The Love Symbol Album

Prince And The N.P.G.

Paisley Park / Warner Brothers Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Whether you like him or not - especially since his recent crackdown on fan sites - you gotta hand it to Prince. He never took the careful road when it came to his music.

You want evidence of this? Just the fact that he named his 1992 collaboration with the New Power Generation with an unpronouncable symbol - the same symbol he adopted as his own name - showed that he had balls the size of tangerines. (As for my usage of the symbol, memo to his lawyers: Go ahead, sue me... it's the name of the fucking album, for Crissake.) For this review we'll just call it "Symbol" - only 'cause I don't want to bog the page down with graphics.

"Symbol" contains some of the best all-out funk that Prince had done since The Black Album, and even dared to introduce a bit of rap in the mix. But the eventual concept behind the album weakens it a bit - not much, but it's noticeable.

How can you not like the braggadoccio of a song like "My Name Is Prince" (and its eventual follow-up, "My Name Ain't Prince"... oh, never mind. Bad joke.) The groove is steaming, Prince is in fine vocal form, and the track makes the listener real excited to hear the rest of the album. "Sexy M.F.," though, confuses me a bit. Oh, it's a great track, but wasn't the whole reason Prince scrapped my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Black Album in the first place because he wanted to put love before sex?

The whole first side -- even the interlude with Kirstie Alley playing a reporter trying to interview Prince -- shines. "The Morning Papers" shows off some of the Purple Rain glory days in the slow, r&b build of the song, while "Blue Light" mixes a touch of reggae (courtesy of a riff lifted from the opening of Bob Marley's "Is This Love") with soul, a mixture which works better than one would expect. In a sense, by the time "Sweet Baby" winds up, you find yourself sad to see the end of the side.

But the second side of "Symbol" is a little more disjointed. "The Continental" keeps the success streak going, but "Damn U" doesn't work as well as Prince would want us to believe. At this point, the Alley-Prince asides grow incredibly annoying, almost becoming part of the music as the songs shifted with the mood of the conversations, from "Arrogance" to "The Flow," eventually climaxing with "The Sacrifice Of Victor".

Two singles from this side show the different sides of Prince. "7" demonstrates the way that Prince could take any type of music -- even a more spiritual tome -- and turn it into an enjoyable song. However, "3 Chains O' Gold" doesn't hold up quite as well, and is a bit of a letdown. (Memo to the person who claimed "7" was a sign that Prince was a disciple of the Anti-Christ: You have way too much free time, pal. Besides, the Anti-Christ's favorite number is 98, as in Wind... whoops, better stop there.)

Prince soon stopped working with the New Power Generation - for that matter, he slowed down his output due to his prolonged fight with Warner Brothers. Actually, had he kept working with the N.P.G., I think Prince could have eventually created the '90s version of Parliament/Funkadelic - without the idiots onstage wearing diapers or wedding dresses, thank you very much.

Even though the strengths outweigh the weaknesses on this album, one wonders why "Symbol" didn't mark a return to the chart success that Prince had enjoyed in the mid-'80s. There was enough material here that was perfect fodder for radio -- geez, they even cleaned up "Sexy M.F." for radio -- but the album topped the charts at number five. Respectable, but not what anyone would call a major success, especially seeing Prince's past track record.

"Symbol" is not an easy one to find anymore -- I couldn't find it listed on three of the big online music stores -- but it still is worth searching out, if only to hear what almost was Prince's last gasp before going at it with Warner Brothers. In time, I have no doubts that this album will be seen as a classic - albeit a flawed one.


Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Paisley Park / Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.