The hope for a heart-stopping new song from the former Prince dies hard. Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, the Artist's first major-label album in three years, suggests his crap detector is still at least partially on the fritz. The canned beats and stale sentiment of "Undisputed" and "Hot Wit U" typify the worst of his Nineties work. Yet in the midst of these self-indulgent grooves there is a handful of great songs -- the most Princely moments we've heard since 1992's "symbol album." "The Greatest Romance Ever Sold," "Tangerine" and "The Sun, the Moon and Stars" are a trio of light, twisting slow-to-midtempo grooves that sound like refugees from Diamonds and Pearls, the least-great of Prince's great records. The buried track "Prettyman" is a roaring up-tempo number in the James Brown funk mode, featuring legendary saxman Maceo Parker. And "I Love U, but I Don't Trust U Anymore" (rumored to be about his wife, Mayte) is a tender ballad that's sharp on the issues that come between deep lovers. The quality of these few sublime moments outweighs the lackluster album around them. (RS 832)
A Princely blend of ballads, blasts, surprises
The Artist clutches his past and clinches his future on the rave-worthy Rave
Un2 the Joy Fantastic (3.5 stars out of four), out Tuesday.
Artists' 'Rave' less than fantastic, but it ain't all bad
WHO: The Artist
Everything we've come to know and love about the artist formerly known as Prince is all over his latest record -- for better and worse.
No, this is not the groundbreaking stuff of his '80s masterpieces, nor does it contain much of his best experimental work of the '90s. But it does brim with the same scintillating screams, melodies and production expertise that have marked his 20-plus year career.
The best of the 15 tracks are the ballads, most notably "I Love U, But I Don't Trust U Anymore," an intimate piano-propped heartbreaker that rivals Prince's classic "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?" on the goosebump meter. "Wherever U Go, Whatever I Do" is one of those great life-lesson songs the former Prince cranks out with astonishing regularity, while "The Sun, the Moon and Stars" is his latest make-out-and-then-some song for the ages.
Prince : Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic
Instead of carving divine sexfunk for the 21st century, Prince Rogers
Nelson has spent most of the '90s desecrating his good name. So it
is with some trepidation we approach 'Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic'...
MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE
Pop musing: Prince's latest 'Rave'
Jon Bream / Star Tribune
The artist generally known as Prince has received considerable attention this year -- mostly for "1999," the hit he recorded in 1982 that still sounds remarkably vital today. Now he wants to call attention to his new music.
"Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic" (Arista), which arrives in stores today, has probably the greatest likelihood for commercial success of any Prince album since 1991's double-platinum "Diamonds & Pearls."
The disc is being marketed by Arista, whose founder and driving force, Clive Davis, is savvy, aggressive and on a hot streak. Arista has made big noise recently with recordings by Santana, Whitney Houston, TLC, Sarah McLachlan, Deborah Cox and Eurythmics.
Prince, who had complete artistic control over this CD, has some famous people helping him -- rocker Sheryl Crow, rapper Eve, indie folkie Ani DiFranco, No Doubt's Gwen Stefani, Public Enemy rapper Chuck D, saxophonist Maceo Parker and bassist Larry Graham. Using big-name guest stars has been a successful strategy for current acts (Mariah Carey, Puff Daddy) as well as for veterans on the comeback trail (Santana). And Arista knows how to use that tactic as effectively as any label.
"Rave" is a strong recording, deep with ballads, short on funky party music but with broad musical appeal. This 15-song collection might not be fantastic, but many songs will bring joy to the world in 1999 and beyond.
"Rave" seems like Prince's 1990s version of "Around the World in a Day," his 1985 pop kaleidoscope that followed the landmark "Purple Rain" -- with a little bit of "Parade" (the soundtrack to "Under the Cherry Moon") thrown in.
"Once again, I don't follow trends, they just follow me," Prince declares on "Undisputed," his commentary on the music business on "Rave." No, this disc isn't on the trendy tip; rather, it has more of an '80s vibe. But the songs will likely end up on the radio.
"So Far So Pleased" is cheesy synth Euro-pop, sweetened by Stefani's voice and supported by a muscular guitar solo. "The Sun the Moon and Stars" is celestial pop with an understated electronica beat and a dancehall rap -- Prince's small concessions to modern-day stylings. "Man 'o' War," a falsetto frustration about a relationship that's run its course, is a strikingly soulful slow grind that carries on and on. "I Love U, But I Don't Trust U Anymore" is an emotional piano ballad that could have been lifted from "Under the Cherry Moon." "Silly Game," about the posturing in relationships, is the ChiLites for the '90s, suggesting that Prince might find big success in adult-contemporary land because he knows how to wreak emotional havoc bathed in pretty sounds.
Even when he tries to get raunchy on "Rave," it's not R-rated stuff. "Hot with U" is a horny come-on, complete with heavy breathing and a fairly tame rap by Eve of Ruff Ryders; a remix could turn the beat around on this one. If you want to dance, check out the synth strut of the I-wanna-sex-you-up "Baby Knows" (with Crow on harmonica and vocals); the housequaking, James Brown groove of "Prettyman" (a hidden track featuring Parker's marvelous sax); a funky sendup of Crow's "Everyday Is a Winding Road" (perhaps this hit could find a second life in the R&B market); and the house-party minimalism of the opening "Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic" with its Princely screams, power guitar and Middle Eastern filigree.
On "Rave," Prince seems more comfortable, more peaceful and more genuinely loving than on any previous album -- except maybe the second disc of 1996's 3-CD "Emancipation." The closing "Whenever U Go, Whatever U Do" on "Rave" is sunny and simple, open and hopeful -- much like a glimpse of the light at the dawn of the new millennium.
Call It a Comeback
Album Review: The Artist / "Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic"
WALL OF SOUND
The Artist Formerly Known as Prince
November 1999 is a dangerous time for the Artist Formerly Known as Prince to put out a new CD. Expectations are at a peak because his most enduring tunes promised his public that after a cleansing "Purple Rain" he'd "party like it's 1999." But with mass killings, plane wrecks, Y2K fears, and a limp slate of presidential candidates for the new millennium filling our minds, getting on board a party train sounds like a ticket to disaster.
And now even Prince, who declared the corporate record machine outdated and contracts a modern form of slavery, has sold out. His new CD, Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, not only has the power of a major label behind it, but also does little more than mimic the pop music everybody else is making. It sounds like the multi-instrumentalist, composer, singer, and fashion plate needs money, and while Rave will probably rake in the dough -- especially with an intrusive commercial for his Internet site and 800 number inserted before the final track -- it pales in the light of the Artist's heretofore brilliant career.
The '80s-ish dance floor title cut opens the set with an appeal for folks to get happy because if he had a dollar for every smile he'd "sho nuff b rich awhile." And since the Artist plays all the instruments, he didn't have to pay any musicians, and doesn't even have to share a dime of his profits. "Undisputed" comes closer to the Prince we all worshipped. With layers of electronic instrumentation creating a funk fantasy and the NPG chanting, there are moments of transcendence. But inserting Public Enemy's Chuck D's rap is interesting but soulless, bringing the mood down to the banal present.
Other guest spots also seem to be only stabs at attracting a broader audience. Sheryl Crow plays harmonica and shares the vocals on "Baby Knows," a catchy song about one sexy babe. (Prince also turns in a spirited and barely recognizable cover of Crow's "Every Day Is a Winding Road.") The acoustic ballad, "I Love U but I Don't Trust U Anymore," features Ani DiFranco on acoustic guitar, an incidental -- not essential -- role. Rather it is the Artist's high, sweet singing and piano playing that makes the ballad plaintive. Another slow tune, "Wherever U Go, Whatever U Do" is so unoriginal that it sounds like the Artist has taken a cue from Puff Daddy and Faith Evans and lifted part of "I'll Be Missing You" for part of the melody.
Ironically the best dance tune on Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic is the one most like early Prince, the hidden track that comes after the commercial. The funky and righteous number features Maceo Parker blowing his sax while the Artist struts around on all the instruments and uses his voice to its best James Brown effect as he paints himself as the man all the women are dying to take home. But it's too little too late. The build-up to the finale is cynical and narcissistic, and does little to move the listener. This Prince may not have turned into a frog, but he has become a commoner. -- Roberta Penn
Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic
For as lame a song as he's ever unleashed, proceed to track 2. In ''Undisputed,'' he extols his own genius over a dull rhythmic bed that begs a second opinion. The Artiste almost redeems himself with the next track, ''The Greatest Romance Ever Sold,'' a silky bedtime story with seductive descending chord progressions. And so it goes. His disco cover of Sheryl Crow's ''Everyday Is a Winding Road'' is a borderline travesty, but later, Crow herself sings on a funny new raunch-rocker, ''Baby Knows,'' that nearly atones for the earlier misstep. When he's really on, almost anything -- even that nasty messiah complex -- seems 4givable. Grade: B-