Best Guitar Riffs and Opinions on Prince

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Perhaps the most essential element of rock ‘n’ roll: The Guitar Riff. Jim, Greg and some listeners break it down and name their favorites. Then they review a new double album from another guitar legend, Prince.

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Music News

Thom Yorke can’t stop reinventing the music business. A few years ago, his band Radiohead made big news by offering a pay-what-you-want model for its album In Rainbows. Now Yorke has released his new album, Tommorow’s Modern Boxes, via BitTorrent. He says that in an effort to remove any of the gatekeepers, he wanted to see how this album would go over on the controversial file sharing system. For the most part, BitTorrent has previously been used to share illegal music, movies and other files. But, with 400,000 paid downloads of Yorke’s release, things may change.

Also in the news this week, Urban Outfitters boasted that they are the world’s largest retail outlet of vinyl albums. Billboard thought this seemed fishy and looked into the claim. Turns out mega-giant Amazon is the champion, but UO takes the brick and mortal prize.

Guitar Riffs

Does anything define rock and roll more than its basic element, the guitar riff? Rock solos can be overblown and overrated, but a riff, when done right, can rule a song. It it in many ways, the essence of rock ‘n’ roll. So, inspired by Greg’s recent BBC essay, Jim and Greg run through their favorite examples of guitar riffs in rock history, and they hear some picks from listeners across the country. But first, a definition. A riff is a brief statement – sometime only a handful of notes or chords – that recurs throughout the arrangement and can become the song’s central hook. And for a guitarist like Nile Rodgers, it’s not just a static foundational element, but like a river moving through the song. Now onto the goods.

Greg

  • Prince, Kiss
  • AC/DC, Shot Down in Flames
  • Sleater Kinney, Jumpers
  • Daft Punk, Get Lucky

Jim

  • Led Zeppelin, The Ocean
  • The Ohio Players, Love Rollercoaster
  • Magazine, Shot By Both Sides
  • Mudhoney, Touch Me I’m Sick

Listeners

  • The Smiths, How Soon Is Now
  • The Rolling Stones, Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’
  • The Isley Brothers, Who Loves You Better

Art Official Age Prince

ART OFFICIAL AGE

More than fifteen years after a dramatic falling out with Warner Bros. Records, Prince and the WB are once again reunited. To celebrate the occasion, The Purple One has released not one, but two full-length studio albums. Jim thinks the first record, Art Official Age, is a bloated, science fiction-tinged concept album that borrows too liberally from artists like Led Zeppelin, Janelle Monae, and even Crosby, Stills and Nash. Fans of Prince will probably love it, but Jim’s finds it to be mostly filler from a once brilliant artist: Trash It. Greg disagrees, as he thinks this is some of Prince’s best material in 20 years. On Art Official Age, Prince creates a rich, layered world of sound where he’s free to embody a variety of eccentric and electric musical personalities. And despite Prince being 56-years old, the album’s energy stands up next to contemporary R&B auteurs like Frank Ocean and The Weeknd. Greg says Buy It.

Plectrumelectrum Prince

PLECTRUMELECTRUM

The second Prince album, out the same day as Art Official Age, is Plectrumelectrum, a collaboration between Prince and female funk band 3rdeyegirl. Of Prince’s two albums, Jim prefers this one, which features a hard-hitting sound from the band and some fine psychedelic guitar playing from Prince. Although he admits no one’s doing any real heavy lifting in terms of innovation, the record is still fun and worth a Try It. Greg concurs. Unlike {album : Art Official Age}, Greg feels like Prince is coasting a bit on this record by having picked a backing band that doesn’t challenge him in any real way. Mediocre songwriting means the songs range from simply OK to good, but nothing’s so bad as not to recommend you Try It.

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