Music aggregator The Daily Swarm made a heck of a discovery today: seven YouTube videos of Prince rehearsing some of the hits, B-sides and rarities from the Purple Rain era in 1984. Given that Prince has famously come down on YouTube like a ton of bricks - threatening legal action against a mother who posted a video of her baby dancing to a few seconds of "Let's Go Crazy" - this definitely falls under the "get it while it's hot" category.
But when you get back from watching, here's something to ponder: will rock fans ever get the deluxe treatment for that beautiful purple music? Prince's catalogue has got to be one of the most lackluster on compact disc. All his great Warner Bros. albums from 1978 to 1993 - the year of that symbol - are easy enough to find. But none of it has really benefitted from a nice masterful transfer to the medium. The packaging is emblematic of early-'80s discs, with precious little of those great album sleeves fittingly reproduced in those jewel cases.
And don't get anyone started on that delightfully desirable vault content. The officially released content is hard enough to find on disc - Warner's fantastic 1993 compilation The Hits/The B-Sides devoted an entire disc to those rare cuts, and even that didn't cover everything. Rhino did the best job with what they could on 2006's Ultimate Prince, dusting off some vinyl-only 12" remixes for public consumption. (The work on Ultimate Prince sounds even more Herculean when you read this article on its production.)
Of course, a discography as massive as Prince's doesn't merely need a revisiting - it needs a task force that would rival any military operation in history. Because Prince isn't merely defined by his released discography and those famous tracks in The Vault. There's work in there for dozens of other artists. Some of them you know: The Time, Vanity/Apollonia 6, Sheila E. deserve some nice remastering jobs as well as the inclusion of B-sides and other bonuses. But what about The Family, Madhouse, Three O'Clock - hell, even Dale Bozzio and George Clinton? The brief tenure of Prince's label, Paisley Park, was kind of disorganized and diverse but surely some gems can be dug out from the mess.
And that doesn't even count those unreleased tracks. That storied work from The Vault has been hinted at twice. Prince's sprawling, independent rarities set Crystal Ball was three discs of unreleased material from 1982 to 1996, but it suffered from unnecessary editing/remixing and one of the worst release schedules of all time (over 100,000 people pre-ordered what they were led to believe was an online-only release, and by the time they all received their orders the set was in stores). Warner's single-disc The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale (1999), fared even worse.
Prince, for various reasons, has been said to abhor those old days for various reasons (the bawdy lyrics clash with his Jehovah's Witness faith, he doesn't like revisiting his past, etc.), but his body of work makes up a significant portion of pop music history. I say His Royal Badness should bury the hatchet with WB and work on getting this stuff out to the masses. Reissue those classic LPs with those hard-to-find B-sides and save the heavy-hitters in The Vault for a massive box set.
Of course, I'd love to hear how you, the reader, would tackle the Prince catalogue if you could. Let's hear it in the comments - and may your ideas live 2 see The Dawn.
NOTE: This post was edited to add a link in the third graf that was originally not there. Sorry for the mix-up.
He's got too much. Far, far too much. It would have to be a BluRay (audio) release, with each remastered album paired with several hours of related studio material. Say, each album paired with about 6 hours of outtakes/related projects.
I know few people can play BluRay, and it is currently inconvenient, but I cannot imagine how else to release the many hours of material.
(That's each album with 6 hours extras, meaning, two albums would have 12 hours of extras between them, three would have 18 hours of extras between them, etc.)
Mike Duquette says
You mean like the Neil Young Archives box? Because even though I don't have a Blu Ray player (my TV at home is close to 30 years old, so there's no point in using high-def video with it), that seems like the ultimate way to get that stuff out there.
Ray Judson says
I agree. I have the Neil Young Blu-Ray set and it is fantastic! And Neil is not even one of my all time favs. The ability to read lyrics, scroll through photos, articles, access video is amaing and hopefully the medium will be able to support artists going this route (like the new Tom Petty Live anthology did) even if it's just for the sound benefit. At the very least two disc deluxe treatments or 2CD/1DVD reissues with remastered sound, B-Sides, 12' mixes and videos would be a great purchase.
...when we read *which* article on the production of Ultimate Prince? Was there supposed to be a link there, or did I misread something?
Mike Duquette says
Aw poo, I knew I'd forgotten something. Read it here: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/the-critical-untimeliness-of-ultimate-prince/
Thank you, sir!