Prince - Hits and B Sides

2006-03-29 23:40

Many of The Purple One's early works featured on The Hits/B-Sides skip way out of the standard pop format - and radio DJs were reluctant to air them. Prince was forced in the early years to take his product to the road, building a wave of support through live shows instead.

Even in retrospect, much of His Royal Badness' music will seem a little eccentric to Prince newcomers. As strange guitar stabs and synth squiggles punch out from behind jazzy, funky beats, odd lyrical ideas slap you on the behind, urging naughty thoughts and lascivious actions. Prince, formerly known formally as "The Artist Formerly Known As..." can justifiably be accused of glorious self-indulgence.

But within that madness is qualified genius, sometimes more hidden, other times less so. Prince is more than partly responsible for the creation of a novel cultural oddity in popular music - that rare, raceless, genderless, genre-less and (seemingly) formless groove.

Five stages of an astonishing career are represented here. Prince; Prince and the Revolution; Prince and the New Power Generation; and Symbol (The Artist Formerly Known As Prince).

There are several highlights in this package: Purple Rain (1994), represented by the songs "When Doves Cry"; "Let's Go Crazy"; "I Would Die 4 U"; and Purple Rain remains probably his most popular work, but it is by no means his most satisfying.

Look instead to work off his "Symbol" (TAFKAP - 1992) album, from which "7" and the brilliant "Sexy M.F." are pilfered; and Diamonds and Pearls (1991), which features "Diamonds and Pearls", "Cream" and "Gett Off".

Other notable landmarks in production include the well-known "Raspberry Beret"; the forgotten gem, "I Wanna Be Your Lover" (from when Prince was playing, arranging, producing and recording everything himself), and several hits made famous by other artists who covered them: "Kiss" (Tom Jones and The Art of Noise), "I Feel For You" (which became a Chaka Khan hit later), and "Nothing Compares 2 U " (Sinead O' Connor).

Make no mistake: Prince's music is more often genius than flounder. Sadly, the whole of this compilation fails to equal sum of its parts. There have been Prince albums that work far better over their lengths. Even as a collector's item, the compilation dilutes itself by being neither a Prince completist's artefact or a pop fan's nostalgic conversation piece.

- Anton Marshall

The sheer volume of Prince's musical output over the 15 years prior to 1993 has been extraordinary by any solo artist's standards. But this re-issued, 3-disc, 56-track compilation loses a rating point for simply being too lengthy and esoteric.

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