Prince
One Night Alone … Live!

& One Night Alone … The Aftershow: It Ain't Over! (NPG)

You know what's cool about Photoshop-era Prince? He seems to be recapturing his black audience instead of all the honkeys who want more Purple Rain. You'll notice rock critics routinely dismissing every new NPG Records release, charting the man's supposed degeneration into irrelevance. Now here comes One Night Alone … Live to let you know he hasn't lost a bit of genius. You just have to follow him into some challenging spaces.

A three-disc box set of recordings from his "One Night Alone" tour, this album stands right alongside any of his classic-era boots (Small Club, Livesexy). What he should do is start building up a catalog of official live albums from his entire career – how cool would that be? Yet as he says here, "We're not interested in what you know; we want to see what you're willing to learn."

Who else can shout out in the middle of a funk jam: "I'm talking about theocratic order – are you with me?!"

The setlist is typically all over the place, with tons of cool inclusions ("Strange Relationship," "When U Were Mine," "Raspberry Beret", a couple of those "Um, what album was that on, again?" songs ("Extraordinary" from The Vault, "The Other Side of the Pillow" from Crystal Ball), a few jazzy ones from The Rainbow Children, an album I chose to ignore when it came out, but which might be worth a listen after all.

The highlight is Prince at the piano doing a bunch of gems from the back catalog, usually in brief versions, but thrilling nonetheless: "Adore," "Diamonds & Pearls," "The Beautiful Ones." Things get great toward the end as the band returns with "Nothing Compares 2 U," "Free" (from 1999!), "Starfish & Coffee," and the supreme "Sometimes It Snows in April." Mmmmmmmmm-mm! Then, a blistering encore of "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore" and "Anna Stesia" (from Lovesexy and, the more I think about it, probably one of his two or three best songs).

The It Ain't Over disc captures the aftershow experience, and it's truly the reason to buy this box. Slammin' versions of "2 Nigs United 4 West Compton" (from The Black Album), "Alphabet Street" (Lovesexy), "Dorothy Parker" (Sign O' the Times), and "Girls & Boys" (from Parade, and maybe his second best song ever – "Sometimes it Snows in April" being #1).

All through, the band (featuring Najee!) is supertight and not overly slick, with guest shots from George Clinton, Musiq, and Sheila E. There's a little preachin' goin' on here and there, so you get knowledge like:

But come on, let Prince be Prince. It's not like he got weird. If he weren't a weirdo in the first place, he'd never have made all those great albums. My favorite moment is when he triumphantly declares "We're gonna let this groove go on for TWENTY MINUTES!" and it goes on for eleven.

Looking back, I see that I, like the honkey I am, focus on the pop songs. Oh well, can't get above yer raisin'.

Review by Rina Rhinohr