Prince – “Chaos and Disorder” (1996)

September 15, 2008 at 6:45 pm (Prince, Reviews & Articles)

 

 

 

Written November 2, 2002…


This is one of Prince’s most underrated albums in my opinion. Not only is it unheard by most people (except diehard Prince fans such as myself) but even Prince had little to do with it, as it was a contractual filler album, so that he could get out of his contract with Warner Bros (there are some unsubtle and obscure “clues” in the packaging – plus Prince states that the music was “originally intended 4 private use only”).

This was released during his controversial “symbol” name days (walking around with “Slave” written across his cheek). It was not a good time to be a Prince fan, having to defend his calling himself by an unpronounceable symbol. He claimed his name-change was due to spiritual matters. To most of us, it just seemed to be an unsubtle way to get out of his contract, by declaring that Prince was “dead.”
Regardless, he still made some brilliant music around this time. The year before, he had released his masterful The Gold Experience album and this was the “follow-up,” although in reality, the 3-cd Emancipation which was released only a few months after this, was the true follow-up – although it was really the start of a new era (basically he went underground, where he [unfortunately?] remains to this day).
I love this album for many reasons – one being that it is more rock-oriented than usual (although The Gold Experience also had a lot of rock-based compositions). It also is the closest that Prince has ever come to a blues-based sound. The opening title track is a heavy rock ‘n’ roll gem, featuring alot of Prince’s fantastic guitar playing, heavy drums & some record scratching. Prince sounds angry in the lyrics & in his singing. It ends with the sound of a heartbeat. An extremely underrated song. “I Like it There” continues in the heavy rock direction, featuring a blistering guitar solo. It has a great jamming feel to it. It ends with what sounds like a Chinese gong.
The album slows down with “Dinner With Dolores” which features some hysterical lyrics. It was the almost-single from the album. I remember seeing Prince on (I believe) “The Tonight Show” performing this song at the time.
“The Same December” returns to a more rock-oriented direction, with heavy guitar & a middle passage that is closer to the blues than Prince usually strays.
“Right the Wrong” starts off with a strange but effective spoken passage, which for some unexplainable reason reminds me a little of Elvis in his Tony Joe White-“Polk Salad Annie” period. There are some strange things going on with this album. Certain sounds & feelings that I don’t recall Prince ever experimenting with before or after. This song does contain Prince’s trademark squeal though, which is a brief reminder of his earlier self. “Zannalee” starts off with some Hendrixesque guitar playing, before evolving into another blues-based, funky little groove.
“I Rock, Therefore I Am” is ironically the closest to pure funk he gets on the album, despite some heavy guitar mixed throughout the song. It also features some reggae toasting (courtesy of Steppa Ranks) which is brief but enjoyable. I am not too fond of the rapping section (featuring someone named Scrap D.). It is, in my opinion, the only part of the song, that could have been edited out. If it had, the song would be perfect. I would actually have preferred to hear Prince rapping instead. He may not be a great rapper but since he doesn’t try to sound “authentic” he sounds more enjoyable. Then the song goes into some brief guitar & synth passages before fading out. Then comes the ballad “Into the Light” which I find more enjoyable than some of Prince’s later ballads. It keeps from sounding too wimpy, due to some more of his wonderful heavy guitar playing & some bursts of horn by the NPG Hornz. A true delight. Although just when it gets into a serious guitar & horn jam, it cuts out abruptly & segues directly into “I Will,” another fine ballad, featuring the impressive Rosie Gaines. I miss her singing on Prince’s more recent albums. Her soulful voice was always a nice addition to his sound.
Next, is the strange but extremely funky (not to mention catchy) “Dig U Better Dead.” It reminds me a little of Sly Stone but I’m not sure why. Not quite sure what it’s about but seems to concern God & death. A strange song but I love it.
The final song is a short (and even stranger) piece called “Had U.” Features some angry kiss-off lyrics. It lasts about a minute and a half & then fades out. A strange but effective ending to a very underrated but extremely enjoyable album in the Prince oeuvre.
Anyone who hasn’t heard this album but has liked Prince’s stuff in the past, should definitely check it out. It isn’t as innovative or mind-blowing as obvious masterpieces, such as Purple Rain or Sign O’ the Times. It’s more of a spontaneous creation. But it is this more laid-back jamming vibe that makes it so damn enjoyable. I would hate to think that because of Prince’s weirdness, a lot of old fans may have jumped off the ship and that it also may have stopped any new ones from jumping on. But it is definitely an album that deserves a reassessment. 

Jay Mucci 

3 Comments

  1. Q Manning said,

    Good write-up man.

    I too am a huge Prince fan. I *never* listened to this album, since everyone called it crap. All Prince fans continually lambasted this. But this week I did a Prince rediscovery, starting from For You and continuing album by album, song by song, in order.

    Chaos & Disorder has truly been the biggest surprise. I will admit I like it more than Around the World in a Day and most of Parade. Even a big chunk of Sign o’ the Times.

    His guitar work in here is some of his best since Purple Rain – even surpassing it at times. I feel bad so many hate this disc.

    • jmucci said,

      Yeah, the album is a throwaway – but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. In fact, I think it’s better because of it. It has a more spontaneous feel to it than many of his other albums. I’m glad you discovered it. You should also try to get your hands on some of the internet-only albums Prince put out on his website about 5 years ago. Good stuff. You can probably still find them online somewhere.

  2. anc282 said,

    Uh-oh, here comes another huge Prince fan, lol.

    Check out my review of the “Chaos & Disorder” album:

    http://theadamoopinion.wordpress.com/2009/05/10/chaos-and-disorder-prince/

    Also, I just wanted to let you know, there is an abundance of Prince material on my blog, so be sure to check all that out too.

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