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March 27, 2006 12:00 PM

REVIEWED BY CHUCK ARNOLD

CRITIC’S CHOICE

FUNK-ROCK

I ‘m hot and I don’t care who knows it/ I got a job to do.” So declares Prince, working himself up into a funky lather on “Black Sweat,” the hip-gyrating highlight of his new CD. Recapturing his old “Kiss”-style swagger and irreverence (“You’ll be screamin’ like a white lady when I count to three: 1-2-3”) over a ferocious groove, it’s quite simply the baddest thing he’s done in years. Of course, it’s not totally unexpected. You could feel this coming after Prince’s 2004 comeback album Musicology and hits-heavy tour of the same name restored him to his rightful throne. And 3121 shows that His Purple Highness has no intention of stepping down any time soon. Even better than its double-platinum predecessor, it boasts higher highs: The utterly irresistible “Lolita,” along with “Black Sweat,” gives this disc the best one-two punch he’s had since “Gett Off” and “Cream.” With its bright synth lines and tight rhythm guitar, “Lolita” is classic ’80s Prince, though now that he’s a Jehovah’s Witness, he won’t surrender to the nubile temptress who’s “fine from head to pumps.” Elsewhere, the scorching, electric-guitar-charged “Fury” takes him back to the funk-rock glory of the Revolution era, while the spiritually glowing “Beautiful, Loved & Blessed” pairs Prince with new protégée Tamar, a much better duet partner than Apollonia ever made. A couple of lesser slow jams, including the Latin-flavored “Te Amo Corazón,” make 3121 fall short of the slam dunk it could have been. Still, there’s plenty here to make you go crazy all over again.

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DOWNLOAD THIS: “Black Sweat”

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