NEWS (Prince album)
|Prince's studio album|
February 6, 2003
|Label (s)||NPG Records|
Paisley Park Studio ( Chanhassen )
NEWS is the 27th studio album by the US musician Prince . It was released on July 29, 2003 on his own label, NPG Records . The album name is made up of the first letters of the four songs N orth , E ast , W est and S outh . Each of the four songs - named after the cardinal points - is exactly 14 minutes long. NEWS is an instrumental - concept album from the music genre jazz and fusion . Prince is moving on musical terrain that has very little in common with his earlier albums such as Purple Rain (1984), Sign "☮" the Times (1987) or Diamonds and Pearls (1991).
Registered members of his then homepage NPG Music Club.com could receive the album on June 30, 2003 if they had pre-ordered it. In the period from 2001 to 2004, Prince was not under contract with any record company and with the help of this homepage did his own music distribution. He did not advertise NEWS and it is the least sold album of Prince's lifetime.
As early as 1987, Prince was engaged in the music genre jazz : he produced the instrumental jazz-funk albums named 8 and 16 for the band Madhouse - a side project of his at the time . Saxophonist Eric Leeds was already one of Prince's accompanists at Madhouse at that time. At the beginning of the 21st century, several Prince albums were influenced by jazz, such as The Rainbow Children (2001) and the download album Xpectation , which was released on January 1, 2003. On the album cover of Xpectation you can already find the note "new directions in music", which can also be read on the album cover of NEWS .
Prince recorded NEWS in a single day on February 6, 2003 at his Paisley Park studio in Chanhassen , Minnesota. He had composed most of the music beforehand before recording the four songs with his accompanying musicians. However, several improvised musical passages can also be found on the album .
Commenting on the making of the album after Prince's death in 2016, Eric Leeds said: “ NEWS was one of those spontaneous things he always did. I can only say: the time it took to record this album corresponds to the length of the finished record [56:00 min.]. It was probably mixed during the recording . [...] He said 'There's the key , there's the groove , start.' We were in D minor for five minutes and he said, 'now switch to F ' or 'Eric, now your solo !' It was that simple. "
The NEWS album contains four songs, each divided into two or three different musical sections. The album is primarily influenced by jazz , funk and rock music , with oriental and classical elements at times .
Saxophonist Eric Leeds plays a central role on the album; he performs solos and decorates the songs melodically , creating a jazz ambience . The drumming by John Blackwell (born September 9, 1973, † July 4, 2017) is also a formative part of the album. Pianist and keyboardist Renato Neto accompanies the music on the NEWS album from beginning to end, although his piano playing can only be heard occasionally. Neto's musical roots are in jazz. The keyboard players Prince had previously used in his backing bands, on the other hand, were mostly rhythm and blues or rock musicians . In contrast to Leeds, Blackwell and Neto, bassist Rhonda Smith plays a minor role on the album. Although she contributes a short bass solo on the song East , her basslines often rotate around a repetitive element. Your bass playing only serves as the basis for the instrumental playing of the other accompanying musicians.
The piece North is based on a gentle and leisurely drums and bass game, which gives the song a calm beat overall . The bass runs through as a pulsating element from start to finish. Soft synthesizers - string instruments provide a cushion for smooth, jazz-influenced saxophone sounds. After about three minutes, Prince kicks in with a rhythm guitar , followed by jazzy intoned flute playing . The beginning of North is a leisurely, simple beat. By starting the saxophone and subtle guitar riffs , the piece gradually becomes livelier. In the next musical section string sounds of Clare Fischer arranged lush, where Prince opposes a restrained guitar solo. The saxophone riff returns, followed by powerful drumming. After about nine minutes the music calms down significantly and Renato Neto's piano playing begins to dominate. This is a mixture of improvised decoration, paired with melodic parts. Eric Leeds inserts mild saxophone playing, accompanied by string instruments. The short passage of this mix is slowly faded out and the last two minutes consist essentially of indefinable synthesizer sounds that echo like a distant echo.
The song East begins with sounds with an oriental touch that are generated by the synthesizer and are reminiscent of violin playing . John Blackwell begins with lively rhythmic drumming. Occasional pitch-shifting synthesizers fade in, return and disappear alternately. The music sounds grumpy, underlaid with chords , as if there was no harmonic release velocity . The passage takes a few minutes and sounds like the prelude to an overture to a classical composition . After about four minutes, Eric Leeds starts playing the saxophone quickly. Oriental sounds interrupt this fast passage, the music becomes quieter and Prince plays an atonal sounding guitar riff. After about eight minutes the music direction changes and a passage of funk music, based on a rhythm guitar, begins . The music leaves room for various instrumental solos by saxophone, electric piano and organ . After about 11:20 minutes, muffled drumming follows, accompanied by humming bass playing. Prince also plays rough guitar riffs. Rhonda Smith inserts a short bass solo before East's final 50 seconds end quietly.
West begins with a three-note bass figure , accompanied by three lively plucked guitar chords . The music has a slow and relaxed beat. Eric Leeds plays calm saxophone phrases , accompanied by Prince, who adds a guitar playing reminiscent of Carlos Santana , which enhances the calm mood of West . After about four minutes, the influence of funk music can be heard. Prince inserts guitar riffs that are accompanied by syncopated bass and drums. Eric Leeds plays saxophone riffs. A little later Renato Neto starts playing the piano with a touch of jazz as rhythmic support, with his improvised sounding playing a leading role in the piece. Eric Leeds returns with new saxophone riffs. From the 8:33 minute onwards, the music direction changes to a passage from the rock music genre . Prince also plays the electric guitar, which is supported by string instruments in the background. Then Eric Leeds' saxophone playing takes center stage before the music gradually fades out - only the saxophone and drums are audible. There is no more music to be heard in the last 40 seconds of West .
The last piece, South , opens with conventional funk music in which a bass plucked with slap technique can be heard. Prince plays rough-sounding atonal guitar chords, followed by Eric Leeds' smooth saxophone parts. From minute 4:58 the music changes abruptly, starting with a slow passage. In addition, gracefully played keyboard phrases are used, John Blackwell plays the drums that sound like a drum machine . The bass is based on just one note and underlines the music at regular intervals. Renato Neto plays the piano, which is a mixture of chords and rhythmic phrases with melodic cascades of notes. Eric Leeds accompanies South with a permanently jazzy saxophone playing. In the course of the song the musical intensity is continuously built up; especially string instruments come to the fore, saxophone and drums also become livelier. Prince inserts a guitar solo in the tumult of the music. Towards the end the music becomes much quieter and the last two minutes are dominated by an orchestra of string instruments. South ends with piano sounds made up of a repeating figure .
Due to the low sales of NEWS , media interest in the album was sparse. In addition, Prince himself did not market the album; he never let the album go on tour , nor did Prince even play a NEWS song at his live concerts.
The reviews of the album NEWS were divided. It was criticized that the songs sounded “too smooth”. Another shortcoming was seen as the occasional tendency towards funk music in the style of James Brown , which compared to Prince's earlier music offered nothing new or interesting.
Norbert Schiegl from the German music department of the US online mail order company Amazon said, however, that Prince is “always good for surprises” and that “this time too he will live up to his reputation as an unpredictable musical eccentric ”. Prince and his band impress “with four extremely expressionistic sound paintings , the depth and complexity of which only become fully apparent after listening to them several times. He swings effortlessly between elegant echoes of funk, wild free jazz excursions and wonderful pop melodies ”. NEWS is “not a work to which listeners trained in the more classical Prince repertoire will find immediate access. But the effort is worth it, because Prince proves himself to be a musician again, who with admirable nonchalance removes the boundaries between serious and popular music . Especially the second suite , entitled East , shows how far his musical abstraction has developed. The mixture of very calm, lyrical tones and rather rugged sound structures is gradually gaining momentum and culminates in a grandiose finale, in which especially saxophonist Eric Leeds sets the tone ”.
Harry Lachner from the Süddeutsche Zeitung praised: “Now on NEWS he [Prince] is living jazz for the first time right down to the last consequence: with a gorgeous detail fetishism and the dramaturgical creative power of the true sovereign. Prince shows how original the fusion between jazz, rock and funk can sound today, if one alienates the prefabricated templates of their clichéd character and, if necessary, confidently puts them aside. That will certainly not bring him any hit parade success. But Prince is doing something much more important: he has restored his credibility as an artist and a brilliant musician. And also released one of the most beautiful and relaxed jazz and fusion albums in recent years. The album rightly bears its lavish subtitle: New Directions in Music . You don't even know in which direction to bow. "
Jörn Schlüter from the German music magazine Rolling Stone took a different opinion and gave two and a half out of five stars. He wrote that the songs were "four long instrumentals between ambition and boredom". Prince and his band throw themselves "into loosely organized jams between a subtle jazz vibe, rather old-fashioned fusion funk and the occasional onomatopoeia ". With the exception of the piece East , the album is “pretty boring and suffers from the immediacy of technically reproduced jam sessions, which all too often only please the actors themselves. When Prince signs this record with 'New Directions In Music' and the music is played so much and in many different tones, then one will think of Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock , who with Brecker and Hargrove once made a record with an almost identical title [2001 : Directions in Music: Live at Massey Hall ] ”. William Ruhlmann from the US online music database Allmusic was also not very enthusiastic about the album and awarded it two out of five stars.
After Prince's death in April 2016, the music journalists Albert Koch and Thomas Weiland from the German music magazine Musikexpress reviewed the album and gave it three out of six stars. They wrote, among other things: “Prince shows that he knows how to do it right with North and East . West and South , on the other hand, do not work at all. Too much Kenny G. saxophones and Queen guitars ”.
|Germany (GfK)||93 (2 weeks)||2|
|Austria (Ö3)||- (- Where.)||-|
|Switzerland (IFPI)||- (- Where.)||-|
|United Kingdom (OCC)||- (- Where.)||-|
|United States (Billboard)||- (- Where.)||-|
In addition, NEWS reached 83rd place as the highest position in the Netherlands, otherwise no other chart positions are known in the international hit parades. In the USA, only about 30,000 copies were sold. The album remained the Prince album that sold the least during his lifetime.
In 2004 NEWS was nominated at the Grammy Awards in the category “ Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Instrumental Album ”, but did not win. Ry Cooder and Manuel Galbán received the award for their joint album Mambo Sinuendo .
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