Prince Uncorks the New-Look NPG’s ‘Groovy Potential’
The unassuming slow burn of “Groovy Potential” revealed Prince’s love for soul with generous dash of horns was alive and well in the mid-'10s, despite the infatuation he clearly had with his garage rock group 3rdEyeGirl at that time.
While his all-female power trio dominated most of his live performances from 2013 until his 2016 passing, the ever-evolving NPG fulfilled his desire to also build a band that could expand and contract to meet his every musical whim.
The period following the inauspicious release of 2010's 20Ten - which was only ever issued as a cover mount on a handful of European newspapers and magazines, never receiving a proper worldwide release - was an unusually quiet one for Prince. Considering that he had released five albums over the preceding four years, to not release anything, save for a single and an album by protege Andy Allo, over the course of the next two years was plainly out of character.
It’s not that he was totally silent; there was the Welcome 2 America tour, which extended into Canada, Australia and Europe, as well as various one-off performances. During that time the makeup of The NPG fluctuated wildly, with familiar faces (Renato Neto on keyboards, John Blackwell on drums, Mike Scott on Guitar) returning to the fold - often briefly - and new members appearing throughout (Andrew Gouché on bass, Hannah Ford on drums). As it turns out was the addition of Ford, and her husband, Joshua Welton, that would launch the next phase of Prince’s creative output.
The debut of 3rdEyeGirl - with Ford on Drums, NPG familiar Ida Nielsen on bass, and newcomer Donna Grantis on guitar - on December 31, 2012 seemed to put the NPG on pause, as Prince was clearly putting most of his energy into his latest project.
However, the launch of his new website 3rdEyeTunes.com (despite Prince's recent insistence that “The Internet is dead") came with new music that went beyond the heavier 3rdEyeGirl material, and focused more on his work with trombonist, and arranger, Michael B. Nelson.
“Groovy Potential” was the third track to be released on the site. The song bubbles to life with a kick and some finger snaps, a jazzy guitar slides into the song’s chord progression as Prince’s highly processed vocal establishes the theme, “We’ve got the groovy potential.” While not his strongest lyric, the underlying groove (pun not intended) makes this a stand out cut, well worth seeking out. Ironically, it is the original New Power Generation drummer, Michael Bland, who laid down the thunderous beat.
The tune builds, adding complex layers and breaks of drums and horns, before settling into an entirely new funky groove in the last 30 seconds before it abruptly ends. Clocking in at 6:17, it is more reminiscent of the soulful disco from early in his career than the more modern influences that featured heavily on 20Ten. According to PrinceVault.com, there was a second version of the song that featured a more robust, 10 piece ensemble .
“Groovy Potential” eventually found a home on Prince’s final release, 2015's HITNRUN Phase Two, but was (unfortunately) never performed live. With the ever-expanding NPG, including a 10 piece horn section, this surely would have been a highlight of any show.
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