Prince “LotusFlow3r” Review
Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: Album Reviews, Music, Twin Cities.
In describing First Avenue to someone from outside of the Twin Cites, it’s easiest to just explain it as “that club” in Purple Rain; Prince returned to “that club” for the first time in two decades as one of three shows he played in Minneapolis on July 7, 2007. Following an in-store at Macy’s and his arena show at the Target Center, the First Avenue crowd waited in anticipation for the musician, knowing that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime event. And they waited. Prince eventually took the stage at 2:45 a.m. (legally the club could only stay open until 3:00) and played until the police shut down the show some 15 songs later. The whole thing was outrageous and had it been any other artist trying to pull such a stunt, it wouldn’t have ever worked (nor do I think people would’ve cared). The same can be said about LotusFlow3r. The album comes as one of three releases, and is an elaborate recording that is as much a showcase for Prince’s extravagance as it is his talent. For anyone else, such a feat might not be possible.
Over the course of his 24 previous albums, Prince has shown that his range is slightly more dynamic than most, however it’s still easy to get lost in the transitions between the LotusFlow3r’s tracks. From the first note the record begins to drift in an unpredictable sway, with “From the Lotus…” introducing LotusFlow3rwith a gentle guitar-based instrumental. Later, “Love Like Jazz” plants itself firmly in the tacky soft rock of the Doobie Brothers or Steely Dan, adding a twist of faux-Tropicalia to the mix for a bit of flavor. Not to say the songs are bad though, they’re just so unique and separate from each other that it’s hard to form any lasting cohesion.
Similarly, the production and effects used on various songs act to distance each track rather than bring them together. “The Morning After” sounds like a shallow Flower Power throwback from the Empire Records soundtrack. Even looking beyond its lyrics (“How many times you look for happy and you never see the rich folks there… What difference does it make who got the most bank, it’s just ink & chlorophyll”—this coming from an artist who just charged fans $77 for an advanced listen to his new music from a web site that wasn’t working), “$” has a Revolution-sound funk that sounds hurried compared to the following song, “Dreamer.” “Dreamer,” which is one of the best on the album, still fails to capture the explosiveness of the live version of the song (as seen on Prince’s Tonight Show performance), with production akin to Bad Brains in the late-1980s.
But “Dreamer” still stands out as it’s a fantastic exhibition of Prince the guitarist, rather than Prince the frontman. And it’s the guitar-work that holds the album together: “Boom” lands with a crunching blow, “Colonized Mind” offers a scorching guitar solo, and “Wall of Berlin” teases a bit of raggedy blues before Prince overtakes the entire song with a blistering solo. If it weren’t for the duality of LotusFlow3r the album would be either semi-alluring elevator-rock or a firmly planted rock album grounded in hazy solos. Either way, those have both been done, and despite the irregularity between the songs, the contrast is what gives the album its flair for originality.
Often, it’s the Prince that plays until the Police shut him down that people have come to know. That’s the version of Prince that we hear about in the media. The Prince that made news for controversial statements on gay marriage last year—that’s the Prince that unfortunately gets all the attention. But LotusFlow3r is unique in that is expels any thought of Prince’s public persona and allows the music to flow unaltered by general bias (personal bias… as we well know is another story altogether). No matter how much of that static gets in the way, LotusFlow3r is a dynamic reminder of how skilled a musician Prince is.