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The Rainbow Children 2001

The release of The Rainbow Children in 2001 is an important moment in Prince’s spiritual evolution, a move to more organic, live sounds. There is less of a “sexual” feeling about the album compared to past efforts, and there is a definite Jehovah Witness message throughout. Fans were massively divided at the time of the release, on one hand, the music was fresh and interesting, on the other the lyrics were preachy and – well about a religion that many do not understand or are simply not interested in. The sexy Prince, with his partying like it’s the last day on earth or about “masturbating with a magazine”, was long gone. This Prince is a mature, spiritual guy who does not cuss or scream.

About the music. The title track and first song is a Jazzy/swing number, that sounds a bit like 30’s Jazz standards such as Duke Ellington. It’s a really good start to the album, followed by equally mellow/jazzy “Mellow” and “Muse 2 the Pharaoh”. However, the rest of the record is a combination of straight rock / funk songs, or ballads. 1+1+1=3 and The Work Part 1 are rock/funk numbers by the book – standard fare for Prince. More interesting is the funky “Family Name” which takes a futuristic look at the past, and how African American people in the USA got their “names” underscored by a blistering Hendrix funk riff. There is a sub-plot in the album about the “Digital Garden”, a mythical, JW utopia, with the more experimental tunes dedicated to this theme, such as “Deconstruction” and “Wedding Feast” (Truth be told. “Wedding Feast” is a pretty bad song, but I believe it is just part of the album’s “story line”). There is a deep, slowed down version of Prince’s voice (similar to 1999 intro or Bob George) narrating the story of the “Digital Garden” throughout, and is in fact, pretty annoying after a while as it barges into the SONGS, for me the strength of the album are the variable and interesting songs, so don’t really want to hear that voice talking a load of nonsense.

The best song, is the song that doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the album – it once again showed that Prince can make good music if he keeps things simple. “She loves me for me” is a pretty, simple love song about good manners and respect. The album ends with the celebratory “Everlasting Now”, (better live in concert) and the spiritual “Last December”. Both songs, over 7 minutes long – but not interesting enough to be that long. In fact the whole album is almost 70 minutes in duration, so good value overall.

Some of the longer rock funk songs are on the bland side. But it also contains some interesting work, and a return to experimentation. It also is a huge turning point for a former rock star whose career was waning creatively.

It’s hard to judge The Rainbow Children. This is clearly a labour of love for Prince, and some of the ideas do come through – but on the other side of the funky spectrum, it’s a bit of a self indulgent and nonsensical, whimsical thing.

The Rainbow Children was no commercial success and you are unlikely to know about this album unless you are a Prince fan, but it was a turning point nonetheless and a standard for the music that was to come.

3 out of 5

Track listing

  1. “Rainbow Children” – 10:03
  2. “Muse 2 the Pharaoh” – 4:21
  3. “Digital Garden” – 4:07
  4. The Work, pt. 1” – 4:28
  5. “Everywhere” – 2:55
  6. “The Sensual Everafter” – 2:58
  7. “Mellow” – 4:24
  8. “1+1+1 is 3” – 5:17
  9. “Deconstruction” – 2:00
  10. “Wedding Feast” – 0:54
  11. “She Loves Me 4 Me” – 2:49
  12. “Family Name” – 8:17
  13. “The Everlasting Now” – 8:18
  14. “Last December” – 7:58
  15. Untitled hidden track – 0:04
  16. Untitled hidden track – 0:04
  17. Untitled hidden track – 0:04
  18. Untitled hidden track – 0:04
  19. Untitled hidden track – 0:04
  20. Untitled hidden track – 0:08
  21. Untitled hidden track – 0:38
  • Tracks 15-21 are all hidden tracks and are all silent with the exception of track 21, which gradually fades in to the repetition of the word “one” being sung.