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An Accessible Prince Playlist of Obscure and Forgotten Gems

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This year should be an epic one for all of the ‘Funk Soldiers’, ‘NPG’ers’, and ‘Purple Disciples’ in the world. The Purple One (Prince) has announced that he plans to release 3 cds worth of new material this year. Setting up a new website to promote and preview these works and the resultant tour, Prince has his fans in a frenzy once again.

Despite dropping 2 albums worth of mediocre material (well, by Prince standards anyways), this rock legend stills seems as if artistically he can do no wrong. Still, it is interesting how a number of ‘old school Purple Reign’ fans have totally isolated themselves from his work since the late 80’s.

So, I’ve tried to compile a quick playlist of songs to re-introduce those fans to some of his work that should be checked out before the new music drops.

Here goes the Playlist:

1. "17 Days" – The Hits (Disc 3) - This is a song that Prince did in the 80s with The Revolution that just has a timeless rock sound to it. The guitar and bass guitar riffs are layered on top of each other in a funky way, yet the song itself holds a semi-new wave rock feel as Lisa adds synth keys all about the track. Here Prince sings normally without the high falsetto (did I say that right) that so many people do not like. The lyrics are a bluesy and melancholy which make this one of my all time favs.

2. "Purple Music" – (BOOTLEG SONG…hard to find) This is one of Prince's early early songs that shows his exploration in funk. On this song he plays a funky guitar and keys as well as the percussion all himself for a ten minute funk session that I simply love.

Lyrics are simplistic but he simply says that he doesn't do drugs because music gets him high enough. Search for this song!

3. "The Question Of U" - Graffiti Bridge – This song has one of the most memorable blues guitar solos that Prince has ever done. He plays this song often in concerts because the song itself is melancholy and fairly deep. It has a soft sex appeal to it but is no where near vulgar. It is Prince doing storytelling in the most classic of ways and the song is addictive to me. Definitely a fav. During concerts he usually melds the guitar solo in this song with "The One" which is actually later on in this playlist.

4. "The Ride" –
Crystal Ball - This is a live recording of a blues song that shows his guitar ability so very well. Sexy, confident, and loud, this song shows a bit of his diversity. Though the recording was done in '95, it is said that Prince penned the song much earlier and it was usually performed without the guitar solo. Thankfully, this version has the solo because it is definitely great.

5. "She Spoke To Me[Extended Version]"-
The Vault:Old Friends For Sale This is an extended jazzy version of a sound that was featured on the Girl 6 Soundtrack. I did a review of this album on my blog so check it out because that album has a lot of great songs that flex Prince’s jazzy blues side. Clocking in at just over 8 minutes long, Prince blazes a jazzy guitar solo and allows the bassist, sax, and drummer to add in their own solos as well before restoring order and gently ending the song.

6. "North", "East", "West"-
N.E.W.S. – This amazing instrumental album (which was also Grammy nominated) features Rhonda Smith, Eric Leeds, John Blackman, and Renato Neto as the rest of the band. While "North" is a strickly smooth jazz cut that was frequently played during the Musicology tour before the concert began, "East" and "West" are a meld of jazz, funk, and blues that leave each of the songs somewhat segmented based on which genre the songs focus on. Still, the songs as a whole manage to transition very well despite segmented feeling in each. These are all great additions to the Prince catalogue.

7. "The One" - NEW POWER SOUL (also under the artist name NEW POWER GENERATION) – This song is further proof that Prince can write some outstanding love ballads. It is in the same tradition as "Insatiable" and "Scandalous". In most concerts he blends this song with "The Question of U" and it sounds excellent!

8. "Shhh" -  This is a rock love ballad that sends Prince back into his rock days. The drum and guitar solos in this song are great. This was when Prince played with an extremely talented crew called NPG (New Power Generation) in the 90s. The entire album was a supposed return to rock for Prince and the result was definitely worth it. A totally slept on album by Prince fans, this song and many others on the album should be in your personal stores.

9. "1+1+1 is 3" - The Rainbow Children – Despite this album being an odd experiment in Prince preaching about the Jehova's Witness faith, it is a very funky album. This song was meant to be a party song (even features his alter-ego Camille) and is very funky (throwback Parliament style). Be forewarned of early releases of this album though. It was originally released as one entire program or track (meaning you’d have to hold FF in order to get to a particular song). Later versions of the album were thankfully segmented into separate tracks.

10. "Electric Chair”- Batman – I'll admit it was strange to see a superhero movie set to the sounds of Prince but oddly enough it worked. This song was decidedly rock amidst the funk and slow jam efforts throughout the album. It was a return to Prince writing, producing, and performing all aspects of the song without the help of the NPG or the Revolution and the result was once again amazing. I mean, how could you deny the album that gave us the quiet storm classic “Scandalous”?!

11. "Crystal Ball" – Crystal Ball – Ok… when you listen to this song, it is one of those experimental styled, "IS HE HIGH??" kind of things. The song is very long but it changes tempo, style, and everything very often. Give it a listen. It is definitely "Bjork" kind of odd. Still, the song is strangely appealing during some parts.

12. "Don't Play Me" -
Crystal Ball/The Truth – Prince on acoustic guitar… nuff said. I just love this song. The fourth CD on this album was intended to be a separate acoustic album that was bundled together with the Crystal Ball official bootleg album release. The concept of Prince doing an acoustic album is very tempting but somehow lives in the ‘obscure’ category of his massive catalogue. If more of the songs were like this one, it would have been an instant classic. Still, the album delivers a wide variety of sounds and styles from Prince that are definitely worth a listen.

13. "Willing And Able"
- Diamonds And Pearls – Prince was in a creative storm around the time of this album because of the New Power Generation's ability to transition from rock to gospel to soul effortlessly. This song has a bit of a gospel-soul jazzy upbeat feel to it.

14. "Joy In Repetition" - Graffiti Bridge - This haunting song has a classic Prince sound to it that no one can replicate. With a storytelling method very similar to his Sign O' The Times classic "Ballad Of Dorothy Parker", this song is a great companion to any Prince compilation.

15. "The Dance"3121 Now this song is another example of how Prince LOVES to do alternate takes on songs to change things up. He released this song first as a track on the digital album (it's hard to find now since he only released it on his online music club) The Chocolate Invasion. On that album, the sound of the song was kind of light-hearted and care free.

The lyrics, however, are quite sad and are filled with frustration. So, on 3121, he added a samba feel to it and made the sound of the track match the lyrics. At the end of the song he adds a passionate ad lib the shows the frustration in the song that the original take did not have. Check the NPG website store to see if The Chocolate Invasion is still available for purchase.

16. "Xogenous” - Xpectation – Around the same time that Prince was cranking out a lot of new music on his NPG Music Club site, he dropped this jazz album. With the NPG backing him, he was able to experiment with a lot of different sounds that could transition from funk to rock to jazz with ease. Though this album tends to stay on the jazzy side (unlike the N.E.W.S. album) it is a great addition to the Purple archives. This song is particularly smooth and features excellent guitar and sax solos that will stick with you. The album featured Candy Dulfer on sax, Rhonda Smith on bass, John Blackwell on drums, and Vanessa Mae on violin.

17. "The Morning Papers" - Love Symbol Album – I love so many songs on this album and it is one of my favs. This song was just a great love song that has a few good guitar solos (since his guitar work is what he's known for). "7" and "Love 2 the 9's" are good ones too.

18. "I Love U In Me" - The Hits 3 – Though explicit in a way, this is a smooth, chill love song that few but Prince could do. With an almost acoustic feel to it, Prince croons to lighthearted and angelic keys and no percussion. This is a fantastic slow jam that is very sexy.

19. "Letitgo" - Come - This was actually a funky single off an album that came around the time when Prince was continuing his Warner Brothers battle. They were upset that Prince was attempting to 'flood the market with too much material'. Claiming that the album was the death of Prince, he had a lot of soul/funk tracks that are definitely forgotten gems.

20. "Pretty Man" - Rave Unto The Joy Fantastic – This is Prince with Maceo Parker just doing an ode to James Brown which he frequently does (also see "Housequake" from Sign O' The Times). This album also has a lot of duets (which people didn't think he could do) with Eve, Gwen Stefani, Chuck D, Sheryl Crow, and a few others I think. If you are really ambitious, search around for the remix album. It has extended versions and an amazing remix of the song “Beautiful Strange”. Another Prince must have whether you enjoyed this album or not.

Also go to my weblog and you'll find a number of reviews of some of these Prince albums as well, including Emancipation and others.

Enjoy! And Love4oneanother!

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About Bunneh3000

  • http://donaldgibson.blogspot.com/ Donald Gibson

    my Top 10 Prince songs (in no particular order) of the era in which this article concentrates:

    “Dolphin” — The Gold Experience
    “Baby Knows” — Rave Unto The Joy Fantastic
    “Peach” — The Hits/The B Sides
    “There Is Lonely” — The Vault
    “Scandalous” — Batman soundtrack
    “Damn U” — The Symbol album
    “Insatiable” — Diamonds and Pearls
    “Daddy Pop” — The Gold Experience
    “The Holy River” — Emancipation
    “Saviour” — Emancipation

  • zingzing

    you should go find “the work,” if you haven’t already. it’s a huge, 20-something disc collection of bootleg material.

    do yourself a favor
    extra lovable
    jerk out
    others here with us
    rebirth of the flesh
    big tall wall
    crucial
    girl of my dreams/can’t stop this feeling i got/we can funk (the original medley)
    soul psychedelicide

    that’s just some of the greatness on there, and they’re all in the best possible quality. it’s truly a revelation.

    prince is god.