Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Review: Prince biography

Book Review:

Prince: Chaos, Disorder, and Revolution. By Jason Draper
Backbeat Books, 2011. 272 pp. $20
Review written by Tom Wilmeth
July 1, 2011

Must tremendous talent always be accompanied by startling strangeness? Perhaps not, but Jason Draper’s new biography of Prince portrays equal doses of prodigy and poser.

Draper does a good job of chronicling Prince’s rise from a Minneapolis basement studio to the world stage. The book also stresses Prince’s early awareness of the power of the Internet, only to later miss various web-based opportunities and ultimately to remove himself from cyber space. The infamous battle with Warner Brothers Records is recounted, and the reader can see why both artist and label could have had legitimate reasons for unhappiness.

One of the strengths of this biography is Draper’s meticulous discussion of Prince’s numerous early side-projects, many released under pseudonyms. Also tantalizing is the author’s description of Prince’s Vault in his Minneapolis home, where great unreleased jewels are said to reside. What undercuts the desire to open this Vault is found in the latter part of the book – if so much wonderful Prince material lies dormant, why does he insist on releasing unremarkable music at this point in his career?

Draper is not afraid to be critical of his subject’s career mis-steps, but the author also never loses sight of why Prince is worth an exasperated fan’s devotion: This is one very talented cat! The book is sometimes repetitive, but descriptions and assessments are clear and fair throughout. A useful Career Timeline appendix is included. A complete discography would have also been welcome, but such a list for this extraordinarily productive artist may have necessitated a second volume.

255 words

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