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THE ESSENTIAL Prince

His tragic passing in 2016 left behind a rich, enormously complex canon of material and releases to sift through. Rik Flynn presents a guide to Prince’s rarest and greatest moments

His sales may have waxed and waned a little over the years, but during his 57 years spent on this Earth, Prince never stopped striving to outdo himself and everyone around him. Compulsive and entirely unafraid to do exactly as he pleased, he lived constantly on the edge, with his songwriting and production, often at the risk of losing our attention. As his trusted engineer Susan Rogers once opined, he was someone “who was willing to completely oftend his core audience” for the sake of his art. Few others could make that claim.

Prince put himself through the mill in other ways, too, cutting songs on a daily basis, while often fasting and with very little sleep. Such was his grand vision that he squandered his entire three-album advance on his first record and almost burnt himself out in the process, after months of writing, producing and performing everything himself. Right through to his final hurried burst of activity gigging and recording live with 3rdEyeGirl, his two HitnRun albums, storming London with those unexpected guerilla shows, and on to his poignant stripped-back Piano & A Microphone tour, Prince never stopped. Preferring his chosen artistic medium to anything else life had to offer, here was a man truly possessed. “I am music,” he told Rolling Stone in 2014.

Across his vast, multifarious catalogue, exist numerous studio albums, enigmatic releases under several different guises, plus a dizzying array of incredible singles – many of which have been issued in an equally disorientating number of variances and formats. Add to that the various compilations, collectable promos, picture discs and rarities, and it amounts to a mountainous tip of an even more colossal iceberg, much of which remains boxed up within the walls of Prince’s infamous ‘vault’.

PURPLE PATCH

Prince Rogers Nelson, perhaps above all artists, is the slipperiest of quarries for a feature such as this. Such is the admiration for the Purple Prophet, that there are superfans willing to lance their replica ‘love symbol’ guitars deep into your soft tissue should a discrepancy occur. Hip devotees Hot Chip even wrote a song about the dangers of feigning fandom for the man. As a result, we’ve enlisted those very fanatics for guidance, as well as recordstore owners, musicians and anyone in earshot who had an intimate relationship with the many works of the late, great Lord Of Paisley Park.

The result – in reverse chronological order – is an ambrosial mix of genuinely essential albums everyone should own in some form or other; a handful of equally crucial singles; our pick of his many jawdropping extended mixes (many of which feature prominently here); some vinyl-only UK releases and a smaller proportion of rarities to get any collector’s juices flowing… For vinyl fans, Prince’s alternative reality is a fine place to be.

NOTHING COMPARES 2U (LTD 7” 2018)

While Sinéad O’Connor’s ubiquitous rendition still stands up, Prince’s duet with Rosie Gaines never quite fired, while the version cut with The Family is almost entirely overlooked. Finally, we all get to witness this grand opus as it was originally intended. Penned during a burst of creativity at his Flying Cloud Drive Warehouse, Prince’s engineer Susan Rogers places it in her Top 10. Out on limited 7” picture disc and standard 7”

Rarest N/A

CHELSEA RODGERS (US PROMO 12” 2007)

Fierce disco magnificence featuring NPG newbie Shelby J on vocals, this is a hidden gem from Planet Earth, available only as a vinyl promo. Written about a mystery model, Sheila E sits in on percussion here and one-time James Brown cohort Maceo Parker is on horns. This one may be a little rare, but decent copies regularly appear on online auction sites. B-side Mr. Goodnight is worth a mention, too.

Rarest N/A

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Long Live Vinyl - Jul-18
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