Prince - Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic Prince
Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic

There's gold in the purple one's Arista label debut, but you have to do some major panning to find it.

The best tracks here turn out to be upbeat duets with Sheryl Crow and Gwen Ste-fani, with a lot of falling flat funk in between. Though he keeps trying, "The Artist" still can't pick a good rapper to save a song (one of his few successes was on Lovesexy) and the New Power Generation's backing funk exercises rarely seem inspired.

The title track opens it with a sterile "Sign of the Times" beat and lots of mumbo jumbo about the joy fantastic (The words do sound good together, but what the hell does it mean?). Some NPG funk turns the next track, "Undisputed," into a throwaway, and then comes the overblown collage of a first single, "The Greatest Romance Ever Sold."

Finally, about track five, a taste of the real "Prince" returns with the funky eros of "Hot With U," though it mires down midway in a guest rap by Eve.

The first real keeper is track seven, "So Far, So Pleased," which pairs "Prince" in a sexy duet with No Doubt's Gwen Stefani and lets him get loose with some Purple Rain-era Princian guitar. ("I like the way you touch me/I like the way you tease").

"Prince" turns Sheryl Crow's "Everyday Is a Winding Road" into a falsetto-drenched, funk party and later pulls Crow onboard to play harmonica and sing on "Baby Knows," one of the other "keepers." It's a rock-out ode to a babe "who got the long dark legs" and the "butt that go 'round."

The album caps off with a slowly chugging guitar love song, "Wherever U Go, Whatever U Do," that runs circles around the disc's "focus" single, "The Greatest Romance Ever Sold."'

There's also an unlisted bonus track that ends up being the best bit of funk on the disc it's a James Brown/ The Time-style mix of horn and guitar percussive jammin' that screams "party mix."

Bottom line: Pick this up for the gold, but be ready to program your CD player to avoid the mud.


Self - Breakfast With Girls Self
Breakfast With Girls

This is the greatest pop album ever made!

OK, probably not.

But Self is truly the best thing down the pop pike since Jellyfish. Matt Mahaffey & Co. fire up a wildly disparate stew of chunky beats, angular guitars, strict harmonies, string orchestrations, jazz samples and a host of sound effects to create a suitable soundtrack for Mahaffey's lyrics, which range from the silly to the sublime. For example, in "Meg Ryan," he offers one of the most backhanded compliments in modern music, promising that "if Meg Ryan were my personal taste/I'd be on top the Empire State every Christmas." Of course, the implication is that she's not and he isn't ...

The "Uno Song" tweaks up the Casio for a sweetly simple love song (with occasional drum break and Queen-nodding guitar) and organs also abound in the disc's most delectable offering, "Paint by Numbers," which previously turned up on1998's Dead Man on Campus soundtrack.

But wait there's more...there's a handclappin' good time in "The End of It All" and a feast of percussion in the sci-fi fury of "Kill The Barflies." And I'm not sure what the orchestra/guitar stomp/percussion thing is going on in "It All Comes Out inthe Wash," but I'm ready to go to the Laundromat for more.

How do they do that?