Artist: Prince
Title: Art Official Age
Year: 2014
Label: NPG Records/ Warner Bros. Records
Format: CD
Cat. no.: B00N0YIQFE
Art Official Cage 03:41
Clouds 04:34
Breakdown 04:04
The Gold Standard 05:53
U Know 03:56
Breakfast Can Wait 03:54
This Could Be Us 05:11
What It Feels Like 03:53
Affirmation I & II 0:40
Way Back Home
Funknroll 04:07
Time 06:49
Affirmation III 03:27

Produced, Arranged, Composed and Per4med* by: Prince

Trax released as singles:
The Gold Standard
Breakfast Can Wait
This Could Be Us

Prince - all vocals and instruments, except where noted (assumed)
Joshua Welton - unidentified instruments
Ida Nielsen - Danish vocals on Art Official Cage
The Golden Hippie - background vocals on Art Official Cage
Stringenius - strings on Art Official Cage, Breakdown, The Gold Standard and Affirmation III
Lianne La Havas - vocals (as "Charlotte Anne Telepathy") on Clouds, Affirmation I & II, Way Back Home and Affirmation III
Andy Allo - background vocals on Breakdown, co-lead vocals on What It Feels Like and Time
Michael B. Nelson - trombone (assumed)
Steve Strand - trumpet on The Gold Standard (assumed)
Dave Jensen - trumpet on The Gold Standard (assumed)
Kenni Holmen - tenor saxophone on The Gold Standard (assumed)
Kathy Jensen - alto- & baritone saxophone on The Gold Standard (assumed)
Mila J - looped vocals (sampled from Blinded) on U Know
Other recording personnel from Blinded not known on U Know
Delilah - background vocals (as "Paloma Ayana") on Way Back Home and Affirmation III
Hannah Ford - drums on Funknroll
Ida Nielsen - bass guitar on Funknroll
Donna Grantis - guitar on Funknroll
H.C. I II III - unknown contributions

Prince - co-producer, co-arranger, mixer
Joshua Welton - co-producer, co-arranger, mixer
Chris James - mixer
Adi Yeshaya - string arrangements
Michael B. Nelson - string production
Maya Washington - art direction and photography

With no released album since 2010, I wasn’t sure when to expect another Prince album. He surprised us with not one but two new releases in 2014, PLECTRUMELECTRUM, a collaboration with his all female band 3rdEyeGirl, and his own album Art Official Age. Although it has its strong moments, PLECTRUMELECTRUM is dragged down by weak material like “AINTTURNINAROUND” and “TICTACTOE”, but Art Official Age is my favorite Prince album since 2004’s Musicology.

It’s so tough to give an honest appraisal of new work from Prince, the guy has truly done it all and it is completely unfair to compare anything he does now to his brilliance in the 80’s and much of the 90’s. Do I wish he would explore a more mature musical and lyrical direction at this stage in his life, of course. It’s the same issue I have with another legend that rose to prominence around the same time Prince did, Madonna. But while I hold out hope Prince will reach that place, Art Official Age is a fine way to pass the time until he does. It’s a cohesive, vibrant, well produced modern R&B album. The fretting over the extent of the involvement of Joshua Welton in the production of this album from some fans is silly. When it comes down to it, this is still Prince’s show and if Welton helped Prince sound better than he has in a long time, more power to him.

There is a wealth of strong material here starting with “Clouds”, the first track released to preview the album. I have a hard time understanding how anyone who has been a fan of Prince’s since the 80’s could not dig this song. It’s funky, quirky in a good way, the bass line and groove is insanely good and it ends with a searing guitar solo like only Prince can do. “Way Back Home” is another high point, musically different from anything I’ve heard Prince do before and with a much more inward looking lyric than we have seen from the man in a long time. Andy Allo shines on vocals on three tracks here with the highlight being the near seven minute, entrancing “Time”. There are solid ballads in “Breakdown” and “This Could Be Us” and the Princely funk of “The Gold Standard” and “U Know”.

The only misstep on Art Official Age is the inclusion of a remix of “Funknroll” that really would have been better served as a bonus track instead of its placement near the end of the album. It disrupts the flow a bit, but it is one minor issue with an otherwise excellent album. It’s nice to have a Prince album in my year end favorites again.

Favorite tracks: “The Gold Standard”, “This Could Be Us”, “Time”, “Breakfast Can Wait”