Just got the e-mail from The Prince Estate. MASSIVE release (for Prince fans) coming just in August. Call me “not a real music fan” if you wish but I’m not interested in the vinyl. I do have a record player but I only bought it to rip an old vinyl that I could not get anywhere else on any other format to mp3 for my mp3 player.
It’s an incredibly rich era to mine – though 1986 is arguably even richer. Nevertheless Prince of 1987 was still a prolific juggernaut of relentless experimentation, and multiple versions of the exact same song – often he re-recorded the vocal track itself, never mind just rearranged the instrumentation around it.
But I have mixed feelings. We’ve literally only just had the “One Nite Alone” box set at the end of May. So these releases are just 3 months apart. The Estate are including the previously unreleased “Witness 4 The Prosecution” as one of the the 7″ singles in a special box set. This will be AMAZING……..if it’s the perfect version that I have. But I also have 2 other versions of this. One I believe is from 1989 where he completely changed the style of the song (it used a drum machine instead of real drumming on the original version). The version that I first heard, and that remains in my view THE version, is the one I’m hoping for. The others were just bleh – suffering as they do from a very common habit of Prince’s – overproduction. He put female backing vocals in the chorus of the other ones – where it simply was not needed and your ears hate it. I have a horrible feeling they’ve chosen that version. But I would be extremely happy to be proven wrong.
That’s my first concern. My other, far bigger one, is that they’re listening too much to the idiotic fans among us who don’t have a fucking clue how business longevity works, and are screaming in comments under their YouTube videos “What’s taking so long?? Give us everything now!!!”. Whilst there is undoubtedly more material than even the most know-it-all fans (looking at you, ‘Casey Rain’) know about, it is not limitless. You simply cannot monetise this stuff long term if you chuck it all out there too fast.
Maybe you could argue that they’ve been clever this year with it. The One Nite Alone was actually a re-issue with a very appealing (and very bloody good) aftershow CD added to tempt older fans like me into buying into it. It was also a “Legacy” label release – which is actually Sony Music, who brokered a deal to take control of everything Prince released from 1996 onwards. Although there is no mention of unreleased material, it could well be that aftershows – recordings of which Prince pretty much always had professionally done, usually with video too, could be considered ‘released’, and therefore included as part of that deal. After all, if you’re performing them live to an audience – well it doesn’t get any more released than that, now does it.
The Sign O The Times box set will undoubtedly, and in my view rightfully, still be a Warner Brothers release. Although going from Purple Rain, skipping back to 1999, then skipping right past Around The World In A Day AND Parade and going straight for Sign O The Times, is a pretty schizo decision to say the least.
And whilst as I said there is more material than we realise, reality tends to kick in with us sensible types – it isn’t limitless. Yes there is a lot, but Paisley Park costs a HELL of a lot to run and maintain, and they’re looking to the music to provide a solid income for this (don’t be fooled and foolish enough to believe that a $170 top tier ticket price to tour Paisley Park means they’re swimming in piles of money). And this level of output is medium term. I really hope it doesn’t match their outlook.