Recorded on February 6 (presumably 2003), N-E-W-S consists of four 14-minute instrumentals, "North," "East," "West," and "South," performed by Prince on guitar, keyboards, and percussion, with Eric Leeds on baritone and tenor saxophone, John Blackwell on drums, and Rhonda Smith on acoustic and electric bass. ("North" includes string samples "courtesy of" Clare Fisher.) The seemingly improvised music ranges from funk to jazz to new age without any apparent direction or intention. There are attractive passages here and there, such as some solo piano work on "North" and Leeds' warm horn playing throughout. Needless to say, this aimless studio jam is not what Prince fans are used to hearing from him, even given his eclectic and exploratory nature, and this is not the kind of album he might have been expected to deliver if he were still working for an established record company instead of putting out his own discs. But that may be the point. The listener, who will have to be a particularly rabid aficionado of all things Prince to be interested, must throw out all expectations and simply revel in the joy of hearing the musician and his cohorts experiment with relaxed musical textures for 56 minutes. Of course, no one else needs to bother.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann