Prince is out to reinvent himself yet again. His new album, N.E.W.S. , is a collection of four jazz instrumental tracks performed live with several members of his long-time backing band New Power Generation at his Paisley Park Studios in Minneapolis. The end result is a 56-minute genre-crossing concept album that hops from funk to R&B to jazz obscurity. The album title, which evokes the way information travels around the globe, is an acronym representing the first letter from each song title -- "North," "East," "West," and "South."

Far from a typical Prince album, these tracks evolve without returning to their origins ... for fourteen minutes each. What begins as a jazzy, funk piece will morph slowly to a guitar-wailing R&B rhythm. "West," the third track, is a highlight that immediately pulls you under the sheets with a sexy, Barry White-esque swing. "East," the second track, is fusion jazz with a Middle Eastern influence, giving it a Mahavishnu Orchestra feel.

Each one ends with 30 seconds to two minutes of fading instruments or silence. This can be a little rough to keep the mood going (or is Prince trying to tell us something about the news being silent?). Often you don't get the feeling of being transported anywhere because they don't climax like normal "pop" songs do. Instead the group tries to ride different grooves, taking them as far as they can go. A jam session if you will. Despite the ambitious title, it seems that Prince may be trading clarity for concept.

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Alfred L. Smith