Crystal Ball (1998)

Disc One 1. Crystal Ball 2. Dream Factory 3. Acknowledge Me 4. Ripopgodazippa 5. Love Sign 6. Hide the Bone 7. 2morrow 8. So Dark 9. Movie Star 10. Tell Me How U Wanna Be Done Disc Two 1. Interactive 2. Da Bang 3. Calhoun Square 4. What’s My Name 5. Crucial 6. An Honest Man 7. Sexual Suicide 8. Cloreen Baconskin 9. Good Love 10. Strays of the World Disc Three 1. Days of Wild 2. Last Heart 3. Poom Poom 4. She Gave Her Angels 5. 18 & Over 6. The Ride 7. Get Loose 8. P Control 9. Make Your Mama Happy 10. Goodbye


Prince’s second triple CD collection in a row. This one, however, is much different from the wonderful Emancipation in many ways. First, some background:

With the mid 1990s in full swing, the World Wide Web is now becoming much more well-known and widely utilized. Sites about everything and anything appear rapidly. Obviously, among these sites are fan’s paying tribute to their favorite musicians. Prince’s fans are no exception. Except Prince, himself isn’t that happy. You would think a guy would love his fans paying their respects in such a fashion, but the purple one is not amused. He even threatens legal action – especially where song clips appear.

Strangely, he utilizes this same tool to release his 1998 upcoming album. He’s been so disgusted with the music industry, record labels, and the business as a whole, he decides to do the whole thing himself. If people want his new album, they can go to a site on the internet, order it themselves, and bypass all of the middle channels. Not really too bad of an idea, but one must remember that this was 1998. Sites like TIDAL and I-Tunes didn’t exist yet, and technology was not advanced enough for people to click on a link and have an entire CD (let alone three) magically download onto their computer in a matter of minutes. No, when we remember the times, we recall that “using the internet” to buy a CD basically meant getting an address off a website and mailing in a check.

In this case, it wasn’t as simple as it was designed. Without going into too much detail, the endeavor was badly managed. Orders were delayed, production was slow, and many users had to even “cut out” their own artwork for the CD. The promised “Crystal Ball” jewel case looked more like a petri dish then some sort of fantasmical orb used to foresee the future.

All this to say that nothing ended up being worth all the hoopla anyway. This triple CD collection is basically a bunch of sub-par leftovers dating as far back as 1983. There’s no continuity, and the whole thing just feels patched. If one looks hard, very hard, one can find a significant chunk of material that is enjoyable, but 30 songs is a lot of material to dig through to find six or seven decent songs. It’s easy to see why all of these respective songs were left off the original CDs for their respective sessions in the first place.

Not surprisingly, this record basically started a downward spiral for Prince, and he never truly recovered from it. Oh, sure, he would put out a couple more great CDs during his lifetime, but his eccentric behavior and bizarre projects such as this simply alienated too many people. It didn’t help when some major retailers ended up carrying this mammoth set a few months after the hoopla had died down, which probably further angered the many that had swim up the creek without a paddle to obtain the over-hyped thing in the first place.

I think there were a couple of bonus CDs as well. I’ve heard one. The one where it’s just Prince demoing songs with an acoustic guitar. Interesting? Perhaps. Entertaining? Definitely not.

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