PRINCE AND PROTEGES
WHILE THE nameless one prepares his next bona fide album for release, the first issue from his new label is this stop-gap compilation of Princely offshoots, some of which first appeared on his Paisley Park imprint. George Clinton furnishes indications of Prince's funk roots with 'Hollywood', while his gospel inclinations are serviced by the Steeles' 'Color', and more broodingly by Mavis Staples' 'You Will Be Moved', which doesn't quite live up to the promise of its title. His symbolship's impressive stable of femmes erotiques, meanwhile, is represented by the reluctantly amorous Mayte's 'If I Love You Tonight' and the more excitable Margie Cox on 'Standing at the Altar'.
Of primary interest, though, are the contributions of recent Prince discovery Nona Gaye (daughter of Marvin), particularly her duet with the label boss on 'Love Sign', an anti-gun-culture number of infectious pop-funk aspect which is, surprisingly, not going to be released as a single. On this and a version of Bobby Womack's 'A Woman's Gotta Have It', she displays a slinky sensitivity without the overt sensuality of her father or her producer. The NPG contribute '2gether', an anti-violence rap which uses the laidback gangsta-funk style against itself, as it were; but the most intriguing track is the one that bookends the album, 'MPLS' by Minneapolis, a P-Funk-styled jam which I'd guess, judging by the varispeeded vocals on the rap break, involves Prince in some measure.
(Virgin America CDVUS 73)
LITTLE RICHARD once opined that 'you should never try to put a tuxedo on the funky blues,' but in the late Seventies Boz Scaggs proved him wrong by doing just that with Silk Degrees, a work of cool maturity which secured the singer his reputation and the kind of fortune that allowed him to take the kind of sabbaticals that usually never end. Happily, he's back.
Some Change is only Scaggs' second album in a decade, his first for six years. A relaxed return to the blues and R & B flavours with which he began his career, it's already proving one of the most readily listenable albums of the year. Featuring the singer's underrated guitar playing on low-key but sophisticated arrangements which run the gamut of styles - from bouncing, rockabilly- inflected blues (the opening 'You Got My Letter') through slow blues shuffles like the title track and the brooding 'Follow That Man', to the kind of discreet white-soul numbers for which he's best known, it's delightful at every turn. There's even room for a faux-cajun romp, 'Fly Like a Bird', alongside the more sophisticated Californian soul sound.
Of the soul numbers, 'I'll Be the One' adds an intimate house shuffle beat to the sleek vibes and organ backdrop, effortlessly blending old and new, while the superb heartbreak lament 'Lost It' serves as a showcase for Scaggs' nylon-string guitar, which tiptoes delicately across the meniscus of organ and electric piano textures. Scaggs' singing throughout, meanwhile, is moodily affecting, soulful without straining for effect, and his mature lyrics are far worthier than most of CD booklet inclusion.
Regulate . . . G Funk Era
(Violator/Island 523 335-2)
AS SNOOP Doggy Dogg's original DJ and best friend since childhood, Warren G(riffin) was part of the Dogg Pound that hung around Warren's stepbrother Dr Dre as he recorded The Chronic chipping in on a track and, more importantly, watched carefully as Dre built the prototype G-Funk sound from funk elements old and new. A rapper by default, Warren G assumes a similar position to Dre on his debut album, as producer and ringleader of a rap circus in which a series of spielers - notably his Dogg Pound chum Nate Dogg and the Twinz, Deon & Dewayne - take their turn at the mike.
The smooth-grooving, low-riding Regulate . . . G Funk Era shows how well he learnt from Dre's moves, applying the gangsta-funk recipe of jazz-funk samples, rolling basslines, a few resonant electric piano chords and wheedling synthesiser lines to material which, while touching on the standard gangsta agenda of guns, girls and ganja, does so in a more amenable manner than usual, leaning more towards hedonism than gangsterism, and well lubricated by his boudoir-soul vocals. Warren's the gangsta you could, at a pinch, take home to meet mother.
As a rapper, he's obviously influenced by Snoop's laconic delivery, though Warren's reminiscences of late-Eighties life in his native Long Beach are less sensational, more reflective than his friend's: 'Another day, another pipe-blue sky,' he notes on the autobiographical 'Do You See', while the monster summer hit 'Regulate' deals with street violence almost apologetically, in terms of self-defence rather than strutting aggression. Rap album of the year, in all probability.