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PRINCE 1999: SUPER DELUXE EDITION

HOT ON THE HEELS OF ORIGINALS COMES THIS COLLECTOR’S EDITION REISSUE OF 1999, COMPLETE WITH A TREASURE TROVE OF UNRELEASED TRACKS
© Allen Beaulieu

WARNER

★★★★★

Unless you’re a total Classic Pop newcomer, you’ll know already just how important the original version of Prince’s 1999 album is. It’s the record which turned him from precocious funk/ rock maverick into, well, Prince.

Fed up of being ghettoised, stung by being booed off-stage supporting The Rolling Stones, determined to be a more disciplined bandleader after his best friend Andre Cymone left… it all combined into Prince writing songs that were simply undeniable. Creating Little Red Corvette for the rock audience and 1999 for the dancefl oor, on his fi fth album Prince was ready to enter the space race with Michael Jackson and then Madonna to be the biggest pop star on the planet.

Those singles apart, 1999 is, on the surface, an odd make-up for a classic: its 11 songs spread out over a 70-minute double album. Tracks were allowed to take as long as they needed on an LP that’s almost as much jazz in spirit as pop. But it’s loose and limber – on-point fl oorfi ller D.M.S.R. and prime fi lth-Prince workout Lady Cab Driver could easily go on twice as long and still leave you wanting more.

It’s small wonder that Prince was easily able to fi ll 70 minutes.

Just fi ve months after Originals opened the vaults, this astonishing boxset offers the fi rst selection of Prince songs neither he or anyone else offi cially released. At least with Originals we already knew how good songs like Manic Monday and Love… Thy Will Be Done were before hearing Prince’s versions.

This time, among the alternative takes of Delirious and International Lover and an early version of Possessed are 17 songs Prince just kept locked up.

Those stories of the incredible unreleased music? Start believing – at least 12 songs are Prince in all his 80s majesty. Only 10-minute jam Purple Music, workmanlike instrumental Colleen and Bold Generation, where you can hear Prince losing interest halfway through, should have stayed hidden.

Of the other demos, Do Yourself A Favor is a tease worthy of Cream; Yah, You Know is mighty pop; Rearrange is an enticing cousin of Raspberry Beret; No Call U surely would have broken any of the Paisley Park protégés… and so it goes on, over a jaw-dropping double album. And once that’s done, there’s a comprehensive round-up of B-sides and remixes and a celebratory live album of a 1982 show from Detroit. Oh, and a Blu-ray of a show fi lmed in Houston just after Christmas.

By the time in the Houston concert where you’ve seen Prince starting to realise he’s fi nally about to become a superstar, with everything that entails – roughly halfway into a sensational Head – this boxset is so good it’s taking the piss. It’s fi ve CDs or 10 LPs based around one album and all of it’s golden.

Thats how great Prince was once he decided to go global. Treat yourself or start making hints – it’s going to be a purple Christmas. John Earls

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About Classic Pop

In the latest issue, we have an exclusive interview with synth pioneers Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark as they celebrate 40 years of marrying art with pop. Elsewhere, we welcome back Simply Red – Mick Hucknall talks us through new album Blue Eyed Soul and Classic Pop speaks to Prince’s inner circle as the Purple One’s wonderful 1999 LP gets a revelatory boxset treatment. Our classic album this month is Peter Gabriel’s iconic So, the perfect union of pop and World music that made the former Genesis frontman a global star. There’s a dash of Acid Jazz funkiness as we meet Incognito and The Brand New Heavies plus we hear from Bruce Hornsby about how Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon has given him some latter-day hipster cachet. We take an in-depth look at the solo back catalogue of George Michael in our Album By Album feature and also hear from Midge Ure about his 1980 Tour and brand new career retrospective compilation. In our extensive reviews section, we put new albums from the likes of A-ha’s Magne Furuholmen, Anna Of The North, Alphabeat, The Wonder Stuff and David Hasselhoff under the microscope and there’s a bumper crop of reissues including that huge Prince boxset, Rick Astley, The Police, Sparks, David Bowie, Simple Minds, Factory Records and much more. Our books special includes reviews of Prince’s autobiography The Beautiful Ones, Andrew Ridgeley’s George & Me plus Debbie Harry’s Face It and more. For live reviews, we head to Hyde Park for Radio 2’s Festival In A Day – headlined by Pet Shop Boys – and elbow our way down the front for shows by xPropaganda/D:uel, Tanita Tikaram, The International Teachers Of Pop and Morten Harket.