It's been a scant three months since the release of the poorly received Chaos and Disorder, the album that finally fulfilled Prince's long-standing obligation to Warner Bros. Records, and already the eccentric singer/songwriter has put out a follow-up. It's a lot of music, to be sure: Emancipation is three CDs, each containing 12 songs and spanning precisely one hour. And if you can get past the sheer bulk of the padded collection—and the fact that Prince dubiously fancies himself a freed slave after the fulfillment of a contract worth tens of millions of dollars—there's a lot of impressive, innovative material here, especially on the superior final disc. Emancipation is all over the map: There are well-conceived covers ("I Can't Make You Love Me," "Betcha By Golly Wow"), techno-house dance tracks ("The Human Body"), lover-man sex narrations ("One Kiss At A Time"), strange kitsch goofs ("Courtin' Time"), stylish R&B jams ("Joint 2 Joint," the appropriately titled "Style"), songs with dopey raps ("Mr. Happy") and geek metaphors ("Emale"), revelatory love songs with religious overtones ("The Holy River"), and solid doses of danceable funk slamming ("Jam of the Year," "Slave," "New World"). It almost goes without saying that Emancipation is relentlessly creative in good and bad ways, and difficult to digest in one sitting. To a certain extent, there's even something to be said for a label forcing an egotistical artist to rein in his occasionally embarrassing excesses. But there are a hell of a lot of fates worse than having him crank out albums this good every three months—and the oft-excellent Emancipation is a whole lot better than the oft-mediocre Prince product that's flooded the market in the past few years. It's even good enough for you to forgive the inclusion of a cover of Joan Osborne's "One Of Us," which replaces the word "slob" with "slave."

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