Prince and a Golden Vault That Keeps on Giving
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty/Virginia Turbett
there are these rumours, extraordinary things and reliable stocks that endure for years. I briefly mentioned Prince when talking about Radiohead and the fact that, after material from their OK Computer sessions was hacked and held to ransom, the band put all the recordings out anyway – rendering any threats worthless and, in the process, providing fans with something terrific, personal and revealing. Whether all of the material from those days is worth listening to – I bought the recordings on Bandcamp and most of what is up there is solid – is down to the listener but, to me, that decision from Radiohead was a big one. It makes me wonder whether there are artists out there who have a lot of material sitting on the studio floor that they did not feel was album-worthy – maybe other people would like to hear it. Prince died back in 2016 and, as people know, the man was not exactly quiet - and, in his day, produced album after album of pure brilliance. It seemed like, just after one album was unveiled, another one would be working away and he’d be on a world tour or something else. He was a relentlessly hard-working artist who was always looking to push himself and put incredible music out into the world. After an artist dies, there is debate as to whether you should release anything that was left; if there is an ethical choice and whether the artist would have wanted it out there.
This debate has come into play when posthumous material from Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson has been released and, in the case of Prince, some quarters have questioned whether he would want all this music out there. There is this legendary ‘vault’ that Prince has that, it is said, contains all manner of unreleased cuts and interesting sounds. There is information about the vault and, with loving and loyal people ensuring that the vault is kept safe and material from it (is) treated with respect, it seems like there is no end what it will give us. In fact, back in 2018, Consequence of Sound ran an article that talked about this amazing treasure trove and the fact, unbelievably, Prince has stored enough material so that a new album can be released every year for a century!
“According to Prince’s former sound engineer, Susan Rodgers, the vault pre-dates the release of 1984’s Purple Rain and was already at capacity she left three years later. “When I left in 87, it was nearly full,” she explained in an interview with the Guardian. “Row after row of everything we’d done. I can’t imagine what they’ve done since then.”
As Prince’s death was unexpected and he left no will, his estate had no way of accessing the vault as only Prince knew the door’s key code. After drilling it open, the estate’s archivist discovered enough unreleased music to release a new album every year for the next century.
PHOTO CREDIT: Associated Press
The first batch of this discovered material has begun to see release, including a reissue of Purple Rain, the 1999-era “Moonbeam Levels”, and the original version of “Nothing Compares 2 U”, which surfaced last week. The estate has also struck distribution deals with Warner Bros. Records and Universal Music with plans for more unreleased music to be unearthed in the months and years ahead. An early draft of Prince’s handwritten memoir is also on the way”.
Check out the article and have a look at some of the photos. It is this mystical and eye-opening space where the late Prince stored all this material. Given the amount of albums he released in his lifetime, it is mindblowing thinking he had the time to keep all this unseen material away. Prince, I guess, wanted to ensure that, in the case of death, there was material we could hear and enjoy (which is cool). That is kind of tragic but it would be a shame if there was nothing – you always wonder what could have been and where he would have headed if he had of lived. The latest album from the vaults is Originals. There have been other albums from Prince’s archives, but this is the first collection of original songs.
“Originals is the first posthumous stand-alone album of previously-unreleased studio material by Prince, and the fifth posthumous album release overall. The album is a collection of Prince's original versions of songs he gave to other artists for release. As a result, all songs on the album had been released by other artists. The final track had been previously released in the same form on the Nothing Compares 2 U posthumous single in 2018, at which point it was a stand-alone single.
PHOTO CREDIT: John Leyba/Denver Post
The album is a compilation of tracks recorded between 1981 and 1990. Recording information is listed in chronological order below:
Chronologically, the earliest written track on the album is Wouldn't You Love To Love Me?, which is also among Prince's most-recorded songs. Initially the track was recorded in 1976 as a home recording on a basic cassette recorder, featuring some lyrics that were changed or removed for later recordings. It was then re-recorded twice in Summer 1978 at Prince's France Avenue Home Studio in Edina, Minnesota; once with Prince on vocals and once with Sue Ann Carwell on vocals. It was re-recorded again on 1 April 1982, at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, California, which is the version featured on this album. This version was worked on further in 1986 and was submitted to Michael Jackson for use on his album Bad. When it did not get included on Jackson's album Prince offered it to Taja Sevelle, who for her version simply replaced Prince's own vocals from the 1986 recording. It was released in 1987 as the second track on Taja Sevelle's first album Taja Sevelle and, in early 1988 was released as the album's second single.
Make-Up was originally recorded with Vanity 6 in mind, to be sung by Susan Moonsie. While specific recording dates are unknown, basic tracking took place in Summer 1981 at Prince's Kiowa Trail Home Studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota. It was released as the sixth track on Vanity 6's first and only album Vanity 6. The track was included as the b-side of He's So Dull, the album's third single, and soon after also the b-side of Drive Me Wild, the album's fourth and final single.
Gigolos Get Lonely Too, although written solely by Prince was intended for The Time and was credited to Morris Day when it appeared as the fifth track on their second album What Time Is It?, and was released as the album's third single. Basic tracking likely took place on 11 January 1982 at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, California”.
The reviews for Originals has been hugely positive and, as I said, where did Prince get the time to record all of this new stuff?! At his Paisley Park residence, it must have been a hive of activity and constant invention. NME have given their thoughts regarding Prince’s latest album:
“Capable of upstaging Eric Clapton on guitar, releasing powerful pop that toed the line between apocalyptic and sexy, and contorting his voice to do just about anything, there was no limit to Prince’s abilities. But not everybody is aware the purple one was also a prolific ghostwriter, penning hits for everyone from The Bangles to Kenny Rogers and Stevie Nicks.
Prince nails the deep nasally vocals of a country singer on ‘You’re My Love’, a track he tellingly penned for Kenny Rogers, while his effeminate vocals channel the experience of being an independent black woman on ‘The Glamorous Life’, the hit single he wrote for frequent collaborator Shelia E. Hearing. Prince, singing two songs that are so different stylistically, reminds us just how insanely talented he was, with the artist possessing a chameleon-like ability to master practically any genre of music.
PHOTO CREDIT: Alamy
‘Prince: Originals’ is at its best when Prince lets loose and embraces his cheekier sider. The phallic symbolism of ‘Sex Shooter’, which contains the playful lyrics “I need you to pull my trigger babe / I can’t do it alone”, is one hell of a ride, while the absolutely bonkers ‘Holly Rock’ sees Prince talking slick over a beat that sounds like it was crafted from a psychedelic pinball machine. Honestly, it’s a shame Prince ever gave these tracks away to other artists.
A lot of the songs on this collection have a playful innocence to them and it’s clear Prince enjoyed writing music for other artists, seeing it more as an opportunity to be experimental and loose, rather than a coldly technical chore. You can almost feel the beaming smile Prince was rocking while singing the original ‘Manic Monday’ (the smash, which he penned for The Bangles, is one of the highlights here) while ‘Jungle Love’ (a hit Prince wrote for The Time) is reflective of an era where music was about making you dance first and think second.
Both tracks are infectiously joyous, and if this collection is any indicator of the quality of the thousands of hours of unreleased music Prince still has in the vaults, then don’t be surprised if we’re still partying to new Prince music in 2099”.
Originals is, appropriately, Prince taking back songs he wrote for other artists; the master singing them how he envisaged and, when compared to the more popular versions, it is amazing to see the difference!
We know there is this vault out there and who knows how many albums, scraps and notes there are that will see the light of day. It is haunting to think that people will keep releasing Prince material after I have died – I am thirty-six and the next generation will be old before the Prince legacy starts to dry! Albums like Ultimate Rave and Piano & a Microphone 1983 have already been released this year and I wonder how many albums are coming in 2019. To be fair, Originals is new Prince material and, largely, what has been released is already familiar or reworkings of his existing songs. Released in December 2015, HITNRUN Phase Two was the last studio album Prince put out in his lifetime (Prince died on 21st April, 2016) and I can imagine there are other albums of original material that are yet to be unshackled from his legendary vault. Not only is there this possibility of new music but, as has been rumbling for some time, a Prince documentary could be coming. This story has been brewing for a long time but, as Joe reported last year, the wheels are definitely turning:
“One of the more enigmatic musical stars of all time, shedding some light on his life would be fantastic for the millions of fans he has around the world, and currently Netflix are working on bringing a documentary series about his life to their streaming service.
According to Variety, "the project has the full cooperation of the late artist’s estate, which is providing [the documentary] with interviews, archival footage, photos and archive access", which includes some of his currently unreleased music.
The multi-part documentary series is currently in production, with no set release date on Netflix yet announced, but it has been confirmed that the project will be directed by none other than Ava DuVernay.
The Oscar-nominated director is best-known for her work on Selma, as well as directing the Netflix documentary series 13th.
The in-demand director is also currently working on the Central Park Five documentary series for Netflix, superhero movie The New Gods for WB and DC, and fashion show drama Battle of Versailles for HBO.
Despite having a full slate, DuVernay is reportedly overjoyed to be working on the project, especially as Prince reached out to her specifically about working together:
"Prince was a genius and a joy and a jolt to the senses. He was like no other. He shattered every preconceived notion, smashed every boundary, shared everything in his heart through his music. The only way I know how to make this film is with love. And with great care. I’m honored to do so and grateful for the opportunity entrusted to me by the estate".
I am not sure how close to completion the documentary is but, with fresh Prince material out now, we are not short of our fix! All of this makes me wonder if, at some stage, the public will be allowed to see his vault and have a look around. Maybe that would encroach the privacy of the recordings but I can imagine it would be a huge popular experience.
Also, three years after Prince’s death and it is heartbreaking the creator himself is not around to see this work resonate and delight the people. I am sure he would have been heartened seeing so many people discover his work and the impact his material continues to have. There is nothing we can do about the master’s departure but, as we look forward, it seems like there is this endless bounty in his personal vault. What will the next album give? Will there be more originals or some alternative versions of songs that we all know? Whatever is coming, it will be interesting and I am still stunned at the size and capacity of the vault! Years and years from now, it will still hold music we have not heard: songs Prince recorded a long time ago and, you’d imagine, was always planning on sharing with the world. Make sure you get Originals (the physical version is available from 21st June) if you have not already and the world will wait with baited breath; anticipating what is coming next. I am not sure whether the much-hyped and anticipated documentary is coming this year and what is happening with it – it is going to be fascinating watching it unfold and, when it does arrive, seeing whether the wait has been worth it. Even after his death, Prince is keeping people guessing and offering these sensational moments. With his vault crammed with treasure and endless brilliance, there is a lot more magic to come from…
IMAGE CREDIT: Helen Green Illustration
THE Purple One.