In the studio - Prince Records 3 Hours Of “Emancipation”

Anthony DeCurtis

Even though the Artist Formerly Known As Prince’s ’Chaos And Disorder’, his final album under his contract with Warner Bros., fell of the charts in only five weeks, Prince has not stopped thinking big. He next plans to release ’Emancipation’, a three-CD set of new material, possibly as early as late November but more likely next year. Prince has not reached an agreement on how the album will be distributed, though his attorney, L. Londell McMillan, states that three major distribution companies are “actively competing” for the project. Each CD will contain 12 songs and will be exactly one hour long—"To the minute,” Prince declares.

“I’ve been recording almost every day of my life, working on a vast number of styles,” Prince says during an interview in August at his Paisley Park Studios, in Chanhassen, Minn. “I’ve always looked forward to the day when I would be free from any demands of any kind from anyone—free to do everything I want to do.”

Such ambition is part of the reason for Prince’s falling-out with Warner Bros., for which he has recorded since his debut album, ’For You’, appeared in 1978. Perhaps the most prolific artist of his generation, Prince has in recent years released albums with a rapidity completely at odds with the more leisurely pace that record companies expect—and desire—from their superstar artists. That slower pace allows record companies to steadily promote a string of carefully planned singles from each album, thus maximizing sales.

Frustrated because Warner Bros. refused to accommodate his prolific ways, Prince took to appearing in public with the word ’slave’ written on his face. For its part, Warner Bros. watched with dismay as sales plummeted for an artist with whom in 1992 it had negotiated on of the most lucrative contracts in the recording industry. (Warner Bros. still has the right to release compilations of all of Prince’s previously released music.)

Prince no longer considers himself a slave, but anyone who now expects conventional behavior from him will be sorely disappointed. In its meticulous structure, ’Emancipation’, he says, is based on his studies “of the Egyptians, the building of the pyramids and how the pyramids were related to the constellations. They were a message from the Egyptians about how civilization really started.”

The album’s music, however, is another story entirely. As Prince says, “With three CDs, you have room to stretch out.” Among the tracks to be included are a splendid cover of the Stylistics’ “Betcha By Golly, Wow"; “Sex in the Summer,” which takes its tempo from a sample of the heartbeat of the baby whom Prince is expecting with his wife, Mayte; “Damned If I Do, Damned If I Don’t,” which features Prince’s ferocious guitar playing; and a version of “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” The Bonnie Raitt track? “It ain’t no more,” Prince says with a smile.

Prince is also planning a worldwide tour next year. His itinerary will include the United States, his first time on the road in this country since 1993. And he’s looking even further ahead. “I wrote a song for ’Dawn’,” he says, alluding to the album that he has long talked about as his definitive statement. “It was so much better that what I’m doing now that I thought, ’I’m gonna have to wait to put this out.’

“I worry about that,” he adds. “I worry whether people are going to be ready for what I do.