Out There

The Vault...Old Friends 4 Sale
(Warner Bros. Records)

Among the unreleased Prince albums sitting in Warner Bros. Records vaults: a note-for-note redo of James Brown's 1962 Live at the Apollo album, complete with canned applause; a soul-jazz-prog-fusion-polka two-man ballet titled DMSR, 4 Feet; a collaboration with Sly Stone, Bernie Worrell, and Britney Spears called Deep N the Pink; 34 remixes of "Batdance," including one in Yiddish; and a punk-rock concept album about a record label that keeps its artists imprisoned in a dungeon-cum-studio, allowing them to come out only when it's time to tour (it's name: Funk U, Warners). The man needs vaults in which to keep his vaults, so prodigious is his output.

Nearly every Prince (or The Artist Formerly Known) album since 1994 has been a rest-of: the why-did-ya Come, the not-bad Chaos & Disorder, and the five-disc Crystal Ball set available to suckers through the mail (and that doesn't include the official release of The Black Album). He's got product enough to fill a thousand landfills. Don't be fooled by the "official bootleg" status bestowed upon this cynical product. You can smell this one coming, despite Warners' bloated claim that The Vault is a "major event for Prince fans worldwide." Maybe a disc with the "Manic Monday" demo would be a good place to start. But after all this time, who the hell cares anymore?

Here's yet another piece of throwaway plastic to prove quantity beats out quality in the Paisley Park empire, and this one ought to come with a warning sticker. After all, Prince gave this to Warners as a parting gift, allowing the label to release it once it freed him from his contract. (They also get to release all five hours of Prince belching and farting, another bootleg treasure among the diehards; that boxed set is due in December.) Now who's the slave? Listen to what he stuck Warners with: 10 lifeless tracks, one of which appeared on the Girl 6 soundtrack in a blessedly shorter form, and nine of which are as incidental as anything the man ever recorded, threw away, rescued, then threw away again between 1985 and 1994.

"It's About That Walk" doesn't even sound like a Prince outtake; think more along the lines of the Bus Boys. "Sarah" sounds as funky as a Tonight Show commercial break; you half expect Prince to break into a rundown of who's on tomorrow night's program. Then there's the exquisitely hysterical "My Little Pill," a minute-long spoken-word ditty about a single mother hooked on the pixie dust (or...something). Not that the entire disc is a bust: Worth rescuing is "5 Women" -- as in, it took five women to get one off of Prince's dirty mind -- which could have been on an Al Green record, circa 1973. If only it weren't on this record.


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