Artist: Prince Title: Emancipation Year: 1996 Tracklist: Jam Of The Year 06:09 Right Back Here In My Arms 04:43 Somebody's Somebody 04:43 Get Yo Groove On 06:31 Courtin' Time 02:46 Betcha By Golly Wow! 03:31 We Gets Up 04:18 White Mansion 04:47 Damned If Eye Do 05:21 Eye Can't Make U Love Me 06:37 Mr. Happy 04:46 In This Bed Eye Scream 05:40 Sex In The Summer 05:57 One Kiss At A Time 04:41 Soul Sanctuary 04:41 Emale 03:38 Curious Child 02:57 Dreamin' About U 03:52 Joint 2 Joint* 07:52 The Holy River 06:55 Let's Have A Baby 04:07 Saviour 05:48 The Plan 01:47 Friend, Lover, Sister, Mother/Wife 07:37 Slave 04:51 New World 03:43 The Human Body 05:42 Face Down 03:17 La, La, Lave Means Eye Love U** 03:59 Style 06:40 Sleep Around 07:42 Da, Da, Da 05:15 My Computer*** 04:37 One Of Us 05:19 The Love We Make 04:39 Emancipation 04:12

Barely a week old, EMANCIPATION already stands as one of the most important releases in Prince's long and often brilliant career. His third release in just over a year (and eighth in the last five), EMANCIPATION is being hailed by His Royal Purpleness as the album he "was born to make," and by and large, the three-disc, 36-song effort stands as a profound celebration of artistic freedom for the 38-year-old Minneapolis-based artist.
But will it sell? Good question, and one of many that surround the release. It's well documented that, coming off of the decidedly lackluster reception for his last Warner Bros. release, the appropriately titled CHAOS AND DISORDER, Prince is in need of a hit. He'll need several, in fact, to carry a three-disc set through a sluggish and uncertain market.
Prince has always been a clutch player, however, and to his credit, EMANCIPATION is a strong and varied release that should reaffirm his status among the game's top players. Produced, composed, arranged and performed by Prince, EMANCIPATION is a veritable smorgasbord of sounds and grooves. Accompanied by an everchanging but talented cast throughout, Prince deftly navigates a sea of influences that is as deep as it is wide. No stone is left unturned, and Prince's artistry is put to good use as he hops from genre to genre, blurring lines and creating intriguing fusions along the way.
It's clear from the start that a certain amount of thought went into the set's sequencing, allowing for maximum enjoyment of what amounts to a considerable amount of material. Often, however, songs tend to outlive their usefulness as they drag on past the five-minute mark, though in most cases, Prince redeems himself with the next selection.

 

Are there hits? You bet, and His Glyphness went to great lengths to ensure a sufficient hit quotient, beginning with lead single "Betcha By Golly Wow," a remarkably soothing reworking of the Stylistics' 1972 hit that graces disc one. "Betcha" is but one of four covers offered here, including the Mike Reid-penned Bonnie Raitt tune "(Eye) Can't Make You Love Me" and a touching rendition of Joan Osborne's recent hit, "One Of Us," that, while placing special emphasis on the message, benefits greatly from a new messenger.
Throughout the three discs, it's clear that Prince is once more enjoying his muse, the lack of which clearly bogged CHAOS AND DISORDER and its predecessor, the late-'95 release THE GOLD EXPERIENCE. And, as time has shown, a happy Prince makes for happy Prince fans. Clearly, everyone wins.
Much of said contentment can be traced to a newfound stability within the artist's life, including his marriage to beautiful and talented dancer Mayte Garcia and the birth of the couple's first child. Both are recurrent themes on EMANCIPATION, and as much keys to its celebratory nature as his exodus from Warner Bros., depicted in the breaking-the-chains image that adorns the cover.
At 36 songs and three hours, EMANCIPATION is asking a lot of the listener. PURPLE RAIN it's not, but neither is it CHAOS AND DISORDER. Somewhere between, Prince has made peace with the demons that drive him and the angels that guide him, and the result is an effort that stands head and shoulders above recent multi-disc offerings by artists of similar stature. Head to head with Michael Jackson's HISTORY collection (which relied on a smattering of past hits as its selling point) and the Smashing Pumpkins' MELLON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE SADNESS (which was more filler than filling), there is no comparison.
Prince continues to chart his own course. You can either put your faith in him and follow, or get off the boat. But pay no attention to misguided critics who'll tell you that EMANCIPATION is nothing more than a sprawling mishmash-they've missed the boat entirely. The Purple Reign continues.
Steven Batten