The Purple One returns with his rightful name and a deeply spiritual album – and it’s his best in ages. His trademark funk-jazz sound is toe-tappingly catchy, and there’s something for fans of all his periods here.
The Rainbow Children is at its heart a concept album, with the distorted bass narrator’s voice interjecting moments of humour throughout to tie together 16 tracks of varying lenghts – some just a minute long, some well over six. From the title track through to the astonishing finale of Last December, it’s almost a surprise a minute, and one can’t help but wonder whatever’s next.
The narrator’s voice grates somewhat after a couple of listens, but there’s plenty of fun to be had with the gospel soul of the record’s music. It’s the lovely application of Prince’s instrumental genius – from his unexpected use of marimbas through to a subtle undertone of tremolo organ here and there – that delights.
Despite feeling free to experiment with musical form and structure and the instruments – and technology, for ProTools plays a part here – he has at his disposal, he hasn’t consigned melody to the past. Plenty of these tunes are singalong numbers, and plenty more funk up the Paisley Park guru’s ’70s bazaar atmospherics to terrific and unique effect.
The Work pt.1 is big and James Brown-like, while 1+1+1=3′s rhythmic yet off-the-wall guitars and vocals make the jaw drop with awe. Clever, yes, but it’s exuberant as well. The gospel-inspired backing vocals and Prince’s trademark vocal layering work well too. And when the mellow Deconstruction runs into the Gilbert and Sullivan snippet that is Wedding Feast, you know that Prince’s tiny size belies huge genius.
At times it’s one step away from sounding like the band from Mos Eisley space port in Star Wars, but throughout it is a breath of fresh air. This is a record that will, if you let it, broaden your musical horizons. Go buy, and paint the town purple once again.