Prince released two HITnRUN albums in 2015. Unfortunately Phase One turned out to be my least favorite album he has ever released but that was quickly rectified when he surprised everyone by releasing Phase Two in mid-December via the TIDAL music service. Phase Two was everything Phase One wasn't. It was a return to Prince's 'real music by real musicians' mantra and is my favorite album of his since 2004's Musicology.
Half of the songs on Phase Two had been previously released, which led to some unwarranted criticism that this was just a collection of songs thrown together. I strongly disagree, even at the height of Prince's 80's greatness, albums were built around long vaulted songs and resurrecting old material. Prince will often let a song sit for years until it fits into an album sonically or concept wise. So yes, it may seem to some that Phase Two was a place to collect a bunch of one-off singles from the last few years, but I find it to be amazingly cohesive. Most of the songs that had been previously released have been re-worked for this album as well. Tracks like "SCREWDRIVER", "XTRALOVEABLE", "ROCKNROLL LOVEAFFAIR" and "BALTIMORE" have all either been remixed or had instrumentation and production added and all benefit from the new touches.
Prince's mastery of different musical styles is on full display here. You want funk? There's "GROOVY POTENTIAL", "STARE" and "XTRALOVEABLE". Pop and rock? Try "ROCKNROLL LOVEAFFAIR", "2 Y. 2 D." and "SCREWDRIVER". Soulful ballads? "LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT U" and "REVELATION" are among the best he has done in years. In fact, "REVELATION" is a new addition to the classic Prince ballad list, a gorgeous masterpiece with his falsetto still flawless. Prince channels his inner Stevie Wonder on "BLACK MUSE", yet another highlight. And the horn work that runs throughout this entire album is extraordinary, it truly helps tie everything together into one cohesive sounding piece of work. There are also plenty of musical and vocal contributions from the likes of Michael Bland, John Blackwell, Liv Warfield, Andy Allo and many more members of Prince's ever evolving NPG, check the full band sound on album closer "BIG CITY".
Art Official Age was one of my favorite albums of 2014 and Prince has done it again with HITnRUN Phase Two placing as my #3 Album of 2015.
Favorite tracks: "REVELATION", "GROOVY POTENTIAL", "LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT U", "ROCKNROLL LOVEAFFAIR"
HITnRUN Phase Two was released as a digital download exclusively on TIDAL December 12th, 2015 via NPG Records. A physical release is expected in 2016.