Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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P.M. Dawn

  • Of the Heart, of the Soul, and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience [Gee Street, 1991] A
  • The Bliss Album . . . ? [Gee Street, 1993] A
  • Jesus Wept [Gee Street, 1995] ***
  • Dearest Christian, I'm So Very Sorry for Bringing You Here. Love, Dad [Gee Street/V2, 1998] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Of the Heart, of the Soul, and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience [Gee Street, 1991]
Not only is their mind excursion less threatening than Hammer, it embraces the Beatles and Spandau Ballet with a nerdy passion that might have been designed to assuage white consciences and fears. I doubt it, though--listen true and its escapism seems not willful but willed, Prince Be's deft, thought-out response to a world that bugs him politically, spiritually, existentially, and because he's fat. This is rap that's totally idiosyncratic, yet so lost in music it's got total outreach--moving effortlessly from speech to song, the quiet storm of sweet hooks and soft beats surprises like prime Big Star or XTC, only it's never brittle or arch. The sharpest synthesis since Prince, who we should probably start calling Prince Fuck just to keep our teen spirits straight. A

The Bliss Album . . . ? [Gee Street, 1993]
Success has transformed Prince Be from stereo potato into overweight lover, a phrase he lifts without attribution, and like all his multifarious appropriations, this one fits him like a caftan--flatteringly, commodiously, with room to move around. Truth, sincerity, and so forth are probably present and definitely beside the point. Whether he's rapping or crooning, boasting or begging, dishing out a verbal beatdown or plumbing the sacred essence of "Norwegian Wood," his aesthetic constructs are their own socially significant reason for being. As long as he's circumspect enough to allude to his mysterious religious beliefs rather than promulgate them, he'll be a force for good in a world that generates too many misfits and not enough b-e-a-u-t-y. A

Jesus Wept [Gee Street, 1995]
more sampling, less singing--please ("Fantasia's Confidential Ghetto: 1999/Once in a Lifetime/Coconut," "The 9:45 Wake-Up Dream") ***

Dearest Christian, I'm So Very Sorry for Bringing You Here. Love, Dad [Gee Street/V2, 1998]
Jesus Wept boded mediocrity--although composing is no harder than sampling, it is different, and once he'd redefined himself as one more R&B songwriter, Prince Be's all-embracing aesthetic and fluky chart run seemed over. But working with a steady band, a sometime collaborator, and the occasional borrowed riff, he revives his spaced-out spirituality as music if not commodity, transfiguring his grumpy disillusion with melodies, vocal harmonies, and now also guitar parts, all lovingly designed to convince his son Christian to be here now. A-