Because of the circumstances under which this EP is making its way into the world, I don’t know how long it will be available, assuming it makes it to its original release date three days from now. Mind you, no one knew this album was coming out, so to already see it catching some legal heat is hardly surprising. That said, here is what might be one of the world’s first reviews of Deliverance, track by track.
This is the released track everyone can listen to now. It’s a gospel/blues scorcher that makes no bones about its religiosity, the kind of track you end a show with, not kick it off. It sounds great, and is a great opener here, thematically. Considering the rest of the record blends as a movement, it’s a great standalone choice. I don’t know that this would be a great single, but it’s in league with some of the stuff on Musicology. It would, in fact, have fit that album nicely.
- I Am
This material was recorded during 2006 and 2008, between two extremely weak records – 3121 (2006) and Planet Earth (2007) – and this track sets us firmly in that period. Headed for a markedly rock and jam direction (culminating in a much worse record by 2009 in LotusFlow3r/MPSL Sound). Here we get the kind of playing and composition we were hearing in the albums near the end with his last band of public record, 3rdeyegirl: heavy groove rock, but without the pyrotechnics and arrangement choices inspired by trying to sell a new band muddying everything. This is Prince rocking out, but in a club, not an arena. It’s a sweaty track, perhaps the sweatiest gospel song you’ll hear this year. It is probably the song Prince would have started this album with if it were up to him, but it’s not a better song than “Deliverance”. If you recognize the chords of “Tambourine” floating around in the mix, congratulations you’re either really old or really hardcore.
- Touch Me
Prince taps a lot of points throughout his career in this whole exercise, and this one is very tellingly from the 3121/Planet Earth phase of his career in tone. “Touch Me” ties back to the previous track in the second half of this basically transitional song. At less than 2 minutes it’s not trying to make much of an independent statement so much as it tries to clear the palate. This is a bit of moving the stage furniture that does its job: gets you to the meat. You start to really notice the musical constructions here: the wandering questioner in an almost bucolic setting, answered by the thundering god of what is to come.
- Sunrise Sunset
If you didn’t know this was arranged like a musical (which Prince has toyed with in the past), this track would totally betray it. The Broadway lead in, the pop piano opera strains, the way the orchestra fields the heavy lifting, the sappy lyrics…straight showtune. It would sound corny if you didn’t know it was a set-up for the next piece (which is also straight musical narrative structuring).
- No One Else
This is the track I keep coming back to. It has nice Crystal Ball touches to it: a little spooky, heavy blues bass, some warped guitar and synths, some odd droning…it’s a little kitchen sink in all the right way. This has some sounds and production choices I thought he’d given up on, so the ear candy on this track is a lot like getting a call from an old friend you haven’t seen since you both walked out of a theater after having seen Graffiti Bridge, laughing hard, trying to figure out how that album ties to that movie.
- I Am (Extended)
This is basically “I Am” again but with another minute or so of jamming to pad it out. The song is good enough that you want a fuller treatment, but it’s hardly what I’d call a cap to the movement. The inclusion of this, while welcome, is how you know it’s not exactly an above board collection.
In short, this EP is what happens when you let a fan go through the tapes. A fan would almost assuredly make different decisions than Prince would, even within a finite pool of options, and this release is all the better for it. It is impossible now to know what Prince had in mind for these tracks, but the way they’re laid out here works and there’s no filler here. At a mere 16 minutes in length it’s better than the last eight albums he put out, which is to say it’s his best “album” since 2004. Mind you, this was sitting in a room somewhere with no signs of ever being release. This is yet another gold brick in the foundation of his already majestic and mindboggling compositional legacy. And you should get it now before his estate grinds this to dust in court and it just becomes the best mastered Prince bootleg of all time.