Why you should care
Because monster talent, perseverance and the constitutional ability to stick to your guns is in short supply these days.
It was recently announced that Prince had returned to his former label home Warner Bros. Records. It’s a big deal, because the artist battled with the record company in the ’90s. But this is what the new deal could herald: a chance for the funk-rocker to retain ownership of his work.
And that means legally speaking, too: “Prince owns his masters, which means when the deal runs out he can walk away with his recordings and take them and go to another label,” says veteran entertainment lawyer Wallace E.J. Collins III of the legal ramifications of the deal. Wallace, who has represented various artists on Bad Boy Records and Jay Z’s former imprint Roc-A-Fella Records, calls the union headline-worthy and says Prince’s move marks the “first ripple” of the 1976 Copyright Revision Act, which allows an artist to terminate his or her master recording copyright after 35 years.
But the real story is that one of pop music’s most acclaimed catalogues is getting a much needed scrubbing, as his classics will be released in remastered deluxe versions. A proper rerelease should include unreleased material from the Minneapolis icon’s storied vault, rare remixes and plenty of other ear (and eye) candy. So OZY set out to make the whole damn Herculean task easier for Prince by breaking down some of the goodies that should be included in the high-heeled artist’s throwback sets.
The landmark double album that took Prince from gold-selling rebel rouser to platinum-plus provocateur. Arguably Mr. Nelson’s most influential work (for guitar-wielding rockers and EDM heads), starting with unreleased gems like the excellent “Purple Music,” a pulsating track that doubles as a swaggering manifesto: “Don’t need no reefer/Don’t need cocaine/Purple music does the same 2 my brain/And I’m high, so high…” Add “If It’ll Make U Happy” and the otherworldly rare tune (covered by Elvis Costello in 2013) “Moonbeam Levels” and you have a must-buy.
Purple Rain (1984)
We all know the massive, world-beating hits from Purple Rain — the soundtrack to the majestic film ripe with Reagan-era decadence and over-the-top fashion statements (oh, those blouses). Prince’s biggest commercial triumph was recently announced as the first project to get the remastering treatment. And how about the 7-minute, 54-second guitar freakout instrumental “God”? The synth-funk rumble “Possessed” would also be much welcomed, as would the on-steroids version of “Computer Blue.” And the unreleased dreamscape ballad “Electric Intercourse” is another winner.
Around the World in a Day (1985)
It’s all about the extended remixes, chief among them the delightfully sneering “Hello,” a song Prince wrote after receiving bad press for not being a part of the 1985 African famine relief anthem “We Are the World.” The Kid drops a little spoken word aimed at his critics: “U see, words are like shoes/They’re just something to stand on … I wish U could be in my shoes/But they’re probably so high, U’d fall off and die.…” Yikes.
Prince got collaborative with his Revolution band and the quirky duo of keyboardist Lisa Coleman and guitarist Wendy Melvoin. You can hear the jazz flourishes and orchestral nods throughout the adventurous soundtrack (Parade) for Prince’s otherwise panned romantic comedy Under the Cherry Moon. The piano intro, “Kiss” demo, “Junk Music” and the unreleased gem “Neon Telephone” should all be added. Still, the fact that the movie’s gorgeous film score has never been made available to the public is downright criminal. Prince oughta fix that.
Sign o’ the Times (1987)
How do you make Prince’s artistic crowning achievement even more grandiose? You include tracks from the shelved mythical 1986 Dream Factory project. In addition to a meticulous rebuffing of the original double album and some blazing extended cuts, the best of the abandoned Revolution tracks need to be on the table (by late ’86, Prince had disbanded his backing band to go it alone). Slowed eerie vocals, jazz fusion workouts, Wizard of Oz-like sing-alongs.
Prince, you can make this happen.