Picks and Pans Review: Musicology

updated 05/03/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/03/2004 01:00AM

Prince

CRITIC'S CHOICE

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Prince has come back to us. After years of alienating fans with bizarre behavior such as writing "Slave" on his face (in protest of his contract with former, label Warner Bros.), changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol (spawning the much-mocked moniker the Artist Formerly Known as Prince) and making albums that nobody cared about (Crystal Ball, anyone?), the royal rocker is making the comeback of the year. When he opened the Grammys with Beyoncé in February and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March, he had everybody else eating his purple dust. Now, 20 years after the release of his crowning achievement, Purple Rain, Musicology demonstrates why, at 45, Prince is still in a class all his own. "We got a Ph.D. in advanced body movin'," he sings on the hip-swaying title track, an "old-school joint" that over a laid-back jazz-funk groove, gives props to James Brown Sly Stone and Earth Wind and Fire At the song's end though Prince reminds you of his own rich musical legacy with snippets of "Little Red Corvette " "Kiss" and "Sign o' the Times " While not breaking any new ground Musicology plays like a crash course in Prince "A Million Days" recalls the pop-rock luster of "Take Me with U" "Call My Name" is a sexy slow-grinder in the vein of "Do Me Baby" and "Life 'o the Party" brings to mind the booming funk of "Gett Off" Elsewhere the electric-guitar-charged "The Marrying Kind" seamlesslv segues into "If Eye Was the Man in Ur Life" like a mini rock Opera. Although Prince has cleaned up his act some since becoming a Jehovah's Witness he can still get down and dirty. On the hip-hop-tinged "Illusion, Coma, Pimp & Circumstance," he tells the salacious story of a gigolo and his rich older client, while the vintage bedroom ballad "On the Couch," with its churchy organ, '60s soul horns and Prince's spine-tingling falsetto, shows that the man has not lost any of his makeout mojo.

FUNK-ROCK

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