Pop Albums: Prince Emancipation NPG 72438 54982 2

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The Independent Culture
He's got a cheek. Just four short months after releasing an abysmal contractual obligation albumful of leftover dross, the world's most profligate musician celebrates his new distribution deal with EMI by serving up not just a double but a triple-album, a 36-track slab of songs differing in no significant degree from the rest of his lacklustre Nineties output. It's the same old mixture of dreary funk riffs, leavened with the occasional ballad, and dotted here and there with the occasional oddity. In its enormity, it's doubtless intended to revive memories of the creative fecundity of Sign o' the Times, his last truly great album, but for huge stretches here, it's as if the CD player were stuck on constant replay. It may be the longest (aesthetic) bankruptcy note in history.

For the first time, he ekes out his own compositions with cover-versions - a couple of old Philly-soul covers of "Betcha By Golly Wow" and "La La La Means I Love You" featuring his shrieking falsetto, and truly appalling renditions of Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" and Joan Osborne's "One of Us" (the latter presumptuously altered to read "just a slave like one of us"). The truly dispiriting thing about the album, however, is that aside from isolated cases like "The Holy River" and "Soul Sanctuary", few of the Artist's own songs have anything like as distinctive an identity as these cover versions.