Friday, April 21

Rave Un2/In2 The Joy Fantastic (1999/2001)

It is Friday, Purple Fam.  And though this Friday we remember the snow that fell on us all a year ago, I believe he wouldn't want you to shed tears of sorrow.  Instead, let us all listen to the music created by the man who inspires us so.  To the fam at the Park, much love and emjoy your time there.  I am unable to get away, but it will be non-stop Purple and Paisley in my ears and in my heart today.  You all know as well as I that Prince worked on so many projects, that you can listen 2 a different one every week for a year and still not hear it all.  With that thought, week 16 brings us to his last release as O(+>:

Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic (Arista Records/NPG Records, 1999) & 
Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic (NPG Records, 2001), the remix re-release 


*Due to the utter clutter of writing Rave Unto/Un2/In2 The Joy Fantastic as many times as I am likely to call the album by name, each project will generally be referred to simply by its spelling of Unto, Un2, or In2.

Rave Unto The Joy Fantastic, loosely planned for a 1989 release

In 1988, Prince was putting together his follow-up to Lovesexy.  The intended title track was to be a minimalist funk song called "Rave Unto The Joy Fantastic."  The last minute of the track builds a strange tension, evoking a Phantom Of The Opera-esque Carousel counterpoint that once you have heard ... it's absence is felt.  The song was played at a handful of aftershows on the Lovesexy tour and then the distorted guitar riff was repurposed a few years later for O(+>'s "The Max."   The title track is the only true link between the abandoned '88 project and the '99 release, no other song from Unto made its way onto Un2.

Rave Unto The Joy Fantastic (the 1988 version)

It's not clear how exactly Unto fell apart, or if it just evolved or was absorbed into something else.  Most likely it was a mix of Prince's penchant for spreading himself too thin and a lack of true passion for the project over others.  The European leg of the Lovesexy tour was about to get underway, Graffiti Bridge (which he was passionate about) was in its early conceptual stages, he had been approached about working on the soundtrack for Batman, and Paisley Park was in full swing as both a boutique label and a recording studio.  He was busy.  All we know for sure was that Prince was conscious of the similarities between "Rave..." and "Kiss," citing that in an interview about why it was put in the vault.

About half of the songs intended for Unto ended up landing on other releases.  Three ended up on Graffiti Bridge ("Elephants & Flowers," "Melody Cool," and "Still Would Stand All Time"), "Electric Chair" ended up on Batman (although "We Got The Power" and "Rave Unto The Joy Fantastic" were referenced in remixes of "Batdance").  "If I Had A Harem" was released in a live form on one of the Lovesexy home videos, albeit merged with "Blues In C."  Carmen Electra received "Good Judy Girlfriend" for her album (we'll get to that late summer), and "Pink Cashmere" was released on The Hits 1.  And of course "Moonbeam Levels" was his first posthumous new release on 4Ever. The remainder are still in the vault.  I know there will be some that put me on blast for this, but not everything Prince made was golden.  Tunes like "Big House" are better left on the cutting room floor.

Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic, the 1999 release through Arista Records

NOTE: By 1998, Prince, who was going by O(+>, had taken to calling himself 'The Artist' for interview purposes, etc.  Having an unpronounceable symbol was all well and good, but having the media needing something to call you and constantly calling you 'The Artist Formerly Known As Prince' kept WB firmly in the back of everyone's mind.

Possibly without putting it together in a bigger picture way, the tail end of the '90's saw The Artist getting a first-hand lesson on what a label does for an album - promotion and distribution.  If everything Prince was trying to do then happened today, he would have been completely successful.  But in the '90s ... bandwidth and the internet's 'pay-by-the-minute-to-play' model severely impacted his digital revolution and distribution model.  With it being his own dollars promoting 1998's Crystal Ball/The Truth & the Newpower Pak (which included Larry Graham's GCS2000, Chaka Khan's Come 2 My House, and the NPG's Newpower Soul) combined with not having the carry-over media buzz over his divorce from Warner Bros., Emancipation was looking to be his last big commercial success.  In interviews, he even made mention of trying to work with labels again.

Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic

In the spring of 1999, he got Londell (who brokered his exit from a major label) to eat crow for him by setting up meetings with a number of other major labels.  The vast majority of the meetings with the execs offered variations on the same sort of deal he had with WB: The Artist to deliver a more Prince-sounding record ending with the label standing to make more off of it than the one who created it.  Then came the meeting with Clive Davis at Arista Records.  The tale of Arista records is a fascinating one, but one for another time.  To Cliff's Notes it:  When music production guru Clive Davis was fired from CBS, Columbia snatched him up.  He organized their many minor labels into Arista Records, and he was allowed a free hand to work from his instincts.  In '79, Columbia sold Arista to what would become BMG.  Over the years, Arista would remain moderately successful as a whole and have a few standout acts, like Whitney Houston.  That's an EXTREMELY limited summary, but hits the relevant highlights.

After hearing what The Artist had recorded so far, Clive was convinced they could make a deal all would be happy with and related a conceptual idea to Prince.  Davis was then working with Carlos Santana on an album of collaborations with younger artists due out in mid-1999, and the buzz being generated was very promising.  Using the same concept, The Artist should collaborate with the other stars to get a more widespread appeal and grab a cross-over audience.  If you weren't at least a teenager during the '90's, you may not remember how divisive music was then.  Goth heads didn't listen to rap.  If you were into alternative, country was not likely on your list of tolerable things.  Listening to multiple current genres wasn't encouraged like it is today.  You didn't cross the streams.  During the '90's with the non-target audience of white suburbanites gobbling up rap, the major labels had the epiphany that marketing to a wider array of people would make more money.  Cats and dogs didn't start living together, there was no mass hysteria.  Clive Davis applied that idea to its fullest with Santana, and Supernatural turned out to be huge!  I mean, it was just tremendous! [sorry, couldn't resist] Seriously, though, it went platinum 15 times - that's over 15 million physical albums sold in the USA alone. For those that don't remember, Santana and Rob Thomas' "Smooth" was everywhere.  Davis thought lightning could strike twice.  So did The Artist.

In May of 1999, The Artist signed a one album deal with Arista records in return for an advance of $11 million.  The Artist would get to keep his master recordings (something Clive Davis whole-heartedly agreed with) and Arista would distribute and handle the promotion.  Clive Davis' presence was integral to the deal, his hands-on approach rather than using employees as go-betweens impressed O(+>.

Everyday People
The Artist f. Larry Graham, Jerry Martini, & Cynthia Robinson
Rave Un2 The Year 2000

There had also been hype that for the first time The Artist would be working with an outside producer(s) for a more commercial appeal.  In the end it was produced by Prince.  It wasn't a bi-polar thing, just a different state of mind.  He had to remove himself from the works in order to be objective.  A nice idea, however flawed, but he really should have worked with a different producer for this different sort of album.  Giving direction and cues to musicians who are their own entities, as opposed to members of your band that work for you, is a different animal that many long-time producers struggle with.  The musician is often too close and too invested in a production to ever notice when it just isn't working.

The guest list was diverse, but not the most exciting.  Santana's album enlisted stars of the day that were rising higher with everything they did, like Dave Matthews and Lauryn Hill.  The only rising stars The Artist contacted were Eve, who was still about a year away from blowing up beyond Rough Rider, and Gwen Stefani, who had really just begun toeing the water outside of No Doubt in earnest.  Nearly everyone else The Artist enlisted were either rounding the top of the hill or were niche market acts.

Despite staying in the Billboard Top 200 for about four months, the record had no lasting impact.  It could be that the lead single was not the strongest choice.  It could be that The Artist was only grudgingly a part of BMG's promotional plans.  But most likely, it was because Un2 was the safest record The Artist had made since his 1978 debut, For You.  There are enjoyable songs, to be sure, but the production quality is so slick and plastic ... it felt very corporate and formulaic, less like it was coming from a place of joy.  The shining moments are outweighed by the lightweight and uninspired arrangements.  The record's biggest problem is that it plays it safe more often than not, there's no danger or edge.  It is bubble gum rock with R&B overtones, as if he was content to merely ape the popular aesthetic rather than push the envelope.

Rave Un2 The Year 2000

American Woman
The Artist with Lenny Kravitz
Rave Un2 The Year 2000
Lenny likely being the level of guest star Clive was expecting O(+> to conjure. 

The New Year's Eve "live" special was essentially one last promotional push.  BMG, ever focused on their closer-to-home European markets, was pushing Arista to push The Artist into doing promotional appearances across the pond first.  The Artist wanted to focus on the USA first, but acquiesced.  He appeared on numerous television shows in a matter of days playing the lackluster lead single, "The Greatest Romance Ever Sold."  It all seemed very shamelessly strategic, right down to the choreography.  Any joy he once got from the song was surely gone, or at least not present when being performed on those shows.

As the special neared its televised premier, however, Prince began doing what we all love to hate: sh!tposting. It wasn't called that then, but he would post rants on his site about Arista's lack of commitment and that they screwed up the promotional campaign horrendously - that Clive broke his word.  Meanwhile, The Artist was quietly backing off on his own promotional efforts.  O(+> demanded the release a second single for the album, but Clive was firm in not sinking more money into a project that even The Artist now appeared to have little faith in.  Actions speak louder.  Although, for Clive's part, the writing was on the wall at Arista - BMG, for better and then for worse, replaced him with L.A. Reid in 2000.

As a side note, when Rave Un2 The Year 2000 was first released to home video it was credited to O(+>.  When it was re-released, the credit went to Prince.

Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic, an NPG Music Club remix album released in 2001

Beautiful Strange [unreleased Beautiful Strange version]

There was one new song on In2, "Beautiful Strange."  Originally, the song was the title track for a possible 1998 release before The Artist's attention landed on another abandoned project, a Revolution reunion album called Roadhouse Garden.  The version that appears on In2 is the same basic track as the original with a distorted guitar line replacing the majority of the licks played with a cleaner wah effect.  The only other track assumed to be a part of the shelved Beautiful Strange is a cover of "Twisted" by Scottish Jazz singer Annie Ross.  While the studio version remains unheard in the vault, there is a fairly easy to find live version in circulation, often mislabeled to the effect of "2 Heads R Better Than 1."  

The rest of In2 follows the same basic track sequence, consisting primarily of remixes and extended versions,  and was released through the NPG Music Club in April of 2001.  There is little indication that it was meant to be anything other than a member exclusive, even though it was later made available as a stand-alone purchase through the NPGMC.  That was just an obvious afterthought revenue stream to give more offerings to the web store.  For the most part, the remixes on In2 are more interesting than those on Un2.  Not necessarily better, but more what you would expect of The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.  Sometimes they border on being an entirely different tune, just with the same lyrics.  "So Far, So Pleased," "Eye Love U, But I Don't Trust U Anymore," "Silly Game," and "Wherever U Go, Whatever U Do" are identical on both records.  "The Sun, The Moon And Stars" has no actual musical differences, just a few extra waves crashing. 

As we go through the tracklist we'll follow the Un2 program, but talk about both versions.

Now, On2 the music ...

"Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic" is a (very minor) update of a vault song.  Other than some guitar work and the outro, the differences between the '99 and the '88 versions are subtle to where they need to be pointed out.  Of course, the average person didn't know this was a reworking then - there weren't the myriad of easy to search for resources on the pay-by-the-minute internet then that there are today.  "Rave..." is exactly what you would expect from a Prince song, and that is the problem.  In 1999, the minimalist beat, grinding guitar work, and signature screams all seemed calculated to invoke the memory of the early hits.  Enjoyable, but expected.  It neither truly adds to or detracts from his body of work as a whole.  As the lead track, it wasn't a grabber to any but the already devoted.  The remix, titled "Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic," also opens the 2001 release.  More an alternate version than a remix, it goes into more Housestyle territory and is more energetic, aggressive, and imaginative in its arrangement, but lacks the confidence and sheer bravado of the original.  If the energy of the In2 version could have been added somehow to the confidence of the Un2 version, it would have gone a long way.

Undisputed (The Moneyapolis Mix) f. Chuck D

The only known collaboration with Chuck D. of Public Enemy, "Undisputed" is more in line with the forward thinking music you would expect from O(+>.  Even though Chuck D. was no longer relevant to the hip-hop movement's in-the-moment mentality, his guest spot is peppered throughout the tune and is among the few that really add to their song.  The Un2 version is just a taste, never fully getting the chance to stretch its legs.  Each passage starts to show promise and then is quickly and awkwardly cut into a new passage, somewhat in the manner of "Batdance."  The Moneyapolis Mix that appears on In2 is more adventurous and a better example of the funk/hip-hop fusion he was capable of, the transitions between sections are a bit smoother, too.  There's a whole O(+> actually does rap theme in the vein of "Face Down" that was absent from Un2.  In '99, the remix would have been very 'now,' but its minimal release in '01 already sounded dated.  Around the time The Artist was working on the album, he recorded a cover of Public Enemy's "Fight The Power."  It was premiered at Paisley Park during the summer, but remains unreleased.  It is not known whether or not it was intended for Un2 or any other project.  Like many other outtakes and recordings that weren't commercially released for his post-WB, pre-name reclamation period, we mostly just know about it.  Few have heard it, and I'm holding out hope that if there is an album of unreleased material from this period, it makes the cut along with the full not-quite-8-minute version of The Moneyapolis Mix. 

The Greatest Romance Ever Sold
Top Of The Pops / 18 November 1999: Borehamwood, England - Elstree Centre

The lone single from the album, "The Greatest Romance Ever Sold," embodies the problems the album had as it was released.  Not only did it lack any semblance of excitement, for a song to get your groove on to it felt very mechanical and unromantic in its delivery.  Maceo Parker even put a smooth jazz version karaoke-style on his Dial M-A-C-E-O album using the same backing track, replacing most lyrics with a saxophone line.  The arrangement lacked any creativity, and at times feels derivative of "The Question Of U"; the aesthetic, instrumentation, and intensity used on "Thieves In The Temple," "7," or "The One" would have been more appropriate and only serve to enhance the mood.  It received a number of remixes, every one of which were more interesting than the one that made the album in 1999.  Eve appears on the Adam & Eve Remix, which gets incorporated into the In2 version (which like "Undisputed," is superior to the Un2 cut).  Jason Nevins did a fantastic disco-twinged remix that effortlessly avoids sounding like a relic. One remix in particular used guests that would have been more in line with Clive Davis' vision: The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams) and Q-Tip.  
Watch the music video here.
Listen 2 The Neptunes remix f. Q-Tip here.
Listen 2 the edit of the Jason Nevins Remix here.


Hot Wit U

Un2's "Hot Wit U" is safe generic club R&B that feels like an update of the Carmen Electra-centric "The Continental" remix, "Tell me How U Want 2 B Done."  It will either speak to you or won't.   In2's Nasty Girl Remix is only slightly more forward thinking, but relies heavily on the listener knowing that "Nasty Girl" was really a Prince song.  Eve's rap is great here, but fleeting.  If she was more integral to the song, this track may have had some longevity.  There was a maxi-single in the works, called The Hot X-Perience, even getting artwork displayed on the website.  It was to contain multiple club mixes of "Hot Wit U" and one of "So Far, So Pleased" featuring Gwen Stefani.  The two ladies would later work together on "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" on Eve's 2001 album, Scorpio.  
"Hot Wit U" does contain possibly my favorite Prince lyric spoken by a lady ever in one of his songs: "I'm supposed to tremble because they call you The Artist?"


Tangerine [extended version]

"Tangerine" is short and sweet.  Certainly not intended as a radio hopeful, it is perfect as it is.  The lyrics seem to be telling of getting by while dealing with love lost, just not how it all turns out.  Whether real or not, it feels like a completely honest moment. The extended version on In2 is just over two minutes total, adding around 40 seconds of reprisal music beneath a guitar solo.  An outro acting like an old school mini-part 2.    This is one of the few instances where the extended version is just as good as the originally released, and in the same ways.

Another enjoyable, if throw-away, song is the alternative-tinged pop rock "So Far, So Pleased."  An almost duet with Gwen Stefani, the harmonies you might expect from a O(+> composition are sadly absent.  Gwen can be heard, but she is mixed in like a back-up singer and never really gets any prominent display.  There is no real depth to the song and like so much of the record, Prince plays it too safe.  That said, it would have fit in with Top 40 radio at the time perfectly.  At some point, No Doubt's label, Interscope, was contacted for permission to release this as a single.  They vetoed the idea, fearing that it would pull sales from Return Of Saturn, which was gearing up for an April 2000 release.  If "So far..." saw The Artist using No Doubt as the band -- THAT would have given it more of an appealing curiosity and drawn the whole of the No Doubt fan base.  Sure, he would have been taken out of his comfort zone, but it may also have forced him to up his game for a true collaboration.  Around the same time as Gwen was laying down vocals for her contribution, The Artist worked on (or rather, remade in his image) "Waiting Room." Originally in contention for Return Of Saturn, it was to saved for their next album, Rock Steady - possibly to put more distance between the ska band and dismal release of Un2.  Some may ask how this pairing even came about.  In 1997, No Doubt was slated to open for The Artist Formerly Known As Prince on the Jam Of The Year tour.  
Listen to "Waiting Room" here.

So Far So Pleased f. Gwen Stefani

"The Sun, The Moon And Stars" counts itself among the shining moments of Un2 as it was released.  It captures the early '90's Prince and the New Power Generation vibe and sound without being a tired retread.  The Artist dabbles with some vocal reggae tropes on the outro, but overall it is quite successful.  Making the most of the extensive work Clare Fischer has provided him over the years, The Artist stays true to the spirit of the song and thankfully takes it easy on the effects, opting to use finger snaps to punctuate the beat.


Clare Fisher Orchestra appearances on Rave tracks
a segment of "The Sun, the Moon and Stars," the second Segue, and an excerpt from "Silly Game"

His take on "Everyday Is A Winding Road" is different, in the Mid-Western sense of the term.  At best, it's a soul-less disco two-step cover version of a too recent alt-rock hit.  It's not terrible, is by no means great, it just is.  If he ever performed it this way live, that may have been a crowd pleaser, but on the record ...  It certainly wasn't necessary.  Some of the lyrical changes, slight as they are, change the feeling of the song from 'cheerful resignation to the status quo' to 'hopeful optimism for what might be.'  It is an odd choice for a cover, particularly because Sheryl Crow's version was released at the tail end of 1996 and still had fairly consistent airplay on Top 40 and alternative stations in 1999.  If her version of the song wasn't as big as it was, it may have been more welcome.  Some elements make me question whether or not this was truly recorded in 1999 with Un2 as the intended destination.  Most sources only say that it was likely recorded in early 1999.  The outro more prominently features Larry Graham leading a call and response chant that was identical to "Everyday People" in the live set.  GCS2000 had re-recordings of a handful of Larry's more prominent older works.  The production value is very much in line with GCS2000 and Newpower Soul, and near the end of the track The Artist even references the 1998 New Power Generation album by name.  So was "Everyday People" rerecorded for GCS2000 and Sylvester Stewart put his stankfoot down, leaving the outro to get incorporated here?  Or was this actually recorded along with the Newpower Pak compositions?  This is pure speculation, but the songs just sticks out and really feels forced into this tracklist.  "Everyday is A Winding Road" was left off of In2.

Every Day Is A Winding Road
Sheryl Crow f. The Artist
Lilith Fair / 22 Aug 1999: Toronto, QUE

"Man'O'War" feels like a later scene in the natural progression of the story from "Adore" or "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" without being trying to be an imitation.  It could easily have held its own on any of his albums in the '90's.  The version on In2 calls itself a Remix, but it might as well be a different song.  The chord progression and pacing/delivery of the lyrics are entirely different.  The remix is almost as good as the original, but may not be as accessible to those that don't like deeper neo-soul/R&B cuts.

Baby Knows
The Early Show / 21 Dec 1999: Chanhassen, MN - Paisley Park
[broadcast 29 Dec 1999]

First off, "Baby Knows" is fun, radio-friendly pop-rock party song.  Yes, it is another throw-away track, and there's a lack of substance that bothers many people, but don't forget - it is fun!  Not everything has to have any deeper meaning.  It's hard not to smile when listening to this track, even though we all know how deep it isn't.  This track features Sheryl Crow, though you would have to be told that to realize or remember it.  In continuing the trend of under-utilized guests, Sheryl's vocals aren't exactly buried in the mix, but they are so blasé that they may as well have been done by any other background singer in The Artist's stable.  She also plays harmonica here, which is laced throughout but is very background outside of the intro.  If any of the solos were instead played by her harmonica, it would have been a more worthwhile collaboration.  "Baby Knows" features the only appearance by Michael B. on drums between 1996 and the release of 3121 in 2006.  Unfortunately he is never given the chance to open up, it is a very basic pattern that could have been programmed.  Because of how unlikely it would be that Michael B. would be called in to play on one 'four-on-the-floor' track, I'm curious what else he would have been playing on that we don't know about.  The extended version on In2 is less a victim of over-compression and contains an extended outro, with a DJ turntable effect to continue the groove.  Whether this is just another sound effect or someone was actually there, like Kirk Johnson or Brother Jules is not known.  Maceo again made a karaoke-like version for his Dial M-A-C-E-O record.  This one works, though, and avoids sounding like a smooth jazz take.

Eye Love U, But Eye Don't Trust U Anymore

"Eye Love U, But Eye Don't Trust U Anymore" begins with the engineer saying, "Rolling," followed by The Artist clearing his throat.  Due to it starting immediately after the "Baby Knows" ends, with no spread to speak of, the intimate moment is ruined and feels like it was inentionally manufactured.  For review, a 'spread' is the term for silence between songs.  They can either be to cleanse the listener's musical palette of hold a groove throughout a record.  Here the spread does neither.  The piano ballad features Ani DiFranco playing sparse fills on an acoustic, which really adds tot he overall effect quite well.  Almost like the guitar is too choked up with emotion to go on and she is forcing it to keep its composure.  In truth, when she and the legendary sax player in her band, Maceo Parker, took the stage in Minneapolis on 3 June 1999, they had no idea that afterward they would be invited back to Paisley Park or that they would be laying down parts on a Prince track.  His Royal Badness met them after the show and invited them to jam.  And jam they did for four hours according to an interview The Artist gave to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  "She danced the whole time," he said.  One of the true joys of listening to Ani, though, is her percussive style on the acoustic, which is sadly lacking here.  There's nothing in her contribution that really says, "Hey, y'all, eye've got Ani on guitar!  Dig her NRG!"  In tit-for-tat fashion, The Artist lent his voice to background vocals on a somber ballad called "Providence" for her 1999 release, To The Teeth.  It was released the week after Un2.
Listen to Ani talk about the chance meeting with The Artist here.
Listen to "Providence" here.

Silly Game

A modern take on the classic soul sound, "Silly Game" is supposedly his tribute to the Chi-Lites and similar groups.  Like the sound of his covers of "Betcha By Golly Wow" or "La-La Means I Love U," this is one written with the older set in mind, but mixed to garner the attention of the young bloods.  It would have fit in well with Emancipation.
.
"Strange But True" is a truly unique recording for The Artist Formerly known As Prince in any era of his career.  More like a poetry recital in the spirit of "What's My Name" laid down over an electronica workout, there are a number of fleeting sonic references to his older catalogue if you are paying attention.  This may be the only truly bold, forward-thinking music on this album.  It will most likely take a few listens for it to grow on you, but this is the embodiment of what true rave music was like at the end of the '90's.  Of all the songs, this is the one I most lament not being able to find a sample of to share with you.  

Wherever U Go, Whatever U Do

"Wherever U Go, Whatever U Do" is a power ballad with lyrics in the same vein as tunes like "Don't Talk 2 Strangers" and (to a lesser extent) "So Young And Beautiful."  It is meant to impart wisdom, as if from an adult to a child.  Someone once told me it was inspired by Lenny Kravitz's song "Again," but the timing seems off for that.  The chord progressions are nearly identical, but to be fair it is a very generic chord progression that can be found in almost any rocker's catalogue.  My theory: The paternal nature of the advice makes me wonder if this was at least written for the Happy Tears project (in a nutshell, a child-friendly project that was derailed entirely by the death of his and Mayte's son).  It could also have been cathartic for him in getting through that.  Through, not over.  That's not the kind of thing you ever truly get over.

Prettyman

In an interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 1999, The Artist states that "Prettyman" was originally written for The Time, and like a Mazarati track, he snatched it back.  The version on Un2 could be seen as an edit of the full version that appears on In2.  Maceo Parker is all over this track doing what almost no other artist got the opportunity to do on this album: be himself on his instrument.  It's hard to say that they were trying to capture that classic James Brown sound for two reasons: 1) without the horns, it just sounds like a Time track; and 2) Maceo is largely responsible for the horn sound in classic James tracks - he was just doing what came naturally.  One unsubstantiated rumor has it that the shattering at the end of the In2 version is supposed to be symbolic of Prince smashing the CD out of frustration for how the deal with Arista turned out, but it more likely is playing off the narrator's ego being too big for the mirror, and the mirror giving up.  


FINAL THOUGHTS ... 
Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic ... 4 out of 10.
Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic  ... 6 out of 10.

There are good songs in this collection, there are enjoyable songs in this collection ... and then there's the rest of the record ...  It really is the production value that ruins the songs.  The package as a whole just isn't engaging.  Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic sounds like Prince was trying to make a record for radio of the day, rather than make a great record.  The promise of the guest stars never gets fully acted upon - especially if they are filling a role that The Artist could do himself.  The arrangements are too safe, there's not enough risk or innovation.  That may not be fair to say, but Prince built his career on risky moves and innovative arrangements - neither of which found their way here.  Most of the songs are about as deep as a puddle, but as I said before - not everything has to have a deeper meaning.  Those of you that remember "MacArthur Park" ... that really was about a cake in the rain.  It was a bet to prove that the lyrics and meaning didn't matter.  And that wretched song was a hit.  Some of O(+>'s most beloved songs are throw-away pop hits, but they all have an innovative sonic quality that sounds unique and NOT like everyone else around him.  The throwaways would have benefited from having a touch of the classic Minneapolis Sound (which in truth started with Prince just picking a synth effect to hold down the horn line in place of having a horn).

I personally feel that most of the remixes on In2 are stronger than their Un2 counterparts (except for the title track), but it was too little too late.  If they had appeared on the initial release, the record may have been a bigger boon than it ended up being.  But for the most part, nobody heard the remixes or "Beautiful Strange."  The extended versions are great, too, but they don't add any new dimensions the way they did with "Raspberry Beret."  The entirety of Rave was a victim of second-guessing and those surrounding him being too afraid to speak up, an exercise in uncertainty and going through the motions, hoping it will pan out.

Definitely check out "Eye Love U, But Eye Don't Trust U Anymore," "Prettyman," "Undisputed (The Moneyapolis Mix)," and "Man'O'War."  If you liked Emancipation, then "Silly Game" and "The Sun, the Moon and Stars" will be for you.  If you like new ideas, "Strange But True."  The rest are going to depend on your particular tastes and how much you like generic pop.  There's bound to be a mix of "The Greatest Romance Ever Sold" that speaks to you, there are plenty of them.