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R&B/Soul - Released June 24, 2013 | Rhino - Warner Records

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R&B/Soul - Released April 20, 2004 | Legacy Recordings

Prince's star faded not long after he won emancipation from Warner Brothers in 1995, as he abandoned the mainstream so he could follow his whims however he liked. Which meant that he effectively started making records for nobody but himself, whether that meant triple-disc collections of new material or an all-instrumental smooth jazz album, and in short order, his fans started dwindling away to nothing but the hardcore, who themselves had their patience tried by such antics as Prince suing his own fanzine in the late '90s. It seemed that he was fated to permanently wander in the wilderness, making music for an ever more selective audience, until he suddenly decided in 2004 that he wanted to be back in the game, returning to the spotlight with acclaimed performances at the Grammys and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, announcing an all-hits tour, and releasing Musicology, his first major-label distributed album in five years. This flurry of activity suggests that Prince is treating this as an opportunity for a full-fledged comeback and, thankfully, he's seized this moment and delivered a vastly entertaining record. Unlike everything he's done since leaving Warner, Musicology doesn't alienate listeners; it's tight and lean, weighing in at 12 tracks and 47 minutes, yet that's still enough room for Prince to showcase his virtuoso versatility. He tries a little everything -- down and dirty funk jams, slow sensual grooves, and, happily, he revives the psychedelic pop of the mid-'80s with the deliriously catchy "Cinnamon Girl" -- but unlike on such overworked albums as Emancipation and Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, it never feels like an attempt to dazzle or a series of stylistic exercises. That's because there's a clarity to his production -- dense, but never busy, proving once again that he's about the only musician who can make a one-man band sound as vibrant as a live nine-piece group -- and a focus to his writing that hasn't been heard in a long, long time. At its core, Musicology is essentially classicist Prince, as he makes a deliberate decision to play to all of his greatest strengths, but because it's been so long that he's made a record this confident and concise, it doesn't sound like a retreat. It sounds as if he's rediscovered his muse, which is quite a bit different than simply following his whims. Make no mistake, this isn't the second coming of Purple Rain or Sign 'o' the Times or even Parade -- in other words, it's not a masterpiece, more like a more confident and consistent Diamonds and Pearls without the hip-hop fixation -- but it's a strong album, one that impresses on the first listen and gets better with repeated plays. In short, it's the comeback that it was meant to be. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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R&B/Soul - Released November 20, 2001 | Legacy Recordings

Billed as Prince's most controversial album -- at least by his press agency and label -- upon its release in the fall of 2001, The Rainbow Children was arguably his most curious album to date, which isn't necessarily the same thing as controversial. It could have been controversial, that's for sure, given that it follows his conversion to the Jehovah's Witnesses and that it trumpets his faith, over the most elastic, jazziest backing music he's made. If Prince hadn't marginalized himself through his record company battles, multi-disc sets, and botched superstar comebacks, this could have been genuinely controversial, since people would be paying attention to what he's doing. As of 2001, nobody outside of the diehards -- those who sign up for the Paisley Park subscription service and those that will seek out an album like The Rainbow Children, which was initially only available through the Internet -- was really paying enough attention to listen to this record, since they were the only ones to sit through the cascade of arcania he turned out after his liberation from Warner. Since they're so deeply immersed in this work, they would realize that musically The Rainbow Children is his most cohesive set since The Gold Experience, and the only one to really push past his traditional limits since then (which, admittedly, is still much more imaginative). And, you know, that's really too bad, because as a musical experience, this is pretty rich, demonstrating not just that Prince knows no borders, but that his music effortlessly mutates within the course of one song, perhaps drawing from his standard book of tricks -- jazz fusion, smooth soul, lite psychedelia, hard rock, and funk general weirdness -- but always sounding unpredictable and rewarding. It's too bad, then, that the very thing that inspired the album for its creator is what will turn off even those diehards that stuck with him this long, seeking out this album -- namely, its religious views. It's not that Prince has become a Jehovah's Witness -- any objective listener really wouldn't care -- but it's that his message doesn't support the music and doesn't fit with the sounds or the approach; it's hard to shut it out, not just because the words are so prominent, but because they're delivered in so many different voices (most distracting of all, the electronically altered basso profundo voice last heard on the decidedly secular "Bob George"), often in short, two-minute songs. This becomes a little overwhelming about halfway through, when the opera comes in on "Wedding Feast," reminding us that this is indeed a concept album, then delving into three eight-minute jams to conclude the record. It all winds up as a bit much, but it doesn't erase the musical facts: this is Prince at his most focused and rewarding in a long time, since Emancipation really. Too bad nobody outside of the diehards cares at this point. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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R&B/Soul - Released January 30, 2007 | Rhino - Warner Records

Upon leaving Warner Brothers in 1996, Prince agreed to let the label release a collection of unreleased recordings from his legendary prodigious vaults at some point in the future. Warner unveiled that collection, unimaginatively titled The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale, in the summer of 1999. Instead of an official release for several of Prince's legendary songs though, The Vault is a brief collection (under 40 minutes) of ten songs, recorded between 1985 and 1994 according to the liner notes -- though they all feel like Graffiti Bridge (or maybe Symbol) outtakes. That's not a complaint, actually. There's a wonderful carefree feeling to the record, heavy on jazz and light funk, constantly swinging, and nearly always engaging. Only the title track has the necessary weight to announce itself as a major addition to his official catalog, but that doesn't matter since the songs are all enjoyable. After all, it's hard not to be impressed with Prince's songcraft or the casually sophisticated flair to the musicianship throughout the album. That might not be what most observers expected from The Vault, but consider this -- of these ten songs, eight tracks have never been heavily bootlegged before. That means that even some hardcore followers may not have heard all of this material, which is noteworthy in itself. But the nicest thing about the compilation is that even though it's a minor addition to his catalog, it holds together as an album better than Come or Chaos & Disorder, the two other Warner-era odds-and-ends collections, or even the tossed-off New Power Soul. It's an unassuming, jazzy little record that's damn near irresistible. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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R&B/Soul - Released December 12, 2015 | NPG Records

Following quickly on the heels of its companion, HITnRUN: Phase Two is more a complement to than a continuation of its predecessor. Prince ditches any of the lingering modern conveniences of HITnRUN: Phase One -- there's nary a suggestion of electronics and it's also surprisingly bereft of guitar pyrotechnics -- in favor of a streamlined, even subdued, soul album. Despite its stylistic coherence, Prince throws a few curve balls, tossing in a sly wink to "Kiss" on "Stare" and opening the album with "Baltimore," a Black Lives Matter protest anthem where his outrage is palpable even beneath the slow groove. That said, even the hardest-rocking tracks here -- that would be the glammy "Screwdriver," a track that would've been an outright guitar workout if cut with 3rdEyeGirl -- is more about the rhythm than the riff. Compared to the relative restlessness of HITnRUN: Phase One, not to mention the similarly rangy Art Official Age, this single-mindedness is initially overwhelming but like any good groove record, HITnRUN: Phase Two winds up working best over the long haul, providing elegant, supple mood music whose casualness plays in its favor. Prince isn't showing off, he's settling in, and there are considerable charms in hearing a master not trying so hard. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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R&B/Soul - Released March 14, 2006 | Warner Records

The third time around isn't quite a charm for Prince compilations -- in fact, 2006's Ultimate Prince falls far short from the promise of its title. Although Ultimate Prince was touted upon its release as being the first double-disc Prince hits collection (what does that make 1993's Hits 1 and Hits 2, then?), that claim is a little misleading, since this hardly serves up two discs of hit singles: instead, the second disc is devoted to 12" mixes and extended dance mixes issued on CD maxi-singles. There is certainly a market for these mixes -- they have not been compiled on CD, so hardcore fans have been awaiting their reissue, not just for the sake of completism, but because the mixes were often very good -- but tacking them onto another hits disc doesn't serve anybody's needs, since it forces the dedicated to once again purchase the familiar hits, and anybody who just wanted the hits heard on the radio will not be happy with having "Let's Go Crazy," "Little Red Corvette," "Pop Life," "Raspberry Beret," "Kiss," "U Got the Look," "Thieves in the Temple," and "Cream" all here in different mixes. Of course, the first disc of hits is not executed particularly well, either. Most of the 17 songs on the first disc are single edits, but there are a few exceptions to the rule, as "Controversy," "Purple Rain," "Alphabet St," "7," and "Gett Off" are all presented in their original full-length album incarnations -- and even if "Controversy" and "Purple Rain" benefit from the unedited treatment (which is not necessarily the case with "Alphabet St.," which is one time Prince's song got better on a single edit), it's hard to see why those were included uncut when "1999" and "When Doves Cry" fade out rather abruptly. Then there's the problem of omissions, an issue that will always come up when an artist as great and prolific as Prince gets his work condensed to compilation, but there are some big oversights here, among them "I Feel for You," "Dirty Mind," "Let's Pretend We're Married," "Take Me with U," "Mountains," "If I Was Your Girlfriend," "Batdance" (definitely not his best single, but a chart-topper in 1989), and "Sexy MF," plus the B-side "Erotic City," which would have been an ideal inclusion on the 12" mix disc but is regrettably absent. So, Ultimate Prince is a bit of a mess -- granted, it's a listenable mess, since any Prince song from 1979-1992 is at the very least worth hearing and often is nothing less than brilliant (plus, the remastered sound is very good, better than the original CDs in nearly every case). But for listeners who just want the hits, they'll be better served by 1993's Hits discs or 2001's The Very Best of Prince, which may have their share of oversights or flaws, but both are better samplers of his best work than this muddled, intermittently enjoyable, hodgepodge. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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R&B/Soul - Released July 20, 2009 | Warner Records

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R&B/Soul - Released July 20, 2009 | Rhino - Warner Records

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R&B/Soul - Released December 17, 2002 | Legacy Recordings

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Pop - Released June 23, 2017 | Warner Records

This draped in light rerelease of Purple Rain is an opportunity to take a beautiful trip back in time… For Prince, the 1999 advent coincides with several disputes with his entourage. The pinnacle is reached when the guitarist Dez Dickerson leaves, soon replaced by Wendy Melvoin. The star goes back to work and mulls over a project even crazier than a double album: a quasi-autobiographical movie! With their head on the chopping block, his managers are tasked with finding a film without delay. Warner’s movie division is rather lukewarm and wants warranties. Prince and his ever growing family (The Revolution, The Time, Vanity 6) perform regularly at the First Avenue club and spend the rest of their time locked away in a gigantic warehouse rehearsing and taking drama and dance classes to prepare for the movie. Prince even transferred his own studio in this warehouse to record the soundtrack of his crazy project. He also sets up a mobile studio in front of the First Avenue, where he makes live recordings of other songs. In the end, Warner Studios pay up for what will probably be one of the worst movies they’ve produced so far, a dud that will however give an exuberant and awesome soundtrack: Purple Rain reaches the top of the R&B and Pop charts. Let's Go Crazy, When Doves Cry, Take Me With U, Purple Rain and I Would Die 4 U are all Princely hits that will dominate the airwaves in 1984 and 1985. His decadent funk rock and his frilled-shirted pimp style seduce the entire planet. Once again, the musician manages to mix his different foibles like a new Sly Stone. Containing pop melodies reminding of the Beatles and Hendrixian guitars with a funk groove rhythm, Purple Rain offers above all a complete revamping of these fundamentals of music… This Purple Rain Deluxe – Expanded Edition includes the remastered original album (the remastering was made in Paisley Park in 2015 with the original master tapes, and Prince supervised the whole process a few months before his passing), as well as eleven new titles, but also all the edit versions of the singles and their B sides. Taken from Prince’s numerous unreleased archives, the new tracks are true gems, like the 1983 instrumental version of Father’s Song. Some of them, like the studio version of Electric Intercourse, never even got out of Paisley Park before! Those gems have been mastered by Bernie Grundman, who worked on the original album. © MD/Qobuz
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R&B/Soul - Released January 29, 1998 | Legacy Recordings

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R&B/Soul - Released November 19, 1996 | Legacy Recordings

Emancipation was a critical moment for Prince, one that he designed as an artistic rebirth and, optimistically, as a commercial comeback. In a typically perverse fashion, Prince decided to make the album a triple-disc set running exactly three hours, easily making it the longest album of all-new original material ever released by a popular artist. As the first album he released since leaving Warner Brothers, Emancipation was supposed to dazzle, proving that he had not lost any of his creative skills or power. And it does dazzle, but it's hard to digest a full three discs of music, even if it is almost all of high quality. Fortunately, Prince made each disc into a distinct entity in its own right, with the first being the most pop, the second being a song cycle devoted to his new marriage, and the third being a dance/funk extravaganza. Throughout all three discs, Prince tries on a variety of styles, from jazz to R&B, but he doesn't break any new ground; instead, the album is simply reaffirmation of his strengths as a composer and a musician. Emancipation doesn't have the bristling, colorful eclecticism of Sign 'o' the Times nor does it have the wildness of early one-man projects like 1999 or Dirty Mind, but with its gentle ballads and complex jams, it signals that Prince has evolved into middle-age gracefully. It's a mature effort, to be certain, but in this case that doesn't mean that it's an album bankrupt of ideas -- it means that Prince's craft continues to grow. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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R&B/Soul - Released March 24, 2009 | Legacy Recordings

Left to his own devices, Prince will indulge in his peculiar vice of releasing triple-albums. He celebrated his freedom from Warner with Emancipation, following that with another triple-disc in Crystal Ball, which just happened to be the provisional title of the scrapped three-LP iteration of 1987's Sign o' the Times, he had a triple-live set in 2002, and now he's navigating the rough waters of online distribution and exclusive contracts with big box retailers in 2009 with another triple-disc set called LotusFlow3r. Technically, one of the three discs here isn't a Prince album: Elixer is the debut of Bria Valente, the latest in a long line of sultry soul protégés. Many of Prince's hand-picked singers have been largely ignored even by his loyalists since about 1987, so Prince pushes Bria by bundling her record with his own LotusFlow3r and MPLSound, even going so far as to list Elixer first among the three on the back of the CD's slim cardboard sleeve. This attempt at old-fashioned star-making might have worked if Bria Valente had a smidgeon of star charisma, but she's merely a pleasantly breathy crooner, slipping easily into Prince's shimmering, quiet storm production. Her slight personality shifts the spotlight to Prince's versatility, which is part of the point of the whole set. Each album serves a different function: Elixer is his smooth soul exercise, LotusFlow3r his guitar showcase, and MPLSound a revival of his '80s funk. By its very nature, the Bria Valente disc winds up as the most consistent and least interesting of the three, never straying from its seductive template, but that doesn't mean it's the worst; it just lacks the highs of the other two, but it also lacks the lows. Of the three, MPLSound winds up with the greatest number of both highs and lows, while LotusFlow3r is constrained by its guitar-heavy concept, offering great moments instead of great whole songs. This suggests that LotusFlow3r has moments of fury akin to the closing solo of "Let's Go Crazy" or the glorious passion of "Purple Rain," but apart from the Hendrixian "Dreamer," the album is nearly as smooth as Elixer, with even the clenched, pumping riff of "Feel Good, Feel Better, Feel Wonderful" soon giving way to an amiable funk work-out. Amiably pretty much defines all of LotusFlow3r, which winds up being all about groove and fleeting bits of six-string color which may be enough for the faithful, but not many others. Those less-dedicated listeners -- i.e., those who prefer tightly written songs and varied production -- will be drawn to MPLSound, where Prince takes his retro-mission seriously enough to offer up a few songs nervy enough to be singles, even if the synthesized thrill of this handful of tunes is undercut by a bunch of slow-burning ballads that do their best to rival "The Arms of Orion." It's best to focus on such tight, funky electro grooves as "(There'll Never B) Another Like Me" and "Ol' Skool Company," two songs that spotlight Prince's impish humor, a quality that's largely absent on the rest of the triple-disc set (it's not entirely a coincidence that these are the only cuts that address the modern digital world, either). But as good as these two cuts are, they're not as imaginative or as vigorous as the best of 3121 or Musicology, a flaw that illustrates yet another strange fact about Prince: after all these years, he's now far weirder when he knows people are paying attention than when he's off pursuing his own surprisingly earth-bound flights of fancy. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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R&B/Soul - Released September 26, 2014 | Warner Records

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Prince returned to Warner Bros. Records in a big way in 2014, settling a 15-year feud on terms that were decidedly in his favor. He acquired the rights to his masters, agreed to a series of deluxe reissues, and released two brand-new albums, one recorded on his own and one recorded with his backing power trio 3rdEyeGirl. Art Official Age, the album credited to his lonesome, finds Prince reveling in many of the sounds of the '80s, reviving his Bob George and Camille voices, dabbling in deep electro-funk on "What It Feels Like," indulging in a full-fledged freakout on "Funknroll." Despite all these winking allusions to his past, Art Official Age feels of piece not with the Revolution but rather the New Power Generation: underneath the squalls of guitar, psychedelic soul harmonies, and impish humor, this is a full-fledged R&B album, one that often echoes Diamonds and Pearls. Like that 1991 record, Art Official Age is heavy on dance songs with rapped verses that don't feel informed by hip-hop and slow-burning soul that pulls the past into the present. Some of Prince's modernization feels a bit ham-fisted -- he turns the Internet meme "This could be us but you playing" into a slow jam -- but he leaves all his millennial flirtations at the margins of the record, grounding it in old-fashioned notions of seduction and soul. If the album doesn't offer any startling surprises along the lines of the furious "Black Sweat" -- there's not much abandon here -- there's joy in hearing Prince embrace his lyrical eccentricities as he accessorizes his smooth jams and coiled, clean funk with such oddities as laser blasts and spoken introductions from what appear to be British nurses. Such quirks may be fleeting but their presence is enough, along with such fine songs as "Breakfast Can Wait," to elevate Art Official Age above 20Ten and other pro forma latter-day Prince records. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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R&B/Soul - Released September 21, 2018 | Warner Records

Two years after his premature death, Prince’s Ali Baba cave has offered up its first treasure. With the aptly named album Piano & A Microphone 1983, it’s with the simplest devices that his art is heard. At only 25 years old, Prince had already released five albums (For You, Prince, Dirty Mind, Controversy and 1999) and was just about to release the album that would turn him into a global star, Purple Rain. The multi-instrumentalist spent his days and nights in the studio and we find him here alone at the piano for a medley of personal compositions and two covers: Joni Mitchell’s A Case Of You and the gospel song Mary Don’t You Weep. The intimate context of this recording only amplifies the intensity of this unpublished work. Just close your eyes and you’ll find yourself alone with Prince…With his elastic voice and skilled playing, the musician from Minneapolis proves to those who doubted him that he was a true artist; both entertainer and composer, showman and improviser. His stripped back version of Purple Rain touches on the sublime and the track Strange Relationship gives an insight into the evolution of his productions, as four years later the track appeared, more muscular this time, on the album Sign o’ the Times. While Piano & A Microphone 1983 may be primarily aimed at Prince fans, novices – if there are any left – will no doubt enjoy discovering this impressive artist. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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R&B/Soul - Released March 21, 2006 | Legacy Recordings

Musicology was a self-conscious comeback, a record designed to return Prince to the spotlight and the charts, and it worked: even if it spawned no big hits, the 2004 LP became his first album to crack the Billboard Top Ten since 1995's The Gold Experience, get a fair amount of radio play, and get a bunch of positive press, along with a well-received tour. Prince no longer seemed like an eccentric consigned to the fringes: he seemed like a savvy pro, reclaiming a reputation and respect that he'd lost. That he did it with an album that sounded uncannily like a deliberate return to classic Prince as performed by the New Power Generation was almost beside the point: it was enough that he sounded engaged, and that he made a focused, purposeful album. Its quickly delivered 2006 follow-up, 3121, proves that Musicology was no fluke. Like its predecessor, 3121 is tight and concise, offering 12 songs in 53 minutes, and it's classically structured, emphasizing shifting moods and textures between songs. It is an album, not a collection of songs, and you could even call it old-fashioned, but it feels fresher than Musicology, as if Prince had listened to enough Neptunes productions to understand how they've absorbed his music. That acknowledgement doesn't come often -- it's evident in the sly, sexy grooves of "Black Sweat" and the squealing synths of "Lolita" -- but since it's paired with an emphasis on dance tunes and a retreat from the enjoyable but endless NPG-styled vamping that characterized a good portion of Musicology, 3121 winds up sounding lively, varied, and, at its best, exciting. And at the beginning of the album, 3121 is quite exciting, as Prince revives his high-pitched alter ego Camille on the title track and dives head first into the electro-funk of "Lolita" and "Black Sweat," songs that recall such mid-period masterpieces as "Kiss" or "Sign 'O' the Times" without being rewrites. Nevertheless, the fact that the freshest sounding music here still has a direct line back to records Prince made 20 years prior is a good indication that the album, like Prince himself in the wake of hip-hop, is a little bit conservative, emphasizing funk of both the James Brown and George Clinton varieties, late-night slow jams, classic dance, and soul, instead of wrestling with modern music. While that may disappoint some listeners who yearn for the return of the trailblazing Prince of the '80s, when he reinvented himself with each record, it's hardly surprising that a 47-year-old musician is spending more time refining his palette than expanding it. What is a surprise is that Prince is in top form as both a writer and record-maker; perhaps the one-man-band nature of its recording doesn't mean the album is as gritty or raw as his reliably thrilling live performances, but 3121 crackles with excitement, filled with different sounds and styles. Best of all, this is filled with songs that hold their own as individual tunes, yet gel into a cohesive record that is thankfully devoid of an overarching concept, a problem that plagued his albums after Diamonds and Pearls. 3121 does fall short from being perfect -- there may be no bad songs, but the momentum slows ever so slightly on the second half -- yet it's something more valuable than being a one-off classic: it's proof that Prince has indeed returned as a vital, serious recording artist on his own terms. Maybe he's no longer breaking new ground, but his eccentricities are now an attribute, not a curse, which goes a long way in making his trademark blend of funk, pop, soul, and rock sound nearly as dazzling as it did at his popular and creative peak in the '80s. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop - Released November 25, 2016 | Warner Records

Booklet
4Ever, the first posthumous Prince album, arrived seven months after his April 21, 2016 death -- just in time for that year's holiday season -- and it's the first Prince hits compilation since 2006, when Rhino/Warner issued the 17-track Ultimate Prince. A better comparison, however, is the 1993 set The Hits/The B-Sides, which contained two discs of hits -- also available separately -- and a disc of otherwise unavailable flip sides. 4Ever covers this same territory, even working the B-side "Gotta Stop (Messin' About)" and the majestic 1982 outtake "Moonbeam Levels" into its 40 tracks, bypassing anything released after 1993 due to licensing reasons. This means his last Top Ten hit, 1994's "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," is absent, as are the other singles he released in the subsequent 23 years, but they're not missed as much as his own version of "I Feel for U," "Money Don't Matter 2 Night," the minor hit "Let's Pretend We're Married," or "Erotic City," "17 Days," "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore," and "Another Lonely Christmas," all B-sides that could easily have been included in a definitive compilation. This, along with the odd non-chronological sequencing, means 4Ever isn't definitive, but in terms of consumer value, it might be the best single Prince compilation because it rounds up the great majority of his '80s and early-'90s hits -- including such singles as "Let's Work," "Mountains," "Girls & Boys," and "Batdance," all absent from previous Prince compilations -- in a convenient package. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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R&B/Soul - Released September 30, 2008 | Legacy Recordings

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R&B/Soul - Released August 20, 1990 | Rhino - Warner Records

Prince was shooting for the top of the charts with Graffiti Bridge, and he missed. The movie was a disaster, causing the soundtrack to sell very poorly. Despite its poor showing, Graffiti Bridge is not a bad album; in fact, it's often very good. Prince wrote all of the songs, but only performed a little over half the tracks, leaving the rest for The Time, Mavis Staples, and Tevin Campbell. With the exception of The Time's slamming "Release It" and Campbell's "Round and Round," the best songs are the ones Prince performed himself. The George Clinton collaboration "We Can Funk," the psycho-blues of "The Question of U," the sinewy single "Thieves in the Temple," and the pop/rock of "Can't Stop This Feeling I Got," "Tick, Tick, Bang," and "Elephants & Flowers" make Graffiti Bridge a thoroughly enjoyable listen. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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R&B/Soul - Released January 29, 1998 | Legacy Recordings

As any die-hard fan knows, Crystal Ball was the triple-album set Prince had planned to release in 1987, when Warner forced him to trim it to the double album Sign O' the Times. Since then, Crystal Ball had become a legendary "lost" album among Prince collectors, and many of its outtakes had circulated on bootlegs for years. So, it didn't come as a complete surprise that Prince revived the title for his own collection of outtakes, which turned out to be the first release on his independent NPG label. Any collector will quibble with the track selection, since there are literally hundreds of known Prince outtakes, and there's no way that a three-disc set could include all the best cuts. Still, this is an impressive sampler that illustrates the true depth of Prince's talents. There may be no hidden masterworks on the level of "When Doves Cry," but the music here is consistently strong and compelling. As a compiler, Prince errs by favoring latter-day recordings over his '80s studio creations, but this is a minor complaint, since he has included such legendary (at least among collectors) songs as "Dream Factory," "Movie Star," "Crucial," "Sexual Suicide," "Days of Wild," and "The Ride." Prince added a full-length album, The Truth, as the fourth disc to Crystal Ball. Taken on its own terms, The Truth is a terrific little record with a similar feel to Chaos & Disorder, but with stronger material. Purportedly, it's Prince's acoustic album, but he uses that concept to spring into the blues, tape effects, straight-ahead pop, and soul. It's a joy to hear him work in such a structured form, since it helps him focus his ideas and deliver a tight, enjoyable pop record that offers proof he hasn't lost his gifts. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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Prince in the magazine
  • Prince: 1999 in 2019!
    Prince: 1999 in 2019! The Minneapolis master's groundbreaking album which came out in 1982 is now being reissued in a Super Deluxe Edition in Hi-Res 24-Bit quality, with plenty of bonuses including several previously un...
  • Proof for the doubters
    Proof for the doubters Two years after his premature death, Prince’s Ali Baba cave has offered up its first treasure.
  • The Qobuz Minute #22
    The Qobuz Minute #22 Presented by Barry Moore, The Qobuz Minute sweeps you away to the 4 corners of the musical universe to bring you an eclectic mix of today's brightest talents. Jazz, Electro, Classical, World music ...