Intended as both an extended retort to critics who say he’s lost his touch and a declaration of freedom from his former label (Warner Bros.), Prince’s three-hour, triple-CD set Emancipation is somewhat less than the wall-to-wall tour de force our man no doubt envisioned. Which isn’t to say that there’s not easily, oh, an hour’s worth of top shelf material here. Serving up juicy bubblegum funk (”Sex in the Summer”), evoking the swing era (”Courtin’ Time”), impersonating a power pop band with a Santana fixation (”Damned If I Do”), or covering his fave falsetto-soul oldies (not to mention Joan Osborne’s ”One of Us”), the Artist again bowls us over with the sheer breadth of his freewheeling eclecticism. The major sticking point is the so-so dance tracks, which rattle on and on to little purpose. As impressive as much of it is, Emancipation would feel a lot more liberating if it were freed of the perky filler the Artist seems to craft so effortlessly. B

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