It is hard to believe that it’s been more than twenty-five years since For You, Prince’s first album, was released. Not only because both the world and its musical landscape have altered so much in that quarter century, but because so many of those changes were anticipated and initiated by this multi-instrumentalist, producer, singer, songwriter, Oscar-winning composer, and multi-Grammy-winning artist.
And those accolades are not likely to stop in 2004, which is already shaping up to be a monumental year for Prince who opened the 46th Annual Grammy ceremony with a stunning show-stopping duet with Beyonc¨¦, and earned the ultimate pop music honor as an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March 2004. He’s embarked on an historic and extensive World Tour (which kicked off March 29) and is participating in a number of major events surrounding the 20th anniversary of the release of his classic music film (and watershed album), Purple Rain.

But 2004 is not merely a period of mid-career retrospection for Prince. It’s also time to get down and party with some of the sharpest and savviest music the man has ever made. His new studio album, Musicology, is pure unadulterated Prince: pumping and grinding funk mixed with his patented nexus of infectious pop melody, acerbic political consciousness, and the unstoppable rhythms of life.

With Musicology, Prince is back to show everybody just how it’s done: the seamless blend of sweet soul sounds, pulsing post-modern dance grooves, and hard rock riffs filtered through the uncanny and unerring instincts of the greatest one-man band in pop music history. Musicology is, in the main, “produced, arranged, composed and per4med by Prince,” who contributes nearly all of the album’s instruments and voices.

Right off the bat, on the album’s title track, Prince lays out a 21st century manifesto as potent as the apocalyptic partying of “1999” while paying homage to a who’s who of old school funkmasters including Doug E. Fresh, Earth, Wind & Fire and James Brown himself. (In fact, Maceo Parker, one of JB’s most prodigious erstwhile sidemen, can be heard blowing his fabled horn on several of Musicology’s tracks.)

And while much of Musicology is devoted to the sublime and sweaty art of partying Prince-style, there is also the deep slow groove of tracks like “Call My Name,” a tour-de-force recalling vintage Prince jams.

“I am really an artist and musician at heart, that’s what I do,” Prince says. “Musicology has no boundaries or formats. It is a long overdue to return to the art and craft of music – that’s what this album is about. School’s in session!”

His most recent DVD, Prince: Live at the Aladdin Las Vegas, released last December, debuted at the top of the Billboard charts and is poised to be one of NPG Music Club/Hip-O Records most successful DVDs. Live¡­ shows Prince’s sophisticated musical erudition and his ability to move a crowd to both tears and laughter, if only because he transformed Led Zeppelin’s hard hitting anthem, “Whole Lotta Love” into a funky masterpiece, proving once again that that he is not only one of the greatest talents of last quarter century, but also one of the most ingenious.

During the ’80s, Prince emerged as the musical prophet of the era, releasing a series of ground-breaking albums that both defined and captured the spirit of the times. His genre-bending songs sent shock waves through the music industry that are still reverberating today.

An extraordinarily successful and independent creative force, he grafted together pop, funk, rock, soul and a dash of folk to create an entirely new entity that would propel him to the top of the charts, where he remained for a mind-boggling 24 weeks, with 1984’s Purple Rain.

With his early albums, Prince fused rock, soul, folk, and even jazz, into a breathtakingly original music entity. His subsequent albums pushed the boundaries of taste and imagination to new heights, even flirting with psychedelia, as he created his own personal brand of intricate and idiosyncratic music, selling more than 100 million copies of his albums along the way. While few artists have been able to rewrite the rules, Prince has always been a visionary first, a musician second. But that’s not to take anything away from his musical acumen.

When he was a child and his parents split up, his father left behind a piano. Prince began picking out TV theme songs without a single lesson. He expanded his musical universe teaching himself how to play guitar and bass, and, at the age of 18, recorded demos for what would be his first album. By the next year, he struck a lucrative deal with Warner Bros., which gave him unprecedented artistic freedom and a six-figure advance, allowing him to produce his own albums, making Prince the youngest producer in Warner’s history.

He toured relentlessly, penned songs and produced albums for other artists–giving the career of Scottish singer Sheena Easton new life when he composed her US Top Ten hit “Sugar Walls.” He also gave the Los Angeles girl group the Bangles a No.2 hit with “Manic Monday,” which he wrote under the pen name of Christopher, one of his many pseudonyms. The only reason “Monday” didn’t reach the top spot was that Prince was already there with “Kiss,” his third Top Ten record.

He helped transform Sheila E. from a backup percussionist into a headliner and produced an album for singer Mavis Staples, which took the gospel singer to new heights. During the late ’80s, Prince’s Paisley Park label was a hotbed of innovation and activity. Besides being a creative outlet for Prince, Sheila E., George Clinton, Mavis Staples and others were signed to the label, enabling Prince to work creatively with musicians he admired.

But the musician wasn’t entirely selfless. He had his own muse to serve, and Prince tirelessly recorded songs for himself that still lie slumbering in his prodigious vaults in Minneapolis. Of all of his remarkable accomplishments, perhaps the most seminal moment in Prince’s career was when he created and starred in “Purple Rain,” the poignant semi-autobiographical story of his own life, which also yielded his first Top Ten hit, “When Doves Cry,” taken from the soundtrack of the film.

Reaching that high water mark didn’t alter the musician’s output in the least. In fact after extricating himself from his relationship with Warner Bros., Prince experienced an exhilarating sense of freedom at his newfound autonomy that enabled him to release his own music in the manner he saw fit. Documenting his quest for higher meaning and self-actualization, Prince was now able to blaze even more profound trails without inhibitions. He continues to break new ground through his music in an effort to communicate truths about love and spirituality.

With countless numbers of dedicated fans in mind, Prince created the NPG Music Club ( so he could be in direct contact with those who both understand and appreciate his art. That very intimate relationship has provided a tremendous and fruitful synergy, which as pushed the musician to even greater heights of creativity. After joining (membership is $25 U.S.), fans are offered unlimited access to Prince’s revolutionary Internet site where they are able to view videos months prior to their release on DVD, as well as attend online listening parties, much like the one Prince held before the release of his Grammy-award nominated CD, N.E.W.S., allowing members to hear the entire CD before its official release. There is also the Reflection Room where people can listen to specially selected songs from Prince’s vast catalog.

Prince is fearless in his pursuit of artistic challenges. He is constantly experimenting with different sounds, textures and genres, and continues to surprise and delight audiences. On N.E.W.S., he took another unexpected turn, creating an album of pure luminous sound as he pays tribute to each of the points on the compass, calling on the talents of Renato Neto (piano & synthesizers), Rhonda Smith (acoustic and electric bass), John Blackwell (drums) and Eric Leeds (tenor & baritone sax). To everyone’s surprise there wasn’t a single vocal performance on the disc, yet Prince still managed to leave his indelible mark on the recording.

Never one to rest on his considerable laurels, Prince continues to write, produce, and perform with the rage and fire of an artist just starting out, and that alone is reason enough to celebrate him and the music itself.

The songs on Prince’s new album, Musicology, have tremendous depth, power, and range, creating an important new chapter in the Prince legend, a must-have for his fans around the globe.

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