Saturday, July 08, 2017

Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (1999)

I still wasn't playing CDs on computers when I bought this album new, when Prince was still going by the glyph symbol. So it took me a while to catch up with what a multimedia clusterfuck it can be. Pro tip: when prompted, choose "play audio CD" on the simplest platform available. Do not attempt to rip. Do not attempt to engage the enhanced features. Even this early in the internet era (no doubt symptomatic of his battles with Warner Bros.), Prince was asserting his copyright privileges with unrelenting aggression. The enhanced features here create a computer environment I could only get rid of via complete reboot. I suppose that could be Windows 10. But Prince never really changed that stance, which was the main reason there were so few videos to share on social media on the occasion of his death. For me, the ritual sharing of individual song videos is one of the few things I like about the internet's response to celebrity death. At any rate, there are certainly other caveats to make about this album—it rarely rises an inch or two above the absolute floor of Prince product. Recall, however, that even Prince product reliably delivers various points of pleasure, not just mere professionalism. If he is barely capable of partying like it's 1999, whose fault is that anyway? You can always go back to 1982. This is more smooth and slick, attempting (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) to be radio-friendly, and with the usual interesting motley of guest appearances: Chuck D, Eve, Gwen Stefani, Sheryl Crow, Ani DiFranco, and Maceo Parker. There's also a nice cover of a great Sheryl Crow song, "Everyday Is a Winding Road," which is not the track on which Crow appears. There are a couple of hidden tracks too, though one is an ad, and generally they are problematic as well in terms of functionality. Predictably, the one that is not an ad, "Prettyman," is worth the bullshit to get to. It's just a matter of waiting. From the cover art, Prince appears to be signaling a willingness to embrace the color purple again, after The Gold Experience of four years earlier; I consider that a neutral factor overall. This may be the first Prince album I know yet with no standout tracks whatsoever (well, maybe "The Sun, the Moon and Stars" makes me go a little weak), yet I played it often when it was new and have never minded running it one more time in recent days—except for the functionality issues. And meanwhile commanding prices that start at $32 for this crappy multimedia product, Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic (wonderful title, by the way) really can't get to streaming venues and/or a thoroughly rethought remastering soon enough. Come on, lawyers. Get on it.


  1. One small personal consolation in all the biz vultures squabbling over his estate, delaying the release of more Prince music, is that it gives me more time to catch up w/ everything after Sign of the Times or thereabouts. Just the other day I discovered he had this big Batman soundtrack hit in '89. Left no impression on me and I'm pretty sure I saw the movie. Promise to do a proper post-classic period Prince session sometime this summer. Where should I start? Musicology? Emancipation? This one?

  2. After '87 I would say his best (in approximate order) are The Gold Experience, The Love Symbol Album, Diamonds and Pearls, The Black Album, and Lovesexy. Musicology is one of his best after '96, but there's still a lot of that I don't know and won't until things get settled. That whole Batman project looks worse all the time, not just Prince's contribution. But I do love "Scandalous," one of his best ballads.

  3. I know the '87 Black Album (Prince funk fundamentals) but not the '94 one, always assumed they were the same? I've maybe heard Lovesexy and Diamonds and Pearls. Definitely not Love Symbol or Gold Experience. Will investigate. Thanks.