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Issue: February 1995

just an interesting relic

The Black Album (Warner Bros.)

Prince

Finally, Prince's legendary Black Album is available over the counter. Those hardcore fans who somehow missed hearing a bootlegged copy of this record since it hit the underground market six years ago may find themselves wondering what the big deal was about.

The Black Album was Prince's aborted effort to get "back to basics" and cut a streamlined, down-and-dirty funk record more like Dirty Mind than Sign 0' the Times, this record's immediate predecessor. But His Royal Badness shelved this project for a good reason – his replacement album, LoveSexy, was far better.

The single best track on the Black Album, "When 2 R In Love" was carried over to the next record, as were snippets of other tracks, notably the rap from "Le Grind," a version of which wound up in "Alphabet Street."

The lusty Black Album is best enjoyed as a counterpoint to "LoveSexy," his most spiritual album. If LoveSexy speaks from Prince's superego, The Black Album comes from his id. Taken by itself, however, The Black Album leaves much to be desired.

About half the tracks here are catchy dance numbers. and "Le Grind," a lascivious dance number and "Cindy C," which chronicles a fan's infatuation with a nude model, are both worthy efforts.

"Superfunkycalifragisexy" and "Rockhard in a Funky Place" are the kind of gimmicky cuts Prince usually reserves for B-sides of singles.

Other notable cuts include "Dead on It," Prince's stinging indictment of rap music: "The rapper's problem usually stems from being tone deaf/Pack the house, then try to sing, there won't be no one left." Ouch. Apparently, His Royal Badness changed his Royal Mind later, however. He hired a rapper named Tony M. as part of his next band, The New Power Generation.

The record's most notorious cut is "Bob George," a bizarre monologue about a jealous husband who shoots his wife to death and then holds police at bay with a machine gun. It's unlikely Prince ever wanted this little gem to see the light of release.

For that mater, it's unclear whether he endorses releasing The Black Album. Neither his name nor his symbol appear anywhere on this record. And no cuts from this record wound up on his recent, 3-disc Hits/B-Sides collection. Prince has been sparring with Warner executives. Maybe they released this disc just to spite him.

In sum, The Black Album is an interesting relic with a few strong moments, but nothing the casual fan can't live without.

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