4 Paisley Park’s Consideration: The NPG Era Needs Its Own “4Ever”

In my guest post last week, I made the case for a more definitive compilation of Prince‘s Warner-era material, combining the best qualities of the new set 4Ever (and yes, contrary to some of the Prince fans who have been yelling at me on Facebook, I do think 4Ever has some good qualities) with the best of earlier collections like The Hits/The B-Sides and Ultimate. But I also promised I’d take a slightly different tack this week and pitch another compilation analogous to 4Ever, this one covering the years after his departure from W.B. As I noted last time, such a collection is arguably even more needed than a deeper dive into the already well-covered territory of 1978-1993. The last two-plus decades of Prince’s career were certainly more vexing and uneven than the first decade-and-a-half, but they were very nearly as prolific; and somewhere amidst all that for-hardcore-fans-only chaff is a killer “Best-of” just waiting to be discovered.

So where to start? Well, that’s easy…

mostbeautiful

Step 1: The Singles

One thing about my previous post that I probably deserved to be yelled at about was the obvious fact I glossed over: that 4Ever is, at its heart, a singles collection. Even less-frequently-compiled tracks like “Gotta Stop (Messin’ About),” “Mountains,” and “Batdance” were released as singles in the ’80s. Now, in some ways, this actually hurts the argument in support of 4Ever: if Prince/NPG/Warner wanted it to be strictly singles only, they should have gone all-in and released all the damn singles from the period in question (B-sides, too!). But a singles-first approach is, frankly, a better idea for the years 1994-2016 anyway: Prince released a ton of singles as an independent artist (some of them even hits!), and shockingly, none of them have ever been collected in a “Greatest Hits”-style compilation. Hell, I probably hear 1994’s “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”–one of his biggest hit singles ever–on the radio more frequently than any other Prince song, and the damn thing is out of print: the only place you can buy it at the moment is digitally on TIDAL, or as some vinyl picture disc of questionable provenance.

So our imaginary NPG-era comp would absolutely have to include “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World”–hell, make it disc one, track one. But there were plenty of other singles from the ’90s and 2000s that deserve to be heard by a wider audience. Come had “Letitgo”; The Gold Experience had “I Hate U”; hell, even Chaos and Disorder had “Dinner with Delores.” Granted, Prince struggled commercially during the “Symbol” era, which means many of the songs released as singles during the time aren’t going to be greeted with the same level of nostalgia as, say, “Little Red Corvette”: I’m pretty sure no one in 2017 will be clamoring to hear his 1996 version of “Betcha by Golly Wow!” But some of his post-name change, pre-comeback singles absolutely deserve another chance: like the bluesy title track for 1997’s acoustic album The Truth, which failed to chart but presented a totally different side of “the Artist” to the public; or “The Work, Pt. 1” from 2001’s The Rainbow Children, which very clearly signposted the 21st-century James Brown revivalism of 2004’s much more successful Musicology. Part of the reason why compilations exist (other than to line record executives’ pockets, of course) is to offer fresh context for previously-issued material; and few catalogues are more in need of fresh context than the singles Prince released after his departure from Warner Bros.

emancipation

 

Step 2: The Landmarks

But the singles aren’t the only “late”-period releases that could benefit from recontextualization; as I tried to argue in my post last week, even in his most dependable years as a hitmaker, Prince’s singles only ever told part of the story. So why not use this opportunity to put 1994-era live favorite “Days of Wild” next to The Gold Experience tracks where it belongs–or, for that matter, to highlight some of the gems that got buried in the three-disc excess of Emancipation in 1996? Another reason for a compilation to exist is to tell the story of an artist’s development over time–something that 4Ever probably does better than any of Prince’s earlier collections, simply by virtue of it being (mostly) chronological. But we also mostly know the first arc of Prince’s story; an “NPG era” compilation would provide an excellent opportunity to tell a story that a lot less listeners know, one that Prince himself seemed at times to delight in obscuring. Hell, there are whole swathes of Prince fans who have never even heard important late-period highlights like 2014’s self-eulogizing “My Way Home” or 2015’s “June,” either because they’d given up on buying every new Prince album when it comes out or because they couldn’t be bothered to subscribe to TIDAL. A comp like this would be a great opportunity to bring them back in the fold.

2016-03-05-1457200249-1795447-PrinceaMicrophone

Step 3: ???

Look, I’ll be the first to admit: this period of Prince’s music isn’t my wheelhouse, which is one reason why I really want to see it collected–unlike 4Ever, which I bought pretty much as an act of charity to support the estate, a selection of the highlights from 1994-2016 would directly benefit my musical education. I know a few tracks from the period that I would consider hidden gems–“Shy” from The Gold Experience, “The Human Body” from Emancipation,  the aforementioned highlights from Art Official Age and HITnRUN Phase Two–but I would much rather hear other people’s recommendations. So what do you say? Aside from the obvious singles, what songs from the “NPG Era” do you deem worthy of compilation? Let me know in the comments, or just yell at me on Facebook. And if you want to read my writing about Prince from an era that is at least somewhat more in my wheelhouse, check out my song-by-song chronological blog dance / music / sex / romance. I’m hoping to finish 1978 by the end of the year.

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5 Comments

Filed under 1990s, 2000s, 2001, 2004, 2014, 2015, NPG Records, Prince, Prince 4ever, Uncategorized

5 responses to “4 Paisley Park’s Consideration: The NPG Era Needs Its Own “4Ever”

  1. Pingback: 4 Paisley Park’s Consideration: The NPG Era Needs Its Own “4Ever” – dance / music / sex / romance

  2. I was going to take it down to 40 like 4ever, but who cares this period has 24 years of work. I’m allowed.

    1. Symbol – Love 2 the 9’s
    2. Symbol – And God Created Woman
    3. Come – Space
    4. Gold Experience – I Hate U
    5. Gold Experience – Most Beautiful
    6. Gold Experience – Gold
    7. Chaos & Disorder – I Like it There
    8. Chaos & Disorder – Into the Light
    9. Emancipation – Jam of the Year (Livestudio Mix from the single)
    10. Emancipation – Somebody’s Somebody
    11. Emancipation – One Kiss at a Time
    12. Emancipation – Let’s Have a Baby
    13. Emancipation – The Love We Make
    14. The Truth – The Truth
    15. The Truth – Don’t Play Me
    16. Crystal Ball – Dream Factory
    17. Crystal Ball – Movie Star
    18. Crystal Ball – What’s My Name
    19. Crystal Ball – Days of Wild
    20. Vault : Old Friends for Sale – It’s About that Walk
    21. Vault : Old Friends for Sale – Extraordinary
    22. Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic – The Greatest Romance Ever Sold
    23. Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic – I Love U, but I don’t Trust U Anymore
    24. Rainbow Children – Last December
    25. Rainbow Children – Mellow
    26. Rainbow Children – The Work Pt. 1
    27. One Nite Alone – Have a Heart (I can only list 1 from this album or I’d list them all b/c it’s my favorite…and this is my favorite Prince song of all time)
    28. Xpectation – Xpectation
    29. Musicology – Call My Name
    30. Musicology – Musicology
    31. The Chocolate Invasion – U Make My Sun Shine
    32. The Chocolate Invasion – When Eye Lay My Hands on U
    33. 3121 – Black Sweat
    34. 3121 – Beautiful Loved and Blessed
    35. Planet Earth – Guitar
    36. Planet Earth – Future Baby Mama
    37. Planet Earth – Chelsea Rodgers
    38. Lotusflow3r – Dreamer
    39. 20ten – Sticky Like Glue
    40. Pletrumelectrum – Funknroll
    41. Pletrumelectrum – Wow
    42. Pletrumelectrum – Pretzelbodylogic
    43. Art Official Age – Breakdown
    44. Art Official Age – U Know
    45. Art Official Age – Breakfast Can Wait
    46. Hitnrun Phase 1 – This Could Be Us
    47. Hitnrun Phase 1 – June
    48. Hitnrun Phase 2 – Xtraloveable
    49. Hitnrun Phase 2 – Stare
    50. Hitnrun Phase 2 – Groovy Potential
    51. Hitnrun Phase 2 – Black Muse
    52. Hitnrun Phase 2 – Revelation

    I don’t care that I listed half the hitnrun phase 2 album, lolol

  3. Perhaps a ‘Best Of NPG’ compilation setup would be best,as his hits in the period were sporadic. “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” would have to start it in any capacity for sure. My suggestions for the rest would be…either “Jam Of The Year” or “Sleep Around” from ‘Emancipation’,the title song to ‘Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic’,”Musicology”,”Cinnamon Girl”,”Black Sweat”,”Fury”,”Chelsea Rodgers”,”Guitar”,”Ol Skool Company”,”Lavaux”,”Breakfast Can Wait”,”Rock & Roll Love Affair” and “Baltimore”. That would pretty much cover the hits and the surprises of Prince’s final couple of decades.

  4. Don’t care that this list is long. Don’t care that there are a ton from Hitnrun from Phase 2, lolol. This list is probably FAR too subjective and personal to my favorites but oh well. If a good number of these are included I’d be happy for people to know about these songs.

    Symbol – Love 2 the 9’s
    Symbol – And God Created Woman
    Come – Space
    Gold Experience – I Hate U
    Gold Experience – Most Beautiful
    Gold Experience – Billy Jack Bitch
    Gold Experience – Gold
    Chaos & Disorder – I Like it There
    Chaos & Disorder – Into the Light
    Emancipation – Jam of the Year (Livestudio Mix)
    Emancipation – Somebody’s Somebody
    Emancipation – One Kiss at a Time
    Emancipation – Let’s Have a Baby
    Emancipation – The Love We Make
    The Truth – The Truth
    The Truth – Don’t Play Me
    Crystal Ball – Dream Factory
    Crystal Ball – Movie Star
    Crystal Ball – What’s My Name
    Crystal Ball – Calhoun Square
    Crystal Ball – Days of Wild
    Vault : Old Friends for Sale – It’s About that Walk
    Vault : Old Friends for Sale –Extraordinary
    Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic – The Greatest Romance Ever Sold
    Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic – I Love U, but I don’t Trust U Anymore
    Rainbow Children – Last December
    Rainbow Children – Mellow
    Rainbow Children – The Work Pt. 1
    One Nite Alone – Have a Heart
    Xpectation – Xpectation
    Musicology – Call My Name
    The Chocolate Invasion – U Make My Sun Shine
    The Chocolate Invasion – When Eye Lay My Hands on U
    3121 – Black Sweat
    3121 – Beautiful Loved and Blessed
    Planet Earth – Guitar
    Planet Earth – Future Baby Mama
    Planet Earth – Chelsea Rodgers
    Lotusflow3r – Dreamer
    20ten – Sticky Like Glue
    Pletrumelectrum – Funknroll
    Pletrumelectrum – Pletrumelectrum
    Pletrumelectrum – Wow
    Pletrumelectrum – Pretzlebodylogic
    Art Official Age – Breakdown
    Art Official Age – U Know
    Art Official Age – Breakfast Can Wait
    Hitnrun Phase 1 – This Could Be Us
    Hitnrun Phase 1 – June
    Hitnrun Phase 2 – Xtraloveable
    Hitnrun Phase 2 – Stare
    Hitnrun Phase 2 – Groovy Potential
    Hitnrun Phase 2 – Black Muse
    Hitnrun Phase 2 – Revelation

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