There’s something about Prince and the Internet that just never quite gelled. In the last 15 years, the guy has abandoned more web/commerce models than anyone you can think of. Both NPGOnlineLtd.com and love4oneanother.com were early forays that quickly went by the wayside. At the turn of the century, The NPG Music Club was his best, offering these web-only releases and digital singles. I wanted to join The NPGMC, but it wasn’t Mac-friendly. Those are lost sales. Prince’s latest, LotusFlower, was scrapped barely a year in, and I’m sure I’m missing one or two. Was 1-800-NEWFUNK an online presence? These days, Prince appears to be looking for something completely, outside-the-box different, turning his back on the viability of the web as a sales vehicle in the process… even seemingly no longer fazed by its thieving denizens. He’s a smart guy, he’ll think of something. You know he can’t stop creating… so it’s just a matter of what he’s gonna do with it all. A note about the (included) art work. Unless I’m mistaken, it’s all fan-generated. We’ve got more Prince in the archives.
The Chocolate Invasion (2004)
The Chocolate Invasion is comprised of tracks from the projected (but abandoned) full length 2000 album, High. Only “Judas Smile” and “The Dance” were not included, so most of this material comes from just before Prince’s religious conversion – after Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic and before The Rainbow Children. There’s no obvious thematic thread here, just a solid collection of tunes. Note the smooth line in the opening track, “I will touch thee in the softest manner, like ‘Europa’ in the hands of Santana” (followed by a Carlos-ian lead riff). A good Prince release to have.
When Eye Lay My Hands On U (6:37)
Judas Smile (3:45)
Underneath The Cream (4:04)
The Dance (4:45)
U Make My Sun Shine (7:06)
The Slaughterhouse (2004)
Containing three more tracks from the shelved High, and “2045: Radical Man,” also found on the Spike Lee soundtrack, Bamboozled. The Slaughterhouse seems to contain more material from the same 1999-2001 period as The Chocolate Invasion. In fact, a few of the cuts on both web albums seem as if they were written with Bamboozled in mind, so maybe some of these tracks were offered for consideration. Only one Prince track was used. I like this set’s mix of grungy funk and smooth vibes.
Y Should Eye Do That? (4:33)
Golden Parachute (5:38)
Props N Pounds (4:38)
2045: Radical Man (6:37)
The Daisy Chain (6:13)
It’s subtitled “New Directions In Music,” but, in reality, Xpectation is a smooth update of Prince’s jazzier experimentations, this time featuring the mostly female lineup of Candy Dulfer (sax), Vanessa Mae (violin), Rhonda Smith (bass) and John Blackwell (drums). Prince’s piano work had developed by leaps and bounds during this era, and he advanced way beyond his basic pop/funk fills into a fully nuanced jazz player. The One Nite Alone box set, and solo piano album of the same name – both from the early 00s – capture that growth. The music here, similar to past forays like N.E.W.S. and Crystal Ball‘s Kamasutra, may not be of much interest to P’s funkier fan base. Note: The irritating surface noise in “Xpand” is apparently intended.
C-Note is a series of lengthy, instrumental live recordings – jams and soundchecks – from Prince’s 2002 One Nite Alone Tour. Only “Empty Room” is an actual song, which Prince dusted off from the 80s to reintroduce here. Most downloads of C-Note that you’ll find (like this one) include a “bonus” track – a longer version of “Copenhagen.” The story is that this extended version is the original one posted by Prince, only to be removed just days later, in favor of the shorter version. You get both.
Empty Room (4:02)
Copenhagen (13:28) (First Version Bonus)
Different from the above NPG web-only downloads, High is a never-released album Prince put together in, or around, 2000. Instead of issuing it, however, Prince ended up dismantling it and scattering various versions via The NPG Music Club a few years later. Most of these recordings found their way onto The Chocolate Invasion and The Slaughterhouse, though… some are slightly altered, lengthened and/or shortened. “When Will We B Paid” made it to a CD B-side. Archaeologists have given High two or three different unofficial running orders. This one works as well as the next. Solid P.
My Medallion (5:07)
Golden Parachute (5:32)
When Will We B Paid (4:07)
Underneath The Cream (4:00)
The Daisy Chain (6:10)
U Make My Sun Shine (5:53)
When Eye Lay My Hands On U (3:40)