The Artist, Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic (Arista/npg)

Posted November 10th, 1999 by admin

The Artist
Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic
By: Eric G.

I don't care what the cover says- this is vintage Prince. Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic may employ an arsenal of trendy names in the music business to appeal to the kids who aren't even aware that this guy used to be called Prince, but this record rocks in every way. The Artist has tried to ignore the music business by taking his music to the internet thereby sacrificing its commercial appeal, but as he states in "Undisputed": "heavy rotation never made my world go round/commercialization of the music is what brought it down."

The Artist even busts out with that old, cheap drum machine that he used on 1999 and Purple Rain for some of the programmed beats. With recent records like New Power Soul and the triple Emancipation album, The Artist touched on much greatness, but the effect was too insular to be marketable on the scale the world was used to or even expected. His star seemed to dim in the eyes of naysayers and those who based success on MTV rotation and multi-platinum sales. This album should change all that in a big way. The Artist reclaims his place in the rock lexicon as the ultimate purveyor of sexysoulfunkpoprocknroll.

The title track opens the record with the same excitement and strange allure of anything off Dirty Mind with its dirty guitar licks and simple, syncopated rhythm. “The Greatest Romance Ever Sold” serves as the first single, and it employs The Artist’s flawless falsetto backed with a modern soul beat and clean, funky guitars. “Hot With U” again sounds like Prince in his heyday and could even pass for something off Sign O’ The Times. Eve guests on this track and brings validity to The Artist’s long and uneven dabbling in the art of hip-hop (Chuck D. does the same thing for “Undisputed”).

“Tangerine” is a short and sweet example of why nobody disputes the fact that this guy is a bad ass songwriter. His voice (overdubs and all) is like honey and his guitar playing is awe-inspiring. “So Far, So Pleased” has hit single written all over it. It’s a duet with Gwen Stefani of No Doubt, but instead of trading off lines (like The Artist usually does) they sing the whole song together. Stefani’s histrionics are toned down, making her sound like an eighties pop starlet. The keyboard line is instantly familiar and catchy and the raunchy guitar showcases The Artist’s uncanny ability to show off without losing melody.

Granted, I was scared when I saw the title “Everyday Is A Winding Road”, but The Artist makes the Sheryl Crow hit all his own much like he did with Joan Osborne’s “One Of Us” on Emancipation. He truly is a miracle worker to make that song listenable. This guy could make a Backstreet Boys song sound inspiring. The Artist doesn’t seem to age either. He looks and sounds at the top of his game. In his first ever interview with MTV recently, The Artist told Kurt Loder that he doesn’t even believe in time to which Loder smugly rebuked, “Oh, what do you use then? We have to keep track somehow”, and The Artist said, “The Truth.”

The Artist is due another go round in the commercial pop arena instead of being viewed as just another out of touch eccentric genius who has had his day. If anything can make that happen, it’s this record. Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic is a comeback on every level.

Tags: review