When Will They Sort Out The Prince Catalog?
As I make my way through the entire catalogs of three major pop gods, Presley, McCartney, and Prince, I am stymied by Prince. I am up to album #50 with Presley, and have gone through Macca’s Wings years without a glitch, but Prince has been increasingly difficult to find. Recently, I had to review the second “One Nite Alone” from memory, and while I did find all three NPG instrumental albums on Tidal, Musicology has proven elusive and that makes no sense.
After years of albums that nobody wanted or if they did want could even find, the 2004 release was very important for Prince. A lesson in music according to Prince, it was distributed by Columbia, meaning it was a major pop move. Prince extensively toured behind it, a five month regaining of lost ground from March through September. The album was given away at the shows, with the price added to the price of the ticket, and that little maneuver pushed it double platinum; the show was a masterpiece of Princelyness and returned his crown untarnished (I went, it was excellent). Many consider it his last great album. But it isn’t on Apple Music or the Itunes store, so you can neither stream it nor buy it. The only way you can get it i is to do what I’ve had to do, buy the CD second hand off Amazon.
Now Van Morrison has righted his ship, there is no bigger mess than the Prince back catalog (well, Louis Armstrong is worse but otherwise). There are gaping holes everywhere, you can’t stream it anywhere but Tidal and they are taking it off Tidal as we speak. You can’t buy much of the songs as MP3s and, inexplicably, you can’t get your hands on Musicology without investing $50 on an OK album from twelve years ago.
While his heirs go through the vaults and start releasing and re releasing his material (earlier this year there was a very early demos released on MP3 only), the place to start is with what we already have, no more than fifty albums that are the bulk of the funk genius’s legacy, but they aren’t doing it. Perhaps they think they have time, but Prince isn’t MJ (somebody needs to clean that one up as well) and Prince devalues to hits easily after decades of unsuccessful releases. Now is the time to get the albums out. The lot. All of them. Everywhere. And then start in on the boxed sets, and unreleased from the vaults.
It’s not as though there isn’t precedent for this. If you look at both the Miles Davis and the Frank Sinatra (and Presley, when they aren’t cash cowing him) re releases, excellent Box Sets for everything, that is exactly what Prince deserves (actually: when will they straighten out the Beatles into individual album box sets? What’s the hold up?). Instead, you can’t even get your hands on the obvious choices… Is that what Prince meant by creative control? A control where no one can listen to anything but your hits?