The Gold Experience
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Warner Bros.

WITH THIS LP, our former Prince turns in his most effortlessly eclectic set since 1987's Sign o' the Times. As his fourth album since rock's most quixotic auteur baptized himself with a name only dolphins and extraterrestrials can pronounce, The Gold Experience is surprisingly retro in sound and attitude. Longtime fans will recognize signature riffs from Purple Rain, 1999, and Controversy, as well as customized appropriations from glitter rock, the Ohio Players, art rock and the kind of quirky narrative poems Prince perfected upon the release of Graffiti Bridge.

Guiding the listener from track to track is the multilingual chatter of a feminine cyborg first deployed on the ex-Prince's interactive CD-ROM from last year. One of her first declarations -- in Spanish -- is that Prince has "died" so that the New Power Generation may live. But who are the NPG, really? Although The Gold Experience enjoys the services of some very tight, skillful musicians (not the least of whom are the folks who compose the horn section from the old Paisley Park act Madhouse), all you really hear is the heart, soul and mind of our once and future Prince.

In case you're wondering, all his classic contradictions are still firmly in place. On the poppy political broadside "We March," he cautions men not to call women bitches, then a few tracks later breaks his own commandment in the anti-love ditty "Billy Jack Bitch." On "I Hate U," the soulful first single, he sings, "I hate you.... 'cause I love you, girl," which sums up the Princely persona in a nutshell. He loves his women and his colleagues, but he can't allow them a dominant role in his life or his work. He love the perks of stardom but has gone out of his way to reduce his own public profile to that of a virtual unknown. Add to all this a long-standing fascination with paradox, irony and subtle parody, and you get The Gold Experience in all its contrarian glory.

Like Michael Jackson, our erstwhile Prince has plenty to scream about, but he's nowhere near as dour about it as Elvis Presley's son-in-law. Instead he tries to have as much fun as possible while still following his own schizoid genius as it dances along the precarious divide between the sacred and the profane.

As usual, the attempts at rap come off as part satire and part celebration of the form. The gutter feminism of "Pussy Control" is earnestly phrased in the goofy syntax of the butt-loving Sir Mix-a-Lot, while the rabble-rousing lyrics of "Now" are delivered in the twangy drawl of Arrested Development's Speech. But the most powerful revelation among this grab bag of edgy rhythms and melodies comes during the deceptively gentle "Shy." Its rhythm track recalls the imaginative noodling of "Kiss" leavened with the melodic idiosyncrasies of a Joni Mitchell ballad but leaves a more indelible impression than either. The male protagonist of "Shy" lands alone in Los Angeles and starts wandering the town in search of, well, poetry in motion.

This scenario was played out before in songs like "Head" and "Uptown," but oh, what a difference a decade makes! Back in the Dirty Mind era, the main thing on a Princely woman's mind was sex. But the virginal Los Angeles riot grrrl encountered in "Shy" is more inclined to brag about the men she killed than about the men she bedded -- yet one more apocalyptic sign of the times we live in.


RS 720


New Music Express
August 3, 1995


Warner Bros.

1 PUSSY CONTROL - Starts like some electronic intergalactic war with rapid keyboards and a woman talking in Spanish. Then an introduction, "Good morning ladies, gentlemen, boys and motherf---ing girls," before breaking into a six-minute fast track of warped industrial rap with sex-overdose lyrics.

2 ENDORPHINEMACHINE - "There are over 500 experiences to choose from, here's a selection...". It opens with what sounds like a flick through the radio dial and then booms into a huge stadium friendly single with the lyric, "Prince is done with/Prince is done with".

3 SHHH - Continuing the sex theme, 'Shhh' begins with a dramatic intro then slows into a soulful, jazzy epic. "Sex is not what I think about/It's what I think about you," Symbol sings, before the song concludes with a huge orchestral sweep.

4 WE MARCH - Opens with Christmassy chimes then breaks into hard, raw funk as Symbol asks, "If this is the same avenue my ancestors fought to liberate/How come I can't even buy a piece of it if my credit is straight?"

5 DAYS OF WILD - Weakest track on the album. Prince is rapping. Meant to sound bad-assed but it sounds hollow.

6 TMBGITW - Massive spangly pop song and his worldwide number one. The first really stunning song on the LP.

7 DOLPHIN - Fast-beat pop with a chorus that sounds like a huge pepsi advert. Racy, singularly accessible track that will appeal to seven year pop kids as well as hardened fans. Catchiest song on the album, though the words are distinctly left field: "I'll die before you/I let you tell me how to swim/And I'll come back again as dolphin/Let me in, let me in/As my friend dolphin/As a dolphin".

8 NOW - Hard, raw funk with sharp blasts of brass, swells of organ and snatches of rap in places not unlike Public Enemy's 'Give It Up'.

9 319 - A 'Kiss'-like tease with layers and layers of vocal, snatches of horn, choppy funk guitar and scuzzy dirty keyboards. Another possible single.

10 SHY - The album's outstanding track. A stripped down rock ballad with sweet guitar breaks and washes of slide guitar, it ends with the sound of a car driving off into the distance. Symbol sings "The lips say no but the body says might/Looks like we are going to take the long way home tonight".

11 BILLY JACK BITCH - "Open letters are the only things that open wounds." A rolling, funky grove and possible club track (when remixed). Slick swathes of funk and ends with a big roaring laugh.

12 EYE HATE U - Opens with more radio-style voice-overs from a sexy-voiced woman who says, "You've accessed the hate experience. Do you wish to change your mind? Enjoy your experience." Leads into a schmaltzzy over the top ballad with ridiculous lover spurned lyrics and the memorable, "With her hands behind her back so I can tie her tight and give into the act".

13 GOLD - Appropriately big, pumping ballsy power rock ballad to end. Massive Purple Rain-esque sound, though the lyrics are uniquely cheesy and include the words, "There's a mountain and it is mighty high/You cannot see the top unless you fly".


Music Pop/Rock

The Gold Experience <
BR> (NPG/Warner Bros.)

Those who have had a hard time keeping track of TAFKAP's prolific, exasperating career may want to take notice again. And not because of the recording-as-virtual-reality shtick that shakily frames Experience, but in spite of it. This is a buoyant, raucous effort, imbued with enough funk, passion, and playfulness to make it more akin to a party -- rather than concept -- album. A-

-- Mike Flaherty


Sunday, September 24, 1995
Section: Showtime
Page: 4E

"The Gold Experience"

(Warner Bros.)

Rating: *** 1/2

For all of you who thought Prince done flipped out with his name change a few years back, lost his touch with a couple of less-than-satisfying releases and has overworked the battle with his label by sporting a "slave"-stenciled cheek, you can breathe a huge sigh of relief. "The Gold Experience" fully redeems 0{+> as the ruler of his wildly imaginative, funky, sexy kingdom.

While his most recent releases - the bootlegged "The Black Album"; "Come," which signified the death of Prince (1958-93); a greatest-hits package; and a couple of singles - surely tided over those hungry for 0{+>'s music, anticipation didn't dissipate for an album that would blow off your boots, make you sweat, make you hot.

"The Gold Experience" is interspersed with spoken-word interludes from the New Power Generation Operator; the purpose of her presence matters little, it's what follows that counts. "Pussy Control" sounds like it will be a misogynist tirade, but it really praises female empowerment as the song's funky rhythms grind and 0{+> raps and coos. "Endorphinmachine" is a multilayered frenzy that seduces with its groove and guarantees writhing on the dance floor. Where 0{+> once pushed and ordered (he still teases), he's less forceful now, no longer demanding but calmly exerting control that isn't only apparent in his delivery, but also in his use of myriad styles and a renewal of some of the sounds that characterized his best work ("1999," "Purple Rain," "Sign o' the Times").

"The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," a single released last year, is oddly out of place with its staid R&B approach, as is "Dolphin," an overwrought pop stab that pleads for acceptance. "Gold" works 0{+>'s pop bent best with its anthemic arrangement and uplifting vibe, and "I Hate U" rides a line between love and hate that leaps crazily with the closing guitar solo. "We March" takes a proactive stance, riding high on its funky synth-spiced beat, and "Now" digs in deep with its soulful horns, scratches and scattered approach that melds funk, soul and rock. "319" is down and dirty; horns punctuate the beat, and single-note solos define the rhythm's boundaries while 0{+>'s vocals hit the same stride as those that characterized his raunchy heyday. "Shy" uses a spare, stripped-down melody but survives just as well without a head of steam fueling it as those songs that do.

0{+>'s mystique has not diminished nor has his ability to attract attention. But what matters most is that "The Gold Experience" shows his royal badness is assuredly moving forward.

"The Gold Experience" will be in stores Tuesday.




The Gold Experience


Unwieldy names, contract disputes, the jaw as mobile billboard, speaking through intermediaries, wearing Vivienne Westwood's idea of a bee-keeper's mask on stage ... the antics of Prince continue to confuse. And it's hard not to wonder just how much all the messing about affects the little fellow.

After a succession of breathtaking albums in the '80s, his output has been characterised by aimlessness, by LPs that relied on a couple of jewels to distract from the surrounding fluff. Gold Experience, then, brings mixed news; it is still no Purple Rain, Around The World In A Day or Sign O' The Times, but the gem-to-lint ratio is altogether healthier.

Gold Experience is the New Power Generation's finest hour. Whether tightened by their recent touring, or inspired by their apparently unanimous love of early '70s Sly & The Family Stone (loudly proclaimed in Q last year), their playing here is never short of excellent. They brew a seemingly effortless mesh of taut, springy music that reminds of the days when bands like Earth, Wind And Fire, War, the inevitable Parliament/ Funkadelic/Bootsy Collins agglomerates and tons of others honed their particular thing to a nicety. Those people had the funk and, cheerily, the New Power Generation have it too.

All of which would be rather wonderful if Prince's songs had a bit more to say. If this is the New Power Generation's LP -- and it is -- they've a right to feel slightly let down by their guvnor's continued insistence on dick-waving as a substitute for real lyrics.

The opener, for instance, makes the heart sink. It's called Pussy Control and it is tedious. Elsewhere, though, are the best Prince songs for many a cherry moon. Familiarity hasn't blunted the sheer loveliness of The Most Beautiful Girl In The World; Dolphin -- perhaps about his problems with The Man -- is a thrilling glide; and Now, Shy and the weird We March are well up to Prince scratch.

All in all, a good record, but still a feeling persists that, for whatever reason, he's not quite giving of his best -- where, for instance, is the brilliant, live-tempered Days Of Wild? Others would be glad to make Gold Experience but you just know that if water-treading were to become an Olympic event Prince would be first to don the star-spangled Speedos.


Danny Kelly


Tuesday, September 26, 1995
Page: 29


by Jonathan Takiff, Daily News Staff Writer

* * * *

What in blazes were those Warner Brothers Records executives thinking when they gave the Artist Formerly Known as Prince a hard time over the release of "The Gold Experience"?

Anyone with ears to hear, a sense of history, and more than a passing appreciation of Prince should be delighted by this new set hitting stores today. Richly referenced to golden soul, folk and rock influences - chock-full of memorable tunes, imagery and invigorating arrangements - it's a veritable pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And guaranteed, the set will help you forgive and forget his recent spate of one-dimensional, beat-centered musical disappointments that tried too hard to be "street"-wise.

While he's never going to be accused of being a saint, some of his new raunchy stuff (like the rap-pounded show opener "P**** Control" ) rises above the lascivious by slipping in lines designed to put tough guys in their place and women back on a pedestal: "Hooker, bitch, 'ho/I don't think so."

And the Princely one stretches out in new/old directions with songs like "Dolphin," a haunting reverie about reincarnation, and the moralistic title track, "Gold," which asks, "What's the use of money if you're not gonna break the mold?"

Both are more than a little reminiscent of Crosby, Stills and Nash's best folk-pop, and reveal a previously repressed side.

Also harking back to the golden age of progressive album music is the potent "We March," a dynamic, gospel-tinged soul funker in the protest vein of Sly and the Family Stone: "If this is the same avenue my ancestors fought to liberate, how come I can't buy a piece of it even if my credit's straight?"

Classic '70s soul is evoked with ballads like "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" - successfully released as an independent single last year during the artist's falling out with Warners. It harks back to the testifying soul of Al Green and Teddy Pendergrass.

The theme tying these elements together is the recurring sound of His Royal Badness tapping away on a computer, accessing elements of a program called The Gold Experience in search of "courtship, sex, commitment, fetishes, loneliness, vindication, love and hate."

Love and hate come together in the standout "I Hate U," a comically twisted, yet heart-grabbing ballad set in a courtroom. It's a song so vivid that no music video is needed to unfold the plot. In an angelic voice, our hero bemoans his cheatin' girlfriend, and then gruffly calls her to the stand. "If it pleases the court," he intones with a slightly veiled smirk, "I'd like to have the witness place her hands behind her back so I can tie her up tight and get into the act."

Dirty minds will also delight in a visit to hotel room "319," where the randy one is shooting pictures of a model-for-hire and marveling at her attributes.

Rich polyphonic keyboard lines and fiery, jazz- and rock-flavored guitar breaks are abundant throughout. In sum, the man's hungry again, snapped out of his lethargy and living up to the credo, "Write about what you know best."


Warner Bros.

Before he became a symbol of ego trips that kept missing their exit ramps, the artist formerly known as Prince was a symbol of another kind. Creatively eclectic and artistically rebellious, he symbolized the dark side of black-boy musical genius. Ever eager to do more than merely scratch the surface of his craft, he was always willing to delve into the funk and bring back an identity that defied all expectations.

He did what was not allowed. A modish, naughty boy who played fluid mind games, it was sad to watch him fall off his perch back in 1990 with the abominable Graffiti Bridge. It was sadder still to watch him gamble only on the mind games-instead of the mind-blowing songcraft and skill that kept the stuff afloat.

C'mon, face it: The so-called great "Sexy M.F." was a sonic bust that passed gyrations off as song structure. The 0{+> album had only a couple of cute songs buried in the mix. And frankly, nothing on Come came. The thrill was gone. Complaining about Warner Bros.' ineptitude or greed was not the point-which seemed lost on him. His records weren't selling because they weren't any good.

And even as good as The Gold Experience is, some of it at first seems a tad retreaded, a combination of previously released stuff with some smart new tracks. But no. "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" finds new energy alongside "Shhh," the sexy mid-tempo ballad Tevin Campbell recorded in 1993. These two songs fit right in between the sexy, guitar-hyped "Endorphinmachine" and "We March," a funky faux-political bit of dazzle that sounds like a throwback to 1981's "Let's Work."

The coy "Dolphin" ("If I came back as a dolphin / Would U listen 2 me then..... / Would U let me in?") is a lush pop masterpiece drenched in multitracked vocals and a sliding guitar. It sounds like a psychedelic love letter from cyberspace. "P. Control," a nasty rap-style joint that opens the record, has a playful naiveté that just sounds and feels right somehow. If anything, 0{+> has suffered lately from a too-jaded point of view: All flash 'n' trash with no real feeling to hold it down. So the high school high jinks of "Shhh" pressed up against the subversive buoyancy of "P. Control" feels new, like the "virgin white" he refers to in an acoustic piece of beauty called "Shy."

Like an outtake from a get-high Rufus album, "Shy" floats by on waves of soft, hymnlike rhythms. With strings glistening and street sounds punctuating this sad urban romantic narrative, "Shy" is one of those head-turning moments of magic that Prince used to do so well. As with 1980's "Gotta Broken Heart Again" or 1990's "Joy in Repetition" (the lone star on Graffiti Bridge), you wanna cry when "Shy" plays, and then play it again, just so you can cry some more.

The beautiful songs just keep on coming. "Billy Jack Bitch" is an R&B sing-along full of call and response and a pumping organ pushing up through a busy mix. It operates as a sly prelude to "I Hate U," a ballad as simple as its name implies. "I love U so much I hate U," he sings, and it becomes poetry through his use of dramatic pauses and a vampy lover-man monologue that threatens to overtake him at every turn.

More than that overstated, sacred-meets-profane thing he supposedly does so well, "I Hate You" is what he actually does better: a slick pop-meets-hardcore R&B blend that leaves you breathless. When he asks, "Did U do 2 your other man the same things that U did 2 me?" you hear pain, pleasure, cruelty, and charm. It hurts to know he still does this stuff so well-and that he does it so rarely.

But -- and as usual -- he gets the last laugh, because The Gold Experience is a Prince experience par excellence. And yes, I said Prince, no disrespect intended. I say it because The Gold Experience has songs on it -- not just ideas for songs stretched into overlong tracks or fleshed-out grooves with silly lyrics poured over them. These songs have beginnings, middles, and ends. They sound like they belong together on the same CD. The Gold Experience wants to take you higher. You may never come down. This is 0{+>'s best complete record since 1987's Sign 'O' the Times -- his best effort since the '90s almost happened without him.


Tuesday, September 26, 1995
Page: E03



By Tom Moon

We start where we left off last time: Trying to decide what to call this sometimes confused, sometimes brilliant musician-singer-savant. Once Prince, then a symbol, he's identified by Warner Brothers Records as "AFKAP," the Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

That shouldn't matter much to the people formerly known as his audience, except right now he's creating music that doesn't really reflect any name change. The Gold Experience, which arrives in stores today, is a Prince record. Through and through.

It's naughty. It does, at times, objectify women - but then the 37-year-old Prince never could resist putting his scantily clad heroines on a pedestal. It's got the most potent hip-hop-rock hybrid jam to hit the streets in years. It is unrepentantly sexy. It's got a few of those big production-number ballads, a specialty that he hasn't attempted since Diamonds and Pearls. (These include "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," the only previously released Gold Experience track.)

Mostly, though, it's theater. And at his best and worst, Prince always was dramatic. The author of both a modern rock opera (Purple Rain) and one of the most indulgent vanity projects of modern film (Graffiti Bridge), Prince has envisioned himself as a storyteller-slash-philosopher, a sage whose job is more than just songwriting. He's tried, over and over again, to wrangle larger themes out of smallish songs, and to make his music say something, spiritual or otherwise. Sometimes the songs cooperate; just as often, the concept feels overblown and contrived.

For The Gold Experience, his songs are connected by a dispassionate computer voice prompt that guides the listener through a menu of "experiences" - love, hate, revenge.

But like multimedia computing and so much modern art, these songs are not always linear: There's no attempt to link them into a conventional unifying theme. They're a series of atmospheres, celebrating lust one minute and rapping about virtue the next. The contradictions could fill a psychologist's journal: The opening selection (whose un-PC title is not printable) champions female sexual power, but "Shhh" finds the male in control of every aspect of lovemaking. One track is an ode to a tough woman named "Billy Jack Bitch," while another, "We March," contains this surprisingly enlightened advice to gangsta rappers:

If this is the same sister that you cannot stop calling a bitch
It will be the same one that will leave your broke ass in a ditch

The adolescent computer fantasy scenario will no doubt bring Prince more ridicule: He's just using new media to let his twisted, one-track mind roam free. Why, goes one line of thinking, doesn't he just get into the pornography business? Because even when he veers off color, when his lyrics take you to intimate places you might not want to go, his creative music tests the edges of pop like nobody else's, taking the music to places it needs to go.

It's chops in the service of raunch, and as has been the case throughout Prince's career, the raunch tends to obscure the compositional advances underneath. Unlike the nervous and audience-obsessed Michael Jackson, whose new album was heralded with a lyric controversy that smelled like a publicity stunt, Prince follows his gut, marketplace be damned. He then supports his impulses with taut, fiery music that defies quick categorization, effortless music that recalls his confident Purple Rain stride. After a long stretch of mostly unfruitful experimentation, The Gold Experience shows that this is one fallen mega-star who is still in touch with the simple truth of a slamming backbeat.

At a time when pop music (and black pop, in particular) seems stuck on rote expressions of devotion, this renewed attention to the visceral side of music, to how things feel rather than what they mean, is welcome. Prince sounds like he's enjoying it, too: Comfortable paying homage to a powerful woman, he raps with a rhythmic dexterity that shames Snoop Doggy Dogg. At home with a rock- funk pocket ("Endorphinmachine") that rivals "1999," he plays enough ferociously inventive guitar to send Eddie Van Halen back to the practice room.

Though his writing is more direct than in the recent past, Prince still finds ways to flesh out his songs with imaginative musical touches: The syncopated "Shhh" is punctuated by the work of drummer Michael Bland. He plays the most riveting drum solo to hit pop music since Steve Gadd's trip through Steely Dan's Aja, while "319" contains some of the most taut, restrained guitar playing Prince has committed to tape in years.

And, of course, he sings. Passionately. Despite its campy courtroom interlude, "I Hate U," the breathtaking ballad that is Gold's first single, captures Prince essaying vividly on the feeling of betrayal. Unafraid to pour his heart into what would, in other hands, be a commonplace plea, he phrases with a hurt powerful enough to stop time. Elsewhere, he creates a chorale of gently cooing voices to celebrate physical love on "Shhh," and then turns that choir loose on a political pursuit, for the new-jack shuffle "We March."

So he's back doing what he's good at. That's a relief. The Gold Experience may not be the deepest collection of songs Prince has offered, but it's certainly the loosest - and the most accessible - in quite some time. It most certainly won't benefit from a "King of Pop" $30-million marketing campaign, but with music this compelling, that hardly matters: When he says, on the opening track, "I need another piece of your ear," give it up. This time old-what's-his-name has earned it.