Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5

Prince’s fortunes have been on the rebound since 2004, when Musicology, issued via Sony, indicated that he could still craft an album focused enough to warrant the clout of major-label distribution. Last year’s 3121, released through Universal, displayed his ability to pen songs as strong as anything from his initial purple reign. The new Planet Earth proves that Prince remembers how to generate controversy: Prior to its release, he gave away millions of copies in the Sunday edition of a London newspaper, causing Sony to decline to issue the album there. Meanwhile, fans are buzzing about cameos from former bandmates Wendy and Lisa.

It may be those attention-grabbing gestures for which Planet Earth is most remembered. The disc includes a handful of solid singles, among them the socially conscious title ballad, and the crunchy drive and squealing six-string solos of “Guitar.” The bouncy two-chord pop of “The One You Wanna C” is a playful throwback to “When You Were Mine.”

Sadly, there are just as many stumbles. In “Future Baby Mama,” Prince calls on macho clichés to explain to a lover why she looks just like all his exes. “Mr. Goodnight” is larded with come-hither jive that would choke Morris Day. Prince actually uses the word scallywags in “All the Midnights in the World,” a Capra-esque vision of life without enemies, and squanders the vintage Chic disco groove of “Chelsea Rodgers” on an inexplicable lyric. And it’s disconcerting to hear the stately opening chords of “Purple Rain” repurposed for the weirdly vindictive “Lion of Judah.”

Planet Earth (NPG/Sony)