This article belongs to the story At long last Prince’s The Gold Experience is released!.
Reactions to The Gold Experience were mixed, although it has to be said that the American reviewers were more positive than the European reviewers. It was either called characterized as a ‘return to form’ or as an ‘old routine’. However, there was widespread consensus on the fact that experimentation and innovation were no longer part of Prince/‘s music.
This article contains a number of reviews.
THE GOLD EXPERIENCE
1 PUSSY CONTROL – Starts like some electronic intergalactic war with rapid keyboards and a woman talking in Spanish. Then an introduction, “Goodmorning ladies, gentlemen, boys and motherf–ing girls,” before breaking into a six-minute fast track of warped industrial rap with sex-overdose lyrics.
2 ENDORPHINEMACHINE – “There are over 500 experiences to choose from, here’s a selection…”. It opens with what sounds like a flick through the radio dial and then booms into a huge stadium friendly single with the lyric, “Prince is done with/Prince is done with”.
3 SHHH – Continuing the sex theme, ‘Shhh’ begins with a dramatic intro thenslows into a soulful, jazzy epic. “Sex is not what I think about/It’s what I think about you,” Symbol sings, before the song concludes witha huge orchestral sweep.
4 WE MARCH – Opens with Christmassy chimes then breaks into hard, raw funk as Symbol asks, “If this is the same avenue my ancestors fought to liberate/How come I can’t even buy a piece of it if my credit is straight?”
5 DAYS OF WILD – Weakest track on the album. Prince is rapping. Meant to sound bad-assed but it sounds hollow.
6 TMBGITW – Massive spangly pop song and his worldwide number one. The first really stunning song on the LP.
7 DOLPHIN – Fast-beat pop with a chorus that sounds like a huge pepsi advert. Racy, singularly accessible track that will appeal to seven year pop kids as well as hardened fans. Catchiest song on the album, though the words are distinctly left field: “I’ll die before you/I let you tell me how to swim/And I’ll come back again as dolphin/Let me in, let me in/As my friend dolphin/As a dolphin”.
8 NOW – Hard, raw funk with sharp blasts of brass, swells of organ and snatches of rap in places not unlike Public Enemy’s ‘Give It Up’.
9 319 – A ‘Kiss’-like tease with layers and layers of vocal, snatches of horn, choppy funk guitar and scuzzy dirty keyboards. Another possible single.
10 SHY – The album’s outstanding track. A stripped down rock ballad with sweet guitar breaks and washes of slide guitar, it ends with the sound of a car driving off into the distance. Symbol sings “The lips say no but the body says might/Looks like we are going to take the long way home tonight”.
11 BILLY JACK BITCH – “Open letters are the only things that open wounds.” A rolling, funky grove and possible club track (when remixed). Slick swathes of funk and ends with a big roaring laugh.
12 EYE HATE U – Opens with more radio-style voice-overs from a sexy-voicedw oman who says, “You’ve accessed the hate experience. Do you wish to change your mind? Enjoy your experience.” Leads into a schmaltzzy over the top ballad with ridiculous lover spurned lyrics and the memorable, “With her hands behind her back so I can tie her tight and give into the act”.
13 GOLD – Appropriately big, pumping ballsy power rock ballad to end. Massive Purple Rain-esque sound, though the lyrics are uniquely cheesy and include the words, “There’s a mountain and it is mighty high/You cannot see the top unless you fly”.
New Musical Express, August 3rd, 1995
Still Moaning, Still Shimmying
By Jon Pareles
SEX IS NOT ALL I THINK ABOUT,” Prince Rogers Nelson declares partway through his new album, “The Gold Experience.” “It’s just all I think about you.” For the length of the song that follows, he tries a subject other than sex. But soon enough, he gets back to his true vocation: creating music that pulses and moans and shimmies with the rhythms of lubricity.
All around him, he has been watching others make hits with his kind of come-on. “Everybody wants to sell what’s already been sold,” he sings in “Gold.” TLC’s “Waterfalls” sounds like a Prince song; so does D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar.” While Prince didn’t invent heavy-breathing songs, he did give them a certain slow-rolling groove and a willingness to be explicit. But he started releasing albums back in 1978, and he has been around so long that many listeners began to take him for granted. Perhaps they should; “The Gold Experience” (Warner Brothers) holds few large surprises amid its many small pleasures.
He was, and is, a prodigiously gifted musician who usually works as a one-man band in the studio, playing everything except horns and sometimes following experimental impulses instead of honing down potential hits. In “Gold,” he asks, “What’s the use of money if you ain’t gonna break the mold?”
Yet as the 1990’s began, the innovator became a follower. Trying to adapt to the hip-hop juggernaut, he added rappers to his group and brandished a gun-shaped microphone, but he ended up sounding provincial and awkward. Besides, there were younger Casanovas around, ones who hadn’t already filled a shelf with albums, who hadn’t publicly toyed with androgyny and who hadn’t acted as oddly as Prince through the years, even before he dropped his name for an unpronounceable glyph.
On “The Gold Experience,” he shows a new self-consciousness about his work. The songs are framed as a fake-interactive menu of choices, as if the album were a virtual-reality program. An institutional voice announces, “This experience will cover courtship, sex, commitment, fetishes, loneliness, vindication, love and hate.”
As someone who records for the Time Warner conglomerate, he is a software provider, concocting entertainment for consumers, and on “The Gold Experience,” he lets listeners know that he knows it. The album, and the persona who performs on it, are there for a straightforward purpose: to fill some time, to change a mood. The songwriter is an artisan, gearing a product for a specified use, perhaps expecting it to lose its efficacy over time. But he still intends to provide some thrills, and maybe some insight.
“The Gold Experience” arrives a year late; lyrics to one song, “Now,” set its date in 1994. The delay resulted from a long wrangle with Warner Brothers Records. In 1992, Prince signed a new contract with the label, potentially worth $100 million over six albums. Soon afterward, he started protesting his treatment by the company. He adopted the glyph as his name and released a single, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” through the independent Bellmark label in 1994; it became his biggest hit of the 1990’s. (The song reappears on “The Gold Experience.”)
Then, complaining that Warner Brothers was holding him back from releasing all the music he wanted to put out, he withheld “The Gold Experience” from the label. Last year, Warners released “Come,” under the name Prince, with a cover that showed dates — 1958-1993 — as if to bury Prince, now reborn as the glyph; Warners also released “The Black Album,” recorded but then withdrawn by Prince in 1988. He was photographed with the word “slave” written on his face, and as late as February 1995 he was insisting that Warners would never release “The Gold Experience.” By July, however, he had changed his mind, and the year-old “Gold Experience” — with one song, “We March,” added to it — will now be released by Warner Brothers. “Prince esta muerto,” a woman’s voice announces on the album: “Prince is dead.”
But billed as the glyph, he’s still up to the same old things: funk and ballads and rockers, each with at least one ingenious musical detail, whether it’s the horn-section syncopations in an otherwise routine dance stomp, “Now,” or the rippling guitars in “Dolphin.” Once in a while, Prince gets out of the bedroom. In “We March,” he sings a protest against housing discrimination, while “Dolphin” asserts his right to creative freedom: “I’ll die before I let you tell me how to swim.” “Gold” itself, a gleaming march with an angelic choral finale, rejects commercial aspirations as only a hit maker can.
Yet those songs are tangents to his crowning obsession: sexuality. In a slow grind, “Shhh,” he promises a private seduction. He wants to join a woman in an orgasm-inducing “Endorphinmachine,” rapping over a Stones-like guitar riff; “319,” another rocker, fantasizes about photography as foreplay.
Unlike most of his musical imitators, he doesn’t pretend that lust always arrives unmixed. In “P. Control,” a rap with a keyboard hook out of a sci-fi soundtrack, he tries to seduce a dominant woman who’s clearly in charge. “I Hate You,” his current single, sounds like an adoring ballad, but the words tell a different story. When he confronts a woman who betrayed him, he can’t untangle his anger from the attraction he still feels for her: “I hate you so much/ I wanna make love until you see/ that it’s killing me, baby, to be without you.” Before that confession, a courtroom interlude carries him into kinky fantasies.
“The Gold Experience” is a proficient album, not a startling one; most of its songs are variations and retreads of previous Prince efforts. But perhaps he’s not making albums for the ages any more, just providing new material for those who have gotten all they can from his past hunks of entertainment software. “Am I getting you hot?” he asks in “Shhh.” If so, “The Gold Experience” has performed its function.
New York Times, September 17th, 1995
With ‘Gold,’ Prince Regains His Midas Touch
By Cheo H. Coker
Although he says “Prince is dead” countless ways on this record, “The Gold Experience” finds the man formerly known as himself very much alive. What’s really laid to rest are the corny rapping dancers, the ineffective sampled beats and the overblown productions, replaced by a taut live band (mostly Prince on all instruments) that keeps perfect time with His Royal Badness during his musically complex tales of unrequited love and sex and cryptic contemplations on higher powers.”Shhhh,” originally recorded by Tevin Campbell, ranks with “Adore,” “Joy in Repetition” and other legendary Prince slow jams, with a throaty tenor that seduces with each coo and a soaring guitar solo that takes the song higher and higher. “I Hate You,” a ballad reminiscent of “International Lover,” finds Prince pulling out his famous falsetto to castigate a lover foolish enough to leave him for another man.”The Gold Experience” (most of which was recorded in 1993, at the same time he was making last year’s “Come”) sounds as if Prince stopped trying to copy other trends and instead followed his own drummer as in the old days – the result being his most effective and meaningful album since 1990’s “Graffiti Bridge.”
Los Angeles Times, September 24th, 1995
“The Gold Experience”
By Vickie Gilmer
For all of you who thought Prince done flipped out with his name change a few years back, lost his touch with a couple of less-than-satisfying releases and has overworked the battle with his label by sporting a “slave”-stenciledcheek, you can breathe a huge sigh of relief. “The Gold Experience” fully redeems 0(+> as the ruler of his wildly imaginative, funky, sexy kingdom.
While his most recent releases – the bootlegged “The Black Album”; “Come,” which signified the death of Prince (1958-93); a greatest-hits package; and a couple of singles – surely tided over those hungry for 0(+>’s music, anticipation didn’t dissipate for an album that would blow off your boots, make you sweat, make you hot.
“The Gold Experience” is interspersed with spoken-word interludes from the New Power Generation Operator; the purpose of her presence matters little, it’s what follows that counts. “Pussy Control” sounds like it will be a misogynist tirade, but it really praises female empowerment as the song’s funky rhythms grind and 0(+> raps and coos. “Endorphinmachine” is a multilayered frenzy that seduces with its groove and guarantees writhing on the dance floor. Where 0(+> once pushed and ordered (he still teases), he’s less forceful now, no longer demanding but calmly exerting control that isn’t only apparent in his delivery, but also in his use of myriad styles and a renewal of some of the sounds that characterized his best work (“1999,” “PurpleRain,” “Sign o’ the Times”).
“The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” a single released last year, is oddly out of place with its staid R&B approach, as is “Dolphin,” an overwrought pop stab that pleads for acceptance. “Gold” works 0(+>’s pop bent best with its anthemic arrangement and uplifting vibe, and “I Hate U” rides a line between love and hate that leaps crazily with the closing guitar solo. “We March” takes a proactive stance, riding high on its funky synth-spiced beat, and “Now” digs in deep with its soulful horns, scratches and scattered approach that melds funk, soul and rock. “319” is down and dirty; horns punctuate the beat, and single-notesolos define the rhythm’s boundaries while 0(+>’s vocals hit the same stride as those that characterized his raunchy heyday. “Shy” uses a spare,stripped-down melody but survives just as well without a head of steam fueling it as those songs that do.
0(+>’s mystique has not diminished nor has his ability to attract attention. But what matters most is that “The Gold Experience” shows his royal badness is assuredly moving forward.
“The Gold Experience” will be in stores Tuesday.
St. Paul Pioneer Press, September 24th, 1995
NEW DISC IS A WINNER FOR PRINCE
GO FOR THE GOLD
By Jonathan Takiff, Daily News Staff Writer
What in blazes were those Warner Brothers Records executives thinking when they gave the Artist Formerly Known as Prince a hard time over the release of “The Gold Experience”?
Anyone with ears to hear, a sense of history, and more than a passing appreciation of Prince should be delighted by this new set hitting stores today. Richly referenced to golden soul, folk and rock influences – chock-full of memorable tunes, imagery and invigorating arrangements – it’s a veritable pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And guaranteed, the set will help you forgive and forget his recent spate of one-dimensional, beat-centered musical disappointments that tried too hard to be “street”-wise.
While he’s never going to be accused of being a saint, some of his new raunchy stuff (like the rap-pounded show opener “P**** Control” ) rises above the lascivious by slipping in lines designed to put tough guys in their place and women back on a pedestal: “Hooker, bitch, ‘ho/I don’t think so.”
And the Princely one stretches out in new/old directions with songs like “Dolphin,” a haunting reverie about reincarnation, and the moralistic title track, “Gold,” which asks, “What’s the use of money if you’re not gonna break the mold?”
Both are more than a little reminiscent of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s best folk-pop, and reveal a previously repressed side.
Also harking back to the golden age of progressive album music is the potent “We March,” a dynamic, gospel-tinged soul funker in the protest vein of Sly and the Family Stone: “If this is the same avenue my ancestors foughtto liberate, how come I can’t buy a piece of it even if my credit’s straight?”
Classic ’70s soul is evoked with ballads like “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” – successfully released as an independent single last year during the artist’s falling out with Warners. It harks back to the testifying soul of Al Green and Teddy Pendergrass.
The theme tying these elements together is the recurring sound of His Royal Badness tapping away on a computer, accessing elements of a program called The Gold Experience in search of “courtship, sex, commitment, fetishes, loneliness, vindication, love and hate.”
Love and hate come together in the standout “I Hate U,” a comically twisted, yet heart-grabbing ballad set in a courtroom. It’s a song so vivid that no music video is needed to unfold the plot. In an angelic voice, our hero bemoans his cheatin’ girlfriend, and then gruffly calls her to the stand. “If it pleases the court,” he intones with a slightly veiled smirk, “I’d like to have the witness place her hands behind her back so I can tie her up tight and get into the act.”
Dirty minds will also delight in a visit to hotel room “319,” where the randy one is shooting pictures of a model-for-hire and marveling at her attributes.
Rich polyphonic keyboard lines and fiery, jazz- and rock-flavored guitar breaks are abundant throughout. In sum, the man’s hungry again, snapped out of his lethargy and living up to the credo, “Write about what you know best.”
Philadelphia Daily News, September 26th, 1995
LATEST ALBUM FROM THE ERSTWHILE PRINCE IS GOOD THEATER
By Tom Moon
We start where we left off last time: Trying to decide what to call this sometimes confused, sometimes brilliant musician-singer-savant. Once Prince, then a symbol, he’s identified by Warner Brothers Records as “AFKAP,” the Artist Formerly Known as Prince.
That shouldn’t matter much to the people formerly known as his audience, except right now he’s creating music that doesn’t really reflect any name change. The Gold Experience, which arrives in stores today, is a Prince record. Through and through.
It’s naughty. It does, at times, objectify women – but then the 37-year-old Prince never could resist putting his scantily clad heroines on a pedestal. It’s got the most potent hip-hop-rock hybrid jam to hit the streets in years. It is unrepentantly sexy. It’s got a few of those big production-number ballads,a specialty that he hasn’t attempted since Diamonds and Pearls. (These include “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” the only previously released Gold Experience track.)
Mostly, though, it’s theater. And at his best and worst, Prince always was dramatic. The author of both a modern rock opera (Purple Rain) and one of the most indulgent vanity projects of modern film (Graffiti Bridge), Prince has envisioned himself as a storyteller-slash-philosopher, a sage whose job is more than just songwriting. He’s tried, over and over again, to wrangle larger themes out of smallish songs, and to make his music say something, spiritualor otherwise. Sometimes the songs cooperate; just as often, the concept feels overblown and contrived.
For The Gold Experience, his songs are connected by a dispassionate computerv oice prompt that guides the listener through a menu of “experiences” -love, hate, revenge.
But like multimedia computing and so much modern art, these songs are not always linear: There’s no attempt to link them into a conventional unifying theme. They’re a series of atmospheres, celebrating lust one minute and rapping about virtue the next. The contradictions could fill a psychologist’s journal: The opening selection (whose un-PC title is not printable) champions female sexual power, but “Shhh” finds the male in control of every aspect of lovemaking. One track is an ode to a tough woman named “Billy Jack Bitch,” while another, “We March,” contains this surprisinglye nlightened advice to gangsta rappers:
If this is the same sister that you cannot stop calling a bitch
It will be the same one that will leave your broke ass in a ditch
The adolescent computer fantasy scenario will no doubt bring Prince more ridicule: He’s just using new media to let his twisted, one-track mind roam free. Why, goes one line of thinking, doesn’t he just get into the pornography business? Because even when he veers off color, when his lyrics take you to intimate places you might not want to go, his creative music tests the edges of pop like nobody else’s, taking the music to places it needs to go.
It’s chops in the service of raunch, and as has been the case throughout Prince’s career, the raunch tends to obscure the compositional advances underneath. Unlike the nervous and audience-obsessed Michael Jackson, whose new album was heralded with a lyric controversy that smelled like a publicity stunt, Prince follows his gut, marketplace be damned. He then supports his impulses with taut, fiery music that defies quick categorization, effortless music that recalls his confident Purple Rain stride. After a long stretch of mostly unfruitful experimentation, The Gold Experience shows that this is one fallen mega-star who is still in touch with the simple truth of a slamming backbeat.
At a time when pop music (and black pop, in particular) seems stuck on rote expressions of devotion, this renewed attention to the visceral side of music, to how things feel rather than what they mean, is welcome. Prince sounds like he’s enjoying it, too: Comfortable paying homage to a powerful woman, he raps with a rhythmic dexterity that shames Snoop Doggy Dogg. At home with a rock-funk pocket (“Endorphinmachine”) that rivals “1999,” he plays enough ferociously inventive guitar to send Eddie Van Halen back to the practice room.
Though his writing is more direct than in the recent past, Prince still finds ways to flesh out his songs with imaginative musical touches: The syncopated “Shhh” is punctuated by the work of drummer Michael Bland. He plays the most riveting drum solo to hit pop music since Steve Gadd’s trip through Steely Dan’s Aja, while “319” contains some of the most taut, restrained guitar playing Prince has committed to tape in years.
And, of course, he sings. Passionately. Despite its campy courtroom interlude, “I Hate U,” the breathtaking ballad that is Gold’s first single, captures Prince essaying vividly on the feeling of betrayal. Unafraid to pour his heart into what would, in other hands, be a commonplace plea, he phrases with a hurt powerful enough to stop time. Elsewhere, he creates a chorale of gently cooing voices to celebrate physical love on “Shhh,” and then turns that choir loose on a political pursuit, for the new-jack shuffle “We March.”
So he’s back doing what he’s good at. That’s a relief. The Gold Experience may not be the deepest collection of songs Prince has offered, but it’s certainly the loosest – and the most accessible – in quite some time. It most certainly won’t benefit from a “King of Pop” $30-million marketing campaign, but with music this compelling, that hardly matters: When he says, on the openingtrack, “I need another piece of your ear,” give it up. This timeold-what’s-his-name has earned it.
Philadelphia Inquirer, September 26th, 1995
The Gold Experience
By Mike Flaherty
Those who have had a hard time keeping track of TAFKAP’s prolific, exasperating career may want to take notice again. And not because of the recording-as-virtual-reality shtick that shakily frames Experience, but in spite of it. This is a buoyant, raucous effort, imbued with enough funk, passion, and playfulness to make it more akin to a party – rather than concept – album.
Entertainment Weekly, September 29th, 1995
THE GOLD EXPERIENCE
By Carol Cooper
With this LP, our former Prince turns in his most effortlessly eclectic set since 1987’s Sign o’ the Times. As his fourth album since rock’s mostquixotic auteur baptized himself with a name only dolphins and extra terrestrial scan pronounce, The Gold Experience is surprisingly retro in sound and attitude. Longtime fans will recognize signature riffs from Purple Rain, 1999, and Controversy, as well as customized appropriations from glitter rock, the Ohio Players, art rock and the kind of quirky narrative poems Prince perfected upon the release of Graffiti Bridge.
Guiding the listener from track to track is the multilingual chatter ofa feminine cyborg first deployed on the ex-Prince’s interactive CD-ROM from last year. One of her first declarations – in Spanish – is that Prince has “died” so that the New Power Generation may live. But who are the NPG, really? Although The Gold Experience enjoys the services of some very tight, skillful musicians (not the least of whom are the folks who compose the horn section from the old Paisley Park act Madhouse), all you really hear is the heart, soul and mind of our once and future Prince.
In case you’re wondering, all his classic contradictions are still firmly in place. On the poppy political broadside “We March,” he cautions men not to call women bitches, then a few tracks later breaks his own commandment in the anti-love ditty “Billy Jack Bitch.” On “I Hate U,” the soulful first single, he sings, “I hate you…. ’cause I love you, girl,” which sums up the Princely persona in a nutshell. He loves his women and his colleagues, but he can’t allow them a dominant role in his life or his work. He loves the perks of stardom but has gone out of his way to reduce his own public profile to that of a virtual unknown. Add to all this a long-standing fascination with paradox, irony and subtle parody, and you get The Gold Experience in all its contrarian glory.
Like Michael Jackson, our erstwhile Prince has plenty to scream about, but he’s nowhere near as dour about it as Elvis Presley’s son-in-law. Instead he tries to have as much fun as possible while still following his own schizoid genius as it dances along the precarious divide between the sacred and the profane.
As usual, the attempts at rap come off as part satire and part celebration of the form. The gutter feminism of “Pussy Control” is earnestly phrased in the goofy syntax of the butt-loving Sir Mix-a-Lot, while the rabble-rousing lyrics of “Now” are delivered in the twangy drawl of Arrested Development’s Speech. But the most powerful revelation among this grab bag of edgy rhythms and melodies comes during the deceptively gentle “Shy.” Its rhythm track recalls the imaginative noodling of “Kiss” leavened with the melodic idiosyncrasies of a Joni Mitchell ballad but leaves a more indelible impression than either. The male protagonist of “Shy” lands alonein Los Angeles and starts wandering the town in search of, well, poetry in motion.
This scenario was played out before in songs like “Head” and “Uptown,” butoh, what a difference a decade makes! Back in the Dirty Mind era, the mainthing on a Princely woman’s mind was sex. But the virginal Los Angeles riotgrrrl encountered in “Shy” is more inclined to brag about the menshe killed than about the men she bedded – yet one more apocalyptic sign of the times we live in.
Rolling Stone, November 2nd, 1995
Prince, The Gold Experience
By Sara Scribner
The tiny purple master of the sonic pelvic thrust has had more than a publicity problem recently – he’s had a full-fledged, four-alarm calamity. No one can stop Prince from making a public fool of himself, it seems. While people scoff at his impossible-to-pronounce glyph-name and his moody record company shenanigans, it’s safe to say that no one who watched Prince’s flamboyant rise wanted to see him fall like that, with new jacks swinging him right out of the vital arena of Now. Prince’s sexual outrageousness was limp and his music formulaic on 1994’s flop, “COME.” But last year’s “BLACK ALBUM” – the heavily-circulated bootlegs from his squelched 1987 work – offered something every fan sought: a new “old Prince.” Brooding below the grind, not afraid of personal confession, Prince even claimed he was a child-abuse victim on “Papa.”
But everyone had chucked all hope of a new “new Prince.”
So brace yourself. “THE GOLD EXPERIENCE” is as hard and vibrant as “COME” was weak. The album glistens with experimentation and a guitar-heavy, live sound. Funny, because both “GOLD” and “COME” were simultaneous studio creations: they’re both from the very same 1993 vaults because Prince, unhappy with his contract, refuses to make a new album for Warner Records. But Prince funneled all his spirit into “THE GOLD EXPERIENCE,” making this album his best since 1987’s “SIGN 0′ THE TIMES.”
“This is your captain with no name speaking and I’m here to rock your world!” Prince proclaims in the intro, and could that be a hint of irony in his voice? No, of course not, he’s once again the late, great Prince, a ballsy studio maestro who can move your butt with barely an effort, and who loves doing it. And Prince does find a fresh niche of fatherly authority from which to bump-and-grind. On “P Control,” he makes peace with modern macks, settling misogynists down on his elder-statesman-like knee: “Don’t you even think about callin’ her a ho’, you juvenile delinquent,” he warns. The song’s a rowdy celebration of female sexual power that would be burning up the airwaves if it weren’t for Prince’s rampant use of the p-word.
Gold rips into death, freedom, eternity and – the shocker – sex. Heady stuff. And what’s headier is that, despite stumbles like the new agey “Dolphin,” Prince and his New Power Generation’s quest for knowledge (“gold,” in this case) brings them very close to the holy, funkadelic grail. “Shhh”‘s bluesy slow-jam (first recorded by Tevin Campbell) is melted butter; it’s make-out music for the ladies. Using Fishbone’s “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” as a musical brace, Prince gets revenge on his detractors with “Billy Jack Bitch,” only to slip into “March”‘s unifying civil rights rhetoric. “319” harkens back to the best of “1999,” but that was then…as Prince so eloquently states on “Now:” “This ain’t about the booty movie pumpin’ the max/This about the freaks doing everything they want to do NOW!”
On “THE GOLD EXPERIENCE,” Prince soars with what he knows – Clinton-esque guitar funk, sex as religious rapture – without flying on auto-pilot. Prince may be dead and buried, but ankh-symbol-guy truly lives. Now if we can only get him to make a new album.
MTV Online, October 1995
The Gold Experience
By Danny Kelly
Unwieldy names, contract disputes, the jaw as mobile billboard, speaking through intermediaries, wearing Vivienne Westwood’s idea of a bee-keeper’s mask onstage … the antics of Prince continue to confuse. And it’s hard not to wonder just how much all the messing about affects the little fellow.
After a succession of breathtaking albums in the ’80s, his output has been characterised by aimlessness, by LPs that relied on a couple of jewels to distract from the surrounding fluff. Gold Experience, then, brings mixed news; it is still no Purple Rain, Around The World In A Day or Sign O’ The Times, but the gem-to-lint ratio is altogether healthier.
Gold Experience is the New Power Generation’s finest hour. Whether tightened by their recent touring, or inspired by their apparently unanimous love of early ’70s Sly & The Family Stone (loudly proclaimed in Q last year), their playing here is never short of excellent. They brew a seemingly effortless mesh of taut, springy music that reminds of the days when bands like Earth, Wind And Fire, War, the inevitable Parliament/Funkadelic/Bootsy Collins agglomerates and tons of others honed their particular thing to a nicety. Those people had the funk and, cheerily, the New Power Generation have it too.
All of which would be rather wonderful if Prince’s songs had a bit more to say. If this is the New Power Generation’s LP – and it is – they’ve a right to feel slightly let down by their guvnor’s continued insistence on dick-waving as a substitute for real lyrics.
The opener, for instance, makes the heart sink. It’s called Pussy Control and it is tedious. Elsewhere, though, are the best Prince songs for many a cherry moon. Familiarity hasn’t blunted the sheer loveliness of The Most Beautiful Girl In The World; Dolphin – perhaps about his problems with The Man – is a thrilling glide; and Now, Shy and the weird We March are well up to Prince scratch.
All in all, a good record, but still a feeling persists that, for whatever reason, he’s not quite giving of his best – where, for instance, is the brilliant, live-tempered Days Of Wild? Others would be glad to make Gold Experience but you just know that if water-treading were to become an Olympic event Prince would be first to don the star-spangled Speedos.
Q, October 1995
The Gold Experience
Before he became a symbol of ego trips that kept missing their exit ramps, the artist formerly known as Prince was a symbol of another kind. Creatively eclectic and artistically rebellious, he symbolized the dark side of black-boy musical genius. Ever eager to do more than merely scratch the surface of his craft, he was always willing to delve into the funk and bring back an identity that defied all expectations.
He did what was not allowed. A modish, naughty boy who played fluid mind games, it was sad to watch him fall off his perch back in 1990 with the abominable Graffiti Bridge. It was sadder still to watch him gamble only on the mind games-instead of the mind-blowing songcraft and skill that kept the stuff afloat.
C’mon, face it: The so-called great “Sexy M.F.” was a sonic bust that passed gyrations off as song structure. The 0(+> album had only a couple of cute songs buried in the mix. And frankly, nothing on Come came. The thrill was gone. Complaining about Warner Bros.’ ineptitude or greed was not the point-which seemed lost on him. His records weren’t selling because they weren’t any good.
And even as good as The Gold Experience is, some of it at first seems a tad retreaded, a combination of previously released stuff with some smart new tracks. But no. “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” finds new energy alongside “Shhh,” the sexy mid-tempo ballad Tevin Campbell recorded in 1993. These two songs fit right in between the sexy, guitar-hyped “Endorphinmachine” and “We March,” a funky faux-political bit of dazzle that sounds like a throwback to 1981’s “Let’s Work.”
The coy “Dolphin” (“If I came back as a dolphin / Would U listen2 me then….. / Would U let me in?”) is a lush pop masterpiece drenched in multitracked vocals and a sliding guitar. It sounds like a psychedelic love letter from cyberspace. “P. Control,” a nasty rap-style joint that opens the record, has a playful naiveté that just sounds and feels right somehow. If anything, 0(+> has suffered lately from a too-jaded point of view: All flash ‘n’ trash with no real feeling to hold it down. So the highschool high jinks of “Shhh” pressed up against the subversive buoyancy of “P. Control” feels new, like the “virgin white” he refers to in an acoustic piece of beauty called “Shy.”
Like an outtake from a get-high Rufus album, “Shy” floats by onwaves of soft, hymnlike rhythms. With strings glistening and street sounds punctuating this sad urban romantic narrative, “Shy” is one of those head-turning moments of magic that Prince used to do so well. As with 1980’s “Gotta Broken Heart Again” or 1990’s “Joy in Repetition” (the lone star on Graffiti Bridge), you wanna cry when “Shy” plays, and then play it again, just so you can cry some more.
The beautiful songs just keep on coming. “Billy Jack Bitch” is an R&B sing-along full of call and response and a pumping organ pushing up through a busy mix. It operates as a sly prelude to “I Hate U,” a ballad as simple as its name implies. “I love U so much I hate U,” he sings, and it becomes poetry through his use of dramatic pauses and a vampy lover-man monologue that threatens to overtake him at every turn.
More than that overstated, sacred-meets-profane thing he supposedly does so well, “I Hate You” is what he actually does better: a slick pop-meets-hardcore R&B blend that leaves you breathless. When he asks, “Did U do 2 your other man the same things that U did 2 me?” you hear pain, pleasure, cruelty, and charm. It hurts to know he still does this stuff so well-and that he does it so rarely.
But – and as usual – he gets the last laugh, because The Gold Experience is a Prince experience par excellence. And yes, I said Prince, no disrespect intended. I say it because The Gold Experience has songs on it – not just ideas for songs stretched into overlong tracks or fleshed-out grooves with silly lyrics poured over them. These songs have beginnings, middles, and ends. They sound like they belong together on the same CD. The Gold Experience wants to take you higher. You may never come down. This is 0(+>’s best complete record since 1987’s Sign ‘O’ the Times – his best effort since the ’90s almost happened without him.
Vibe, October 1995
See the Dutch version of this article for more The Gold Experience reviews. Please be advised that those reviews are in Dutch and haven’t been translated into English.
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