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RECORD RACK

'Chaos' Was Just What His Majesty Needed

July 07, 1996|Cheo Hodari Coker

PRINCE

"Chaos & Disorder"

Warner Bros.

* * * *

With a title like "Chaos & Disorder," you might assume that Prince's 20th album would reflect a kingdom in disarray.

His Paisley Park label has been disbanded; he's changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol; he's closed his L.A. nightclub, Glam Slam; he's at war with his record company; and in the most un-Princely move of all, he's apparently abandoned the hedonistic life to marry and have a child.

But "Chaos & Disorder" is his most vibrant and evenhanded work in years. By restoring the electric guitar as the center of his musical universe and abandoning the confining dictates of dance-music drum machines, Prince has produced a record that leaps from the speakers with a force that he hasn't mounted since he disbanded his band the Revolution.

Beginning with the stripped-down title track and the brisk "I Like It There," the album ranges from the metallic to the mellow. "Dinner With Delores" is a narrative that, like "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker," wins you over with its subtlety. The rollicking "Same December" and the brash "Zannalee" raise the volume and the energy.

But what unites all the songs is Prince's soaring guitar. Every wail, sigh and delectable electric tease serve as the musical counterparts of the beating heart found at the end of the title track.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good), four stars (excellent).

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