Planet Earth


NPG/Columbia, 2007

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


And then there were three: U2, Madonna and Prince.

That’s all we have left from the 80s, ladies and gentlemen. They’re really the only active musical acts from that decade still worth writing about, at least until Metallica drops their long-awaited next studio album.

For his part, Prince has found his way back from semi-obscurity, thanks in part to his recent induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a Superbowl appearance. His last album, 3121, even topped the charts, which all but sealed the deal. It was his first to reach that peak since 1991’s Diamonds And Pearls.

Thankfully, his newest offering, Planet Earth, is just as good. His New Power Generation band is back and sounding better than ever, though the backing vocalists tend to be somewhat distracting at times. Don’t expect a track listing or lyric booklet either, because there ain’t one. There’s a great shot of Prince on the inner sleeve, however, which almost makes up for it. More importantly, there really aren’t any bum tracks to be found on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Planet Earth, though the slower tunes come mighty close.

As for the great title of “Future Love Mama,” I was the most disappointed by its end result.  It’s the kind of ballad Prince can do in his sleep, one that we’ve heard far too many times from him before. The title track isn’t quite the epic it is clearly intended to be and the jazz number “Somewhere On Earth” is a yawn inducer, but the other cuts more than save the day. For what it’s worth, there’s even a rap-infused song called “Mr. Goodnight” to satisfy today’s hip-hop generation.

New and old Prince fans alike should find enough here to quench their thirst for some actual songs and real music. It’s certainly what I’ve been waiting for; it will be a miracle if any of this new material gets played on the radio.

For disc jockeys not to give this album a chance to be heard would be a downright shame. The single “Guitar” is funky fun of the first order, while “The One U Wanna C” is the most easily accessible Prince pop song in years. Both of these examples have a light and open feel. Yet Prince’s guitar playing is front and center on this album, not to mention all the other instruments he has mastered over his many years in the business. The last four songs are all terrific in their own right, each representing a different style of music; a highlight here is “All The Midnights In The World,” where the theme is childlike innocence and the sweetness and simplicity make such an all-too-brief song stand out.

Harkening back to the age of disco, “Chelsea Rodgers” is the one throw-down dance track that will make you get up on your feet and, in Prince’s words, “shake it like a Juicy Juice.” The mid-tempo “Lion Of Judah” starts out sounding a little like the classic “Purple Rain,” but unfortunately that’s where the similarities end. The closer “Resolution” is a peace anthem that will have many listeners yearning for another Hands Across America… though I don’t think I’d go that far.

But I will go so far as to say this album is easily worth hearing. Talk about a return to form.

Rating: A-

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© 2007 Michael R. Smith 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 NPG/Columbia, and is used for informational purposes only.