Best Guitar Riffs and Opinions on Prince

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.

reviewART OFFICIAL AGEArt Official Age available on iTunes

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.

reviewPLECTRUMELECTRUMPlectrumelectrum available on iTunes

3rdeyegirl & 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 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.


Featured Songs

  1. Thom Yorke, A Brain in a Bottle, Tomorrow's Modern Boxes, Self-released, 2014
  2. Chuck Berry, Johnny B. Goode, Johnny B. Goode (Single), Chess, 1958
  3. Black Sabbath, Iron Man, Paranoid, Warner Bros., 1971
  4. The White Stripes, Seven Nation Army, Elephant, XL Recording, 2003
  5. Led Zeppelin, The Ocean, Houses of the Holy, Atlantic, 1973
  6. ACDC, Shot Down in Flames, Highway to Hell, Atlantic, 1979
  7. The Ohio Players, Love Rollercoaster, Honey, Mercury, 1975
  8. Deep Purple, Smoke on the Water, Machine Head, Warner Bros., 1972
  9. Prince, Kiss, Kiss (Single), Paisley Park, 1986
  10. Magazine, Shot by Both Sides, Shot by Both Sides (Single), Virgin, 1978
  11. The Smiths, How Soon is Now, How Soon is Now (Single), Rough Trade, 1985
  12. The Rolling Stones, Can't You Hear Me Knocking, Sticky Fingers, Atlantic, 1971
  13. The Isley Brothers, Who Loves You Better, Harvest for the World, T-Neck Records, 1976
  14. Sleater-Kinney, Jumpers, The Woods, Sub Pop, 2005
  15. Mudhoney, Touch Me I'm Sick, Touch Me I'm Sick (Single), Sub Pop, 1988
  16. Daft Punk, Get Lucky, Get Lucky (Single), Columbia, 2013
  17. Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL, WOW, PLECTRUMELECTRUM, NPG Records, 2014
  18. Prince, The Gold Standard, Art Official Age, NPG Records, 2014
  20. Blondie, Hanging on the Telephone, Parallel Lines, Chrysalis, 1978
  21. My Bloody Valentine, Only Tomorrow, MBV, m b v, 2013
  22. Pink Floyd, Fearless, Meddle, Harvest, 1971
  23. U2, Sleep Like a Baby Tonight, Songs of Innocence, Island, 2014

Footnotes Thom Yorke Downloads Urban Outfitters Caught! Prince Prince and Warner Bros. together again Greg's Prince review