'Musicology' a Class in Prince's Musical Evolution; New Album Nods to the Past but Tries to Get a Jump on the Future, Too, with Mixed Results

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Byline: EYDER PERALTA, The Times-Union

"Don't you hear this old-school joint? / Don't you ever touch my stereo," screams Prince at the end of Musicology, the title track of his new album. And he screams it with conviction, his voice full of rare aggression, yet retaining that playful nature that has carried Prince through more than two decades of music.

Musicology seems like a nod to all those years. It's a major departure from his last album, N.E.W.S, which featured four tracks (North, South, East and West) each 14 minutes in length. With Musicology, Prince returns to the fusion of rock and funk that brought him fame in the first place.

The album was released Tuesday, a week before his show at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. He's been handing out copies of the CD to concertgoers at earlier shows on the tour.

Musicology, the track, comes complete with an instrumental break of Missy Elliot proportions, old-school scratches and shout outs to everyone from Doug E. Fresh to Earth, Wind and Fire. It's funk at its best, with solid beats and vocals that sound fresh and unrehearsed.

But as you move deeper into the album, the playfulness, the fun of Musicology and the quirky, misogynistic lyrics of Illusion, Coma, Pimp & Circumstance seem farther away.

In many ways, Prince has left his mark on the world of music. With Musicology, he's trying to reclaim the throne, trying to be ahead of what's happening in music and with Illusion . . . and Life 'O' the Party he does that. He layers single note guitar riffs over simple beats and creates wonderful chemistry with melodic pop hooks. …