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Rhythm & Views



While an abundance of tasteful craftsmanship ultimately saves Planet Earth from oblivion, the Purple One's blanket survey of the rock-soul idiom lacks a clear, artistic focus.

So many forms and styles are trotted out within these 10 sides that it's hard to identify, let alone get comfortable with, the artist's direction. While a successful CD isn't required to support a single musical idea or theme, one would like more cohesion or unity of approach.

Taken in parts, Planet Earth can be impressive. "Guitar" is a swaggering rocker with just the right amount of pump and shimmy. On "Lion of Judah," the lead line bends and screams like Mick Ronson at his Bowie-inspired peak. Sadly, it's the only track with any real urgency. Add to those the funky silk of the ballads "Somewhere Here on Earth" and "Future Baby Mama," and you can count four of the disc's 10 tracks in the win column. Forty percent is a decent tally for most, but not for a guy who has so completely "owned it" at several junctures of his career. Especially when that forgettable 60 percent features an ersatz Snoop Dogg dud ("Mr. Goodnight") about how well Prince treats his "lay-days." We've been here before--and as the Purple One slides toward 50, so has everyone else.

While Prince used to sashay to the mind-blowing edge of Top 40's limitations, Planet Earth is a comfortable sidestep by an exceedingly skillful and clever stylist. That's not to say he's mailing it in. But considering how edgy and dangerous as Prince can be, this effort seems safe and predictable.

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