While Hurricane Floyd pounded New York City on Thursday, the Artist
was whipping up a little storm of his own. Backed by New Power
Generation, the Artist gave up the funk and soul to a select
audience of label execs and journalists gathered inside the
Equitable building’s small auditorium.
With his trademark symbol alight behind him and purple lights
shining down on his magnificent red gown, the Artist led his
eleven-piece band from “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”
to Sly and the Family Stones’ “Every Day People” to James Brown’s
“Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine.” Calling on stage
R&B singer — and recent Lady of Soul Awards winner — Debra
Cox to help out on “Everyday People” and a random man from the
audience to dance, the Artist was armed with blistering guitar
licks and good humor (“Put down your cell phone,” was his dancing
advice to his new friend.)
“Mr. Davis has allowed me to put something through his pipeline and
still maintain my freedom,” the Artist announced. “So I’m cool with
Mr. Davis is Clive Davis and his pipeline is Arista Records. Before
the show, Davis previewed tracks from Rave Un2 the Joy
Fantastic, the Artist’s debut for his new label, due out Nov.
2. “I’ve been in this business for a long time, and this is a very
special day,” Davis enthused.
Despite reports that he is set to sign a $70 million deal to
continue as Arista’s president, Davis repeatedly stressed that his
relationship with the Artist is one of music, not money. “To this
day, we’ve never talked business,” he said.
Davis played Rave‘s first single, ironically titled “The
Greatest Romance Ever Sold,” three times during the show and once
afterward, as a recessional. Opening with multi-tracked, a capella
vocals, the super-slick dance track promises to return the Artist
to radio prominence. The song is a spin on the Bible’s first love
story: “You’re body was designed to respond to mine,” he sings,
channeling both Adam and Eve.
“That is a hit record!” Davis said, after its first play.
“All over the world.”
The other previewed tracks were: “So Far So Pleased,” a bouncy New
Wave number with Gwen Stefani supplying harmonies; “I Love U But I
Don’t Trust U Anymore,” a weepy ballad featuring Ani DiFranco; the
funk-inspired “Hot With U,” which includes a sassy rap by Ruff
Ryders’ Eve; “Baby Knows,” a honky-tonkin’ duet with Sheryl Crow;
the tongue-in-cheek, narcissistic jam “Pretty Man,” with saxophone
legend Maceo Parker; the fist-pumpin’ “Undisputed,” with Chuck D.;
slow, smooth ballads “Man of War,” “Wherever U Go, Whatever U Do,”
and “The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars,” in which the Artist evokes
the ghost of Marvin Gaye; and the title track, which marries
Prince’s “When Doves Cry”-like guitar licks to a “Kiss” falsetto
and electronic beats.
Yes, we are allowed to utter the “P” word again, as the Artist
lists “Prince” as the album’s producer. And, as evidenced by the
previewed tracks, his “return” means the Artist is again heavy on
the party and light on the arty.
“Life is just a party and parties weren’t meant to last,” Prince
sang in 1982’s “1999.” Now that the prophesized year is upon us, he
— and those who moved to his new beats — wants the rave to