Monday, June 20, 2011

Worth the Effort: Chaos and Disorder - Prince - 1996

Chaos & DisorderSwitching gears again, it's back to Prince today for yet another out-of-nowhere vault-clearing contractual obligation release to sever the Purple One's relationship with Warner Brothers. Chaos and Disorder, another album credited to the Symbol, was certainly not celebrated by the label, went largely ignored by consumers and went out of print fairly quickly. It's not a momentous work of art worthy of elevation among his established classics but Chaos and Disorder does contain some of Prince's most straightforward rock tracks. And for an artist about whom everyone always adds "he's one hell of a guitarist," an album with some great rock guitar is definitely a must-hear. 

The title track immediately recalls Hendrix and rivals anything Lenny Kravitz was churning out at the time. Record-scratching and other effects do date the song but, like much of Prince, it really exists on a plane all its own and still works to this day. "I Like It There" may be the heaviest Prince had put on record to date:

"Dinner with Delores" was the album's single and is a song that only Prince could pull off: dinner with Delores / must be some kind of sin / like a brontosaurus /  she was packin' it in. And wait until you hear what she devours on the second date. That said, it's a typical slow-tempo sex track from the Artist and, while amusing, doesn't jive with the best of the hard rock on Chaos and Disorder, adding to its feel - and presentation - as a vault hodgepodge.

The highlight, on the other hand, is "Zannalee." An incendiary guitar number, it's blues rock through the Prince filter, and its only fault is how criminally brief it is (merged here with the otherwise-unreleased "Empty Room") :

"I Rock, Therefore I Am" is typical Prince bravado and strut and works as such. After a few slower tracks, Chaos and Disorder closes with a bang with the one-two punch of "Dig U Better Dead," a roaring funk-rocker that would have been right at home on the Love Symbol or Diamonds and Pearls, and the nice, odd coda of "Had You."

All in all, Chaos and Disorder feels like the toss-off that it is but, at the same time, it contains some incredible guitar gems from an artist who frequently buries those talents deep within other releases. As was very rare circa '96, it's fun, unburdened by concept or heavy themes and belongs to no genre outside of that of "a Prince record."

Chaos and Disorder can be had for dollars in the single digits just about anywhere used music can be found. Grab it along with the last Warner gasps of The Gold Experience and The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale and re-experience what was, despite the label feud, some great pieces of music from the close of a grand chapter in Prince's ongoing career.

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