September 17, 1990 12:00 PM


Since this is a sound track, we’re into one of those good news-bad news situations. On the plus side there’s the fact that Prince doesn’t seem to recognize that he’s supposed to fill such works with incidental throwaway music. From Purple Rain to Batman, he has displayed an inclination to create film scores that are stronger and fuller than most artists’ masterworks. The drawback is that this also means there’s another movie out there that Prince directed and stars in.

However the film turns out, we know at least that many of the songs are excellent. There’s the springy, insouciant twirl of “Can’t Stop This Feeling I Got,” the up-side-your-head funk of “New Power Generation.” the deeper shade of blues in “The Question of U” and the sumo jam of “We Can Funk,” on which Prince teams with the original Mr. Funkadelic, George Clinton.

One chronic problem surfaces: Prince can’t leave well enough alone. He keeps fracturing the flow with odd vocal overlays and melodic red herrings. That tinkering gives the album a rather scattered feel. So what if he floats off into the ether sometimes? Experimentation is to be expected from a true musical visionary like Prince. And sometimes it pays off, as on the mysterious jazzy mood of “Joy in Repetition.”

With this record, Prince is raising the stakes on the Top 40 crowd (as he is wont to do with each release). The bass and drum sounds on Graffiti Bridge are absolutely engulfing. Musicians and producers are likely to pore over this record, scratching their heads and wondering how he does it.

This isn’t a solo flight for the purple dauphin. There are jacked-up jollies from the Time (“Release It,” “Love Machine” and “Shake!”) and showcases for singers Tevin Campbell and Mavis Staples.

All in all. Graffiti Bridge is a groovable feast of an album (17 songs), loaded with exotic dishes, not all of them suitable to all palates (avoid the operatic title track), but it sure is filling, If the movie turns out to be bad, you can always close your eyes and just dig the sounds. (Paisley Park/Warner Bros.)

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