closer Live 4 Love is an okay song.
Did the B-sides turn out better? Yes, they certainly did. Gett Off contained Horny Pony, a straightforward dance song, but an irresistible one. For Gett Off a number of remixes were done, which contained Violet The Organ Grinder, a great song, in the vein of Gett Off, with a genuine nasty feel. And Money Don’t Matter 2 Night contained the genius Call The Law: funky grooves, nice flow, rock and roll and some great guitar soloing all in one song. Stunning song!
The album turned out to be a huge commercial success and found a completely new audience for Prince. That became evident at the live-shows. The audience was remarkably young, knew only and wasn’t particularly interested in Prince’s outings into his older (like the fantastic Thieves In The Temple / It performance during the tour) or newer (Sexy MF and Damn U were introduced during this tour) material.
No less than 6 singles were released off the album: Gett Off, Cream, Insatiable, Diamonds And Pearls, Money Don’t Matter 2 Night en Thunder (UK only).
The album was made available with two different covers: the (initially) limited-edition ‘hologram’ edition and the blue (sepia) edition. End 1992/beginning 1993 the video Diamonds And Pearls: Video Collection was released, containing clips and live performances. Particularly Willing And Able was fantastic and proved what Prince could do with a song in a live setting. The inspiration, the rawness, the dynamics, it was all there.
As was clear in my Prince song top 50 and particularly the closing, this album doesn’t reach the ‘minimum good line’. This story shouldn’t be a surprise then. But still, the album contains two great songs (Gett Off and Money Don’t Matter 2 Night), that justify purchasing this record. Besides that a couple of nice songs (Willing And Able, Push en Insatiable). But, in the end, 2 great and 3 nice songs is way too little for a 13 song album.
What is it that makes this album what it is? Prince was composing again (no reusing old material, as far as I know at this moment), the production is flawless (the sound is pristine), a new backing band is in place and a new sound. What could possibly go wrong?
The production is perfect, but too slick. It sounds perfect, but lacks soul, inspiration. Its primary purpose seems to be to attract a large audience and not to leave an artistic mark. The backing band may be technically balanced, but lacks personality and is oftentimes irritatingly present (Tony M.). And, for the first time in his career, Prince tries to capture the spirit of the times, opposed to him influencing it. His attempt at incorporating rap into his music fails. The amount of faith he has in Tony M. is incomprehensible to me. To make matters worse, during the Diamonds And Pearls Tour that followed the album, which I saw 7 times, Tony M. was allowed to display his raps regularly. This was translated into mucking up the songs even more with his (literally) screaming his raps into the microphone, making sure that every nuance was lost. A mockery, unworthy of Prince.
But, ultimately, there’s only one person responsible for this all and that’s Prince himself. The songs just weren’t strong enough, conforming to current trends and need for a hit proved to be too big. It resulted in my first real disappointment concerning Prince’s music. The album following this one (O(+>) would also disappoint (the last record Tony M. played a role). After that, Tony M. was let go, the NPG was diminished in volume and Prince returned to his modus operandi of making music according to his own set of rules, which (almost) immediately would result in one of the best periods (and albums) of his career: The Gold Experience.