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Come (Warner)

Come is the latest album by what's-his-name. You know, that sawed-off character from Minneapolis. Wears a lot of purple. Revolutionized pop and dance music in the 1980s. Recently changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol.

Personally, I think he should have changed his name to Parental Advisory, since those words appear on all his album covers anyway.

It would be nice if Come were such a marvelous work that it made listeners forget this silly name controversy, at least long enough to jump up and shake their butts. But this record is one of the strangest and most uneven of his career. It opens with the title track, which turns out to be an 11-minute treatise on cunnilingus. After that, things get weird.

These tunes sound like stuff he had laying around in his vault full of scrapped demos. Although they were recently recorded, or perhaps re-recorded, with members of his latest band, The New Power Generation, most of these songs sound like leftovers from previous albums.

"Race" sounds very Diamonds and Pearls. "Dark" has a distinct Sign 0' the Times flavor. And "Pheromone" has Black Album written all over it. "Solo" is a thinly veiled reworking of "God," a B-side from "Purple Rain." And the title cut features a horn motif lifted straight from "House Quake." The only truly new sounding cut is "Loose!" which finds Prince exploring techno territory.

A The artist formerly known as ... oh, what the hell. I'm going to keep calling him Prince. He can sue me. Prince attempts to hide the uneven quality of the songs behind a series of clumsy spoken-voice introductions, intended to tie the album together.

Prince and his label, Warner, have been feuding lately. He wants out of his long-term agreement with the company. Come, unfortunately, sounds more like something thrown together at the last minute to appease record execs than a project that truly excited its maker.

Even a bad Prince album, however, is a cinch to be one of the year's most compelling releases. "Come" is the kind of song no other artist would attempt, or even think of attempting. And so is "Papa," a powerful song about child abuse. "Don't abuse children, or else they turn out like me," Prince cautions. "Race" offers a sentiment that's bound to draw fire from some black leaders: "I don't want to know why those before us hated each other / I'd rather pretend they never did / I'd rather think there's hope for a kid." There's nothing like controversy you can dance to.

The bottom line is that hardcore Prince fans will find this a fascinating, though not entirely satisfying, pastiche. Casual listeners, however, are more likely to be befuddled than bewitched by this quirky collection. Come could become the first Prince album not to produce a Top 10 single since Dirty Mind, way back in 1980. It staggers the mind to consider what direction, or directions, Prince might take if he were completely unconcerned with sales. Stay tuned.

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