It's not until four minutes into Prince's latest offering, The Rainbow Children, that one can even recognize his Royal Purpleness's voice. Plagued by oddly distorted narratives and off-kilter jazz (is this the same genius who crafted the R&B/nü-jazz fusion of "Sexy M.F."?), the album's
concept consists of a string of failed, ultimately hollow parables (the Rainbow Children vs. the Banished Ones, "who just wanted this love to cease"). It's all very very far from the mystical and comparably fluid allegory of 1992's "7." "The Sensual Everafter" plays out more like an improv by Phish than Prince while the album's sole sexual reference sounds strangely out of place amid the artist's Christian anthems ("Wet circles round the toy/While you bring yourself to joy"). The album's saving graces are few and far between (the smooth-jazzy "She Loves Me 4 Me" and the retro-infused "1+1+1 is 3"); the electric guitar-driven "Family Name" is notable if only for its history-spewing futuristic intro: "Welcome. You have just accessed the Akashic Records Genetic Information Division." In the end, the autobiographical "Everlasting Now" sums up the painfully pedantic Rainbow pretty accurately: "This is funky but I just wish he'd play like he used to."