The Artist Formerly Known As Prince
Chaos and Disorder (Warner Bros. 46317)
As with most contractual disputes, the key to "Chaos and Disorder," the latest release from the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, lies in the fine print. According to a line at the bottom of the album credits, "this compilation serves as the last original material recorded by [TAFKAP] 4 warner brothers records." In other words, this is symbol-man's grand goodbye to the label, and given the enmity generated during his fight with Warner Bros., you'd think his final kiss-off would be inconsequential at best. But if "Chaos and Disorder" is merely a sop to his contractual obligations, it doesn't sound it. In fact, its solid melodies and muscular, rock-oriented sound make it one of the artist's most enjoyable efforts in years. While the baroque beauty of "Right the Wrong" recalls the best moments of "Sign 'o' the Times," the guitar-spiked funk of "I Rock, Therefore I Am" and the crunchy overdrive of the title tune hark back to the aggressive appeal of "Purple Rain." Granted, there are some strange songs here, too, such as the bizarre "Dig U Better Dead" or his oddly pretty dismissal of anti-rap crusader C. Delores Tucker, "Dinner With Delores." But on the whole, TAFKAP's music hasn't sounded this together in years -- which is reason enough to hope he finds a more amenable record deal soon.
Keith Sweat (Elektra 61707)
After all the success he's had producing gritty, slow-grind sex tunes for Kut Klose and Silk, it would have been easy enough for Keith Sweat to serve up more of the same on his new solo album. But the songs on "Keith Sweat" are definitely a cut above the crass do-me balladry his charges churn out. Granted, songs like "In the Mood," "Freak With Me" and "Funky Dope Lovin' " don't exactly open new thematic ground for the singer, but there is enough melodic interest, at least, to keep his libidinal lyrics from claiming center stage. He does get help at times, as "Funky Dope Lovin' " finds him swapping licks with Gerald Levert, Aaron Hall and Buddy Banks, while with "Come With Me" he manages to hold his own against the redoubtable Ronald Isley. But as solid as his singing is, it's the hook-heavy production that ultimately carries the day, adding unexpected melodic interest to the drum-centered groove beneath "In the Mood" and giving the bass-driven "Just a Touch" enough pop-savvy sparkle to recall the glory days of Kool & the Gang.
Macarena Club Cutz (RCA 66745)
Contrary to popular belief, timing isn't everything in the record biz -- titles count for something, too. Consider the case of "Club Cutz," an album of European dance singles that was released to an indifferent America late last year. It would have doubtless sunk without a trace had it not been for the eventual success of the Los Del Rio single "Macarena." So to cash in, "Club Cutz" was re-released as "Macarena Club Cutz," with all the same house- and jungle-inflected singles as before. Though it's easy to understand the appeal of "Macarena" in its "Bayside Boys Mix" version -- there's even a how-to insert should you want to dance along at home -- that track is hardly the only cut here worth spinning. Lisa Nilsson's "Let Me In Your Heart" is proof that Ace of Base isn't the only Swedish act that understands how to pull pop gold from a dance mix, while Rapination's "Love Me the Right Way" is a classic Eurodisco workout. Still, for all their accessibility, those tracks never quite deliver the kick of hard-core club hits like "Everything" by Hysterix or Dreamworld's "Movin' Up." Too bad you can't macarena to those.
Xtort (Wax Trax TVT7242)
Don't be fooled by KMFDM's gruff attitude. As much as "Xtort" might assume the trappings of industrial music -- the ugly lyrics, the distorted vocals, the machine beats, the overdriven guitars -- beneath flinty edge beats the heart of a dance band. So even though "Power" opens the album with a flurry of samples and promises of "excessive force," it's the soul-girl harmonies of the chorus that ultimately win you over. Likewise, it's not the fine crust of guitars that makes "Rules" so exhilarating, but the way all that stuttering distortion plays off the swaggering funk of the rhythm arrangement. That's not to say the album is entirely without edge; "Dogma" effectively frames Nicole Blackman's acerbic dismissal of consumer culture while the sputtering synths of "Son of a Gun" leave it sounding like the product of a lethal caffeine buzz. But "Xtort" isn't merely about being nasty -- it's about turning nastiness into a form of musical entertainment. And entertain it does.
Pub Date: 7/18/96