Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic

The hope for a heart-stopping new song from the former Prince dies hard. Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, the Artist's first major-label album in three years, suggests his crap detector is still at least partially on the fritz. The canned beats and stale sentiment of "Undisputed" and "Hot Wit U" typify the worst of his Nineties work. Yet in the midst of these self-indulgent grooves there is a handful of great songs — the most Princely moments we've heard since 1992's "symbol album." "The Greatest Romance Ever Sold," "Tangerine" and "The Sun, the Moon and Stars" are a trio of light, twisting slow-to-midtempo grooves that sound like refugees from Diamonds and Pearls, the least-great of Prince's great records. The buried track "Prettyman" is a roaring up-tempo number in the James Brown funk mode, featuring legendary saxman Maceo Parker. And "I Love U, but I Don't Trust U Anymore" (rumored to be about his wife, Mayte) is a tender ballad that's sharp on the issues that come between deep lovers. The quality of these few sublime moments outweighs the lackluster album around them.