436: Courtin’ Time

Emancipation (1996)
Prince chalked up many musical genres in his lifetime, filling albums with more styles than he’s had hot pancakes, but this big band swing number in the middle of Emancipation’s plastic sea was particularly unexpected. Brisk, high-kicking and joyful, it deftly coerces a dance from you with a planetary pull on your hips. But you haven’t got long – just time for Count Basie to hula-hoop the rings of Saturn while his orchestra’s at the bar getting the Mint Juleps in. Live performances stretched it out to twenty minutes, dispelling notions of being a throwaway novelty and it’s a shame a band-orientated version wasn’t released instead of one marked by the great drum machine blight of ’96. A more organic recording of Courtin’ Time would have sat comfortably on The Vault… along with more kindred jazz brethren. The lyrics of lost friendship being a more affirmative take on the luscious, wallowing Old Friends 4 Sale. Mind you, if there was ever a Prince album in need of jarring elements it’s Emancipation. Sanding down the album’s sharper corners wouldn’t have helped the harsh accusations of homogeneity it often received. And the apogee line “a thousand times the victor I am” does give us Prince at his most sky-high emancipatory.