436: Courtin’ Time

Emancipation (1996)
Prince chalked up many musical genres in his lifetime and made a habit of filling his albums with more styles than he’s had hot pancakes, but this big band swing number in the middle of Emancipation’s plastic sea stands out as particularly unexpected. Brisk, high-kicking and joyful, it deftly coerces a dance out of you with a planetary pull on your hips. But you haven’t got long – Count Basie’s hula-hooping the rings of Saturn while his orchestra’s at the bar getting the Mint Juleps in. Live performances saw it get stretched out to up to twenty minutes, showing that it’s far from being a throwaway novelty. Although it’s a shame a band-orientated version wasn’t released as it suffers from the effects of the great drum machine blight of ’96. A more organic recording of Courtin’ Time would have sat comfortably on The Vault… along with its kindred jazz brethren. The lyrics of lost friendship becoming a more affirmative take on the luscious, wallowing Old Friends 4 Sale. Mind you, if there was ever a Prince album in need of a jarring element or two it’s Emancipation as sanding down the album’s sharper corners wouldn’t have helped the harsh accusations of homogeneity it often received. And the lyrics are certainly on brand with the apogee line “a thousand times the victor” giving us Prince at his most sky-high emancipatory.