Prince (Warner Bros. 45700)
Just as you were getting used to thinking of him as the Artist Formerly Known As Prince, along comes "Come," a new album of generally naughty numbers credited to -- that's right -- Prince. According to the official line, these tracks all date from before Prince dropped his more pronounceable moniker in favor of that stupid symbol, but if these tracks were indeed pulled from the vaults, it doesn't sound as if they'd been there long. Most bear the loping, jazzy groove that seems to be the specialty of A.F.K.A.P.'s current band, the New Power Generation, with lots of heavy breathing by the boss and plenty of room left over for instrumental extrapolation. With such titles as "Loose," "Let It Go," "Orgasm," it's safe to say these songs aren't among the singer's more philosophical offerings. But despite their salacious focus, most of the sex songs are pretty boring. Truth is, "Come" is at its most interesting when it bypasses the sex stuff, as on the wonderfully soulful "Dark."
Buckshot LeFonque (Columbia 57323)
Despite all the talk about how hip it is to mix jazz and rap, the sad fact is that most performers go no further than dropping a bit of be-bop into an otherwise standard hip-hop groove. But Buckshot LeFonque really does blur the boundaries between the two. Driven by Branford Marsalis with able assistance from mixmaster DJ Premier (from Gang Starr), "Buckshot LeFonque" eschews the usual pre-programmed rigidity of hip-hop, playing with the time so the beats flow as naturally as they would from a jazz rhythm section. Consequently, not only do the solos sparkle and shine, but there's an added liveliness to the overall pulse that leaves the group seeming equally at home in any style, from the dancehall cadences of "Hotter Than Hot" (with toasting by Blackheart) to the bluesy stomp of "Some Cow Fonque (More Tea, Vicar?)." But the best tracks by far are those that emphasize the relationship between words and music, such as the swinging "Blackwidow" and the group's powerful, poetic rendering of "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."
PICTURE PERFECT MORNING
Edie Brickell (Geffen 24715)
Anyone who wrote off Edie Brickell as just another slight-voiced hippie pop singer will be in for a rude awakening with "Picture Perfect Morning." Although parts of the album -- her first as a solo artist -- touch on the same loose-limbed grooves she worked with the New Bohemians, most find Brickell expanding her stylistic range, offering everything from the pastoral gentleness of "Green" to the slow, jazz-flavored blues of "Stay Awhile." There's some remarkably evocative stuff there, too, particularly when she evokes a sense of time and place as vividly as she does on "In the Bath." But Brickell is at her best when showing off her R&B; roots, riding the thumping, disco-style bass of "Another Woman's Dreams" or -- best of all -- evoking the lithe sensuality of Smokey Robinson in the deliciously soulful "Good Times" (gotta love that Barry White cameo). A delight.
WHAT IS BHANGRA?
Various Artists (I.R.S. 29242)
North American pop styles so completely dominate the world music market that it's easy to assume every trend worth following hits here first. Not true. In fact, one of the most interesting wrinkles in dance music has barely made a dent in the U.S. club charts. Maybe that's because Bhangra, an Anglo-Indian hybrid that fuses Hindi pop with dancehall and hip-hop beats, is still essentially a local phenomenon, confined largely to London, Birmingham and the Indian subcontinent. With luck, though, albums like "What Is Bhangra?" will help change that. Although much of the lyrical content will be lost on English-only listeners, there's no problem understanding the RTC music, thanks to the loping, bass-heavy pulse. It helps, of course, that some of these tunes rely heavily on familiar funk soundbites, like "Lako Wadeya" by Achanak, which samples James Brown's "Get On the Good Foot." But the best -- like "Yaar Nach La" by Johnny Zee or Avatar Maniac's manic "Boliyaan" -- stand on their own, and should appeal to any open-minded listener.