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Prince: The Vault... Old Friends 4 Sale



Album: The Vault... Old Friends 4 Sale
Label: Warner Bros.

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Back before he started releasing virtually everything he recorded and changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, Prince's vaults were legendary, said to be filled with songs for which the many bootlegs trickling out of Paisley Park represented only the tip of the iceberg. Now, thanks to an unfulfilled contract with Warner Bros., the vaults have been opened, commencing with a none-too-generous 39-minute selection of material recorded between 1985 and 1994. For any further information, you'll have to do some research, as this CD looks and feels like a flea-market bootleg; it needs only the smell of cheap incense to make the package complete. This wouldn't be a problem, of course, if Old Friends 4 Sale contained material of a high enough quality to compensate for its paltry running time and lack of liner notes. But the selection is as scattershot as the songs are disappointing. "She Spoke To Me" is an endless, uninspired jam, while the title track and the album-closing "Extraordinary" find Prince falling back on the ballad-by-numbers habit that brought down so many of his later Warner Bros. albums. (Prince, like Elvis, is rarely at his best on ballads, but, also like Elvis, he seems addicted to them.) Only one song, "Sarah," shows enough energy and inventiveness to warrant proper release. Warners reportedly has hours of this stuff, meaning that Prince may get to be Tupac Shakur without dying, watching as every last recorded note finds its way to the surface. It's increasingly frustrating to follow his career, and Prince may be doing essentially the same thing on albums like Crystal Ball, but he still deserves better.