139: Colonized Mind

Lotusflow3r (2009)
At an NPG reunion party Michael B and Sonny T chill with Prince in a lava lamp lounge. Enwombed in beanbags they put the world to rights with 4am epiphanies that fade with the morning sun. Luckily for us, the tape was rolling. That may not be how Colonized Mind came about but the song inhabits the same late night / early morning world. A time that’s neither day or night, nor today or tomorrow. A hazy calendarless cusp that allows the mind to float into less temporal climes. You need to be in the right headspace for Colonized Mind. In the cold light of day, it’s all smoke and guitar pedal mirrors. But if heard as the sun hugs the horizon you become Odysseus entering The Land of the Dead on a quest to find out the answer to the riddle of Prince’s will.

197: Dreamer

Lotusflow3r (2009)
Prince travels to the sulphur mines of Jupiter to commune with the soul of Jimi through a fug of lotus-petal smoke. He returns with Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) (Slight Return) – a spiritual collaboration between two rock gods that only want to see you bathing in the Purple Haze. A lot of Prince’s music demand to be heard on headphones, as intricate subtleties that transform filler into killer are otherwise lost. Dreamer isn’t one of them. This should be played ear-bleedingly loud through speakers and the more lo-fi the better. It was dedicated to the late comedian Dick Gregory and picked up a grammy-nomination, but lost to boomer-idol Bruce Springsteen who won with some MOR dirge. Both nominations had dream in the title but while the Boss endlessly tells us he’s “working on a dream”, Prince graphically references MLK’s murder then stands next to the American dream and chops it down with the side of his hand. It was obvious which would receive The Establishment’s baubles.

211: Boom

Lotusflow3r (2009)
Prince stalks the Earth dealing out thunderbolts from his guitar like an Old Testament god. Cosmic rock? BOOM! Psychedelic Lyrics with backward messages? BOOM! Interstellar riffs threatening to take out the sun and turn all dark matter to light? BOOM! Lotusflow3r’s languid opening track was like bathing in the primordial oceans and Boom is the Cambrian explosion. Later it would mate with Billy Cobham’s Stratus and give birth to a new galaxy called rock and roll.

217: $

Lotusflow3r (2009)
Seneca, the Roman Stoic, once described the pursuit of riches as “empty and daubed with showy and deceptive colours, with nothing inside to match their appearance”. Almost two thousand years later, the American philosopher Method Man counterpointed with “get the money, dollar dollar bill, y’all!” This track off Lotusflow3r says both at the same time. It skips along with nary a care in the world and the singer (in the breezy manner of someone who’s never had to choose ‘show balance’ on an ATM) tells us that money doesn’t buy happiness. But he sure loves the attention and lifestyle it affords him and wants us all to know it. The hollowness of fame and money is a common theme in Prince’s music. In both Don’t Play Me and My Name is Prince we’re told at the top of the mountain there’s nothing there. Normally the message is God will fill that void, but here dancing and the female gaze is the antidote. And also – in a tragically candid moment – popping pills. It’s such a light-footed, beguiling song that it seems perverse to bring attention to that foreshadowing line, so I’ll end by saying $ is Movie Star without the farce; Life o’ the Party without the spit and nettles. It’s ostentatious in a charming way and just because it glitters doesn’t mean it ain’t gold.

261: Wall of Berlin

Lotusflow3r (2009)
Lock Prince, Sonny T and Michael B in a recording studio with a chalk outline of Jimi scrawled on the floor and they’ll summon this swirling vortex of rock from a forbidden sphere where God’s laws no longer apply. Wall of Berlin has no discernible chorus but switches to double time in between the verses, where the three struggle to control the rampaging daemon and constantly cross streams to quell its fiery rage. “The power of NPG compels you!” This 2006 outtake would have segued seamlessly into 3121 after the “wall of Berlin” shout, and possibly once did, but amongst Lotusflow3r it found kindred spirits to RAWK with. I can’t help wondering what devilry lies beyond the early fade-out.

326: Feel Better, Feel Good, Feel Wonderful

Lotusflow3r (2007)
Due to the way Lotusflow3r’s tracks flow into each other, the start of Feel Better, Feel Good, Feel Wonderful is awash with the final waves of Colonized Mind, a departing rock tide that soon leaves us beached in pure funk. Part of me wishes the preceding track’s guitar could linger longer (although it briefly reappears when Prince tells us he can part the sea with it) but as the album’s sole party ambassador FGFBFW stands taller by stepping out of Lotusflow3r’s psychedelic waters. A jagged, block-rockin’ outcrop jutting out of the alluring Bitches Brew fog. The groove and lyrics feel better than Prince’s unrelated and unreleased Feel Good, and the frisky horns feel wonderful as they fondle the lean composition with feline tread. All the feels in four minutes of phat funk.

339: Love Like Jazz

Lotusflow3r (2009)
Stravinsky once dismissed jazz as ‘a kind of masturbation that never arrives anywhere.’ Prince, may have shared that view when he called for jazz to die on All the Critics Love U in New York but his rebellion against the music of his parents didn’t last long. Jazz soon came to represent a freedom from rules and in Love Like Jazz, far from being a directionless act of self-pleasure, jazz became the blueprint for sexual improvisation between two lovers responding to one another. “The notes u play should be a reaction to mine” he sings “nothing planned or contrived, then both of us will arrive at our destination.” Like Prince’s views on jazz, my feelings about this song have also matured, albeit at a breakneck speed. With no other song have I leapt from cringing to bewitched quite so suddenly. Right before my ears, what I previously dismissed as hotel-lobby muzak transformed into an aquatic Sergio Mendez tripping the light fantastic on Neptune. And it gets better with every listen.  With the dependable Sonny T and Michael B on bass and drums Love Like Jazz is a solid and earnest pastiche like Cherry Cherry or Te Amo Corozón, and possibly a leftover from the 3121 days. That’s not to say it doesn’t have depth. It may sound breezy but it’s Strollin’ with a jazz masters degree; Do U Lie? advanced syllabus.