Crystal Ball (box set)

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For the unreleased LP, see Crystal Ball (unreleased album).
Crystal Ball
Box set by Prince
Released March 3, 1998
Recorded 1983–96
Genre Pop, funk, rock
Length 2:29:10
Label NPG
Producer Prince
Prince chronology
Emancipation
(1996)
Crystal Ball
(1998)
The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale
(1999)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[1]
The A.V. Club favorable[2]
Entertainment Weekly B+[3]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[4]
Yahoo! Music (favorable)[5]

Crystal Ball is a four-disc box set by American recording artist Prince. It contains three compilation albums of "previously bootlegged" material, along with The Truth, a bonus disc of 12 new acoustic songs. Internet pre-orders included an instrumental album, Kamasutra.

Prince once planned to release a 3-LP album around 1986, also called Crystal Ball. That album was edited down to a 2-LP and renamed Sign o' the Times. Its title track became the title track for this compilation, 10 years later.

Contents[edit]

Disc 1[edit]

The set opens with "Crystal Ball". The over 10-minute long number begins with 2-minutes of a lone drum machine and various sound effects before the vocals start. The experimental, suite-like song contains somewhat depressing lyrics and changes musical directions several times — touching on funk, rock, jazz and even classical strings (which were later sampled in "The Future" from the Batman soundtrack). The 1986 track was originally part of the Dream Factory project. Next up is the aforementioned "Dream Factory". Like the previous track, Prince's voice is pitched up an octave in the vein of Camille. "Dream Factory" was reportedly written about Paul Peterson when he decided to leave The Family project. The loud choruses of the song are alternated with jazzy subdued verses. Following "Dream Factory" are two tracks originally intended for The Gold Experience: "Acknowledge Me" and "Ripopgodazippa". "Acknowledge Me" opens with a shouted sample from former band member, Boni Boyer. The song has a New Jack Swing feel and Prince sings about a woman who "gives her body to another" while her mind is with him. In the song's coda, Prince delivers an extended rap. Interestingly, "Acknowledge Me" begins and ends with samples from 2 unreleased Prince songs: the opening sample is from "The Line", a 1988 track while the end contains a slowed-down vocal originally from "All My Dreams", a Parade leftover from 1985. "Ripopgodazippa" has a slinky reggae beat and describes a sexual encounter. Prince even tries to affect a Jamaican accent for the number. Mayte provides additional vocals. The "Love Sign" remix is a version of the duet with Nona Gaye, originally on the 1-800-NEW-FUNK compilation album; it samples Prince's 1983 track "D.M.S.R." "Hide the Bone" is a funk-rock number originally intended for The Gold Experience. A heavy drumbeat drives this sexual request for Prince to hide his "bone". "2morrow" was written during the Emancipation sessions and samples the chorus from "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World". The track takes advantage of Prince's multi-tracked vocals and piano work, recalling some of his jazz-inspired material. "So Dark" is a remix of "Dark" from the Come album, stripping out the horns, organ and live drums and laying the lyrics over a simple drum machine pattern. "Movie Star" was originally a Dream Factory track and according to liner notes, inspired by Morris Day. The jazzy number is filled with humor and pokes fun at Prince's celebrity. The first disc ends with "Tell Me How U Wanna B Done", a remix of "The Continental" from 1992's Love Symbol album. Remixed by NPG band member Kirk Johnson in 1995, this version adds a repetitive keyboard riff and scratching to the original song's coda section.

Disc 2[edit]

Disc 2 comprises primarily rock and funk numbers. It opens with "Interactive", originally written in 1993. The song was part of the first collection of new material after adopting the symbolic moniker and featured in the Glam Slam Ulysses project. It was also the only standalone audio track on Prince's Interactive video game CD, and considered for multiple projects: Come, The Gold Experience and The Dawn. The song is propelled by live drums and a strong bassline. Sound effect contribute to the computer-based "interactive theme", and Prince delivers a searing guitar solo at the end. "Interactive" is followed by another rock number called "Da Bang". Recorded by Prince alone (and bored) in the studio, according to the liner notes, "Da Bang" alternates between laid-back bluesy verses and a frenzied instrumental rock chorus. Next is "Calhoun Square", a 1993 song which is very similar in structure to "Da Bang". The song appears to be a live take, with Prince giving the band instructions at the beginning. The title refers to a shopping mall in Minnesota (see Calhoun Square). Another similarly structured song from 1993 follows — "What's My Name". This is the second track on the disc to have been part of the Glam Slam Ulysses project. Referring to Prince's stage name change to a symbol, the verses are little more than Prince speaking quietly over a synthesized bass and altered drum machine. The choruses break into an attack of pounding live drums and ferocious bass, being joined by scratching and a sampled police siren. The pace slows down for the ballad "Crucial". Replaced by "Adore" on Sign 'O' the Times, "Crucial" also features Prince falsetto vocals and an intricate drum machine pattern. The song fades out with a guitar solo. Outtakes of this song continue for several more minutes and one replaces the guitar solo with saxophone by Eric Leeds. "An Honest Man" existed as an instrumental in Under the Cherry Moon but a circulating rehearsal exists where Prince sings the lyrics to the tune as well. This version is totally different — it is a slow, 73-second mostly a cappella version with Prince's multi-layered vocals and a synth briefly appearing at the end. Following is another song from the Parade era, "Sexual Suicide". Featuring a similar synth sound as "Girls & Boys", Prince sings about sexual suicide, or celibacy. A few differences exist between this version and the circulating outtake, indicating Prince may have made some additions to this song before adding to the collection. "Cloreen Baconskin" is the oldest and longest track on the album, being recorded in 1983 and clocking in at over 15 minutes. The song is a jam with Morris Day on drums and Prince providing the bass and vocals. The songs bears a strong resemblance to "Tricky", a B-side from The Time, and likely cut at the same time. In a vocal delivery similar to James Brown, Prince ad-libs throughout the song in a raspy vocal about his ugly wife named Cloreen Baconskin, and her brother Alfred. Like "Tricky", the track also seems to be a good-natured dig against funk legend George Clinton, and is likely a humorous tribute to James Brown as well. Track 9 is "Good Love" — a Camille track that originally was released on the Bright Lights, Big City soundtrack. The 1986 number is playful and upbeat, featuring interesting drum machines and synths throughout. Prince makes several references to Gustav Mahler. The disc closes with "Strays of the World". Like the opening track, "Interactive", "Strays of the World" was featured in Glam Slam Ulysses and was later planned to be on the Come album. The generally positive track bears some resemblance to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" in combining rock with classical styles. The number was tailored for the Glam Slam Ulysses and appears operatic in parts. The song ends with a wild guitar solo and Prince whispering, "Come".

Disc 3[edit]

The third disc opens with a live version of "Days of Wild". Punchier than the unreleased studio recording, the funk song is extended by several minutes for instrumental jamming and audience participation. The NPG Operator speaks at the end to introduce the next song — "Welcome to the dawn, you have just accessed..." which is interrupted by "Last Heart", a Dream Factory track from 1986. The experimental track combines funk and jazz and tells the tale of a man who tells his ex, "If U break my heart one more time, it'll be the last heart U ever break". A scream of "What am I gonna do?" opens the next track — "Poom Poom". The title refers to the vagina, which apparently Prince can't stop thinking about. The choruses contain a consistent repeat of "poom poom poom..." functioning as percussion. The song is an outtake from Emancipation and is a funk number driven by a pulsating drum machine pattern (recycled from the song "Big Fun" on NPG's "Exodus" album). The pace is slowed for "She Gave Her Angels", a song Prince had previously performed on Muppets Tonight. It begins with delicate piano, gradually adding more instruments. The songs somewhat recalls "Friend, Lover, Sister, Mother/Wife" from Emancipation. Unlike the previously performed version, this one ends with a searing, lengthy guitar solo. Next is "18 & Over", which uses the music from the title track of Come, but adds a hip hop-inspired high-pitched keyboard line. A raunchy ode to sex, an oft repeating line is "18 & over, I wants 2 bone ya". The rapped number makes several humorous references to "boning" (meaning sex) such as "freak U 2 the marrow" and "the Bone Ranger". Prince even makes reference to the song's music, stating that he's "all gone, like the horns in this song" — "Come" was a highly horn-boosted number, but those were removed for "18 & Over". Following the rap is blues with "The Ride". The song originates from 1993 and has been played many times over the years. This recording was from 1995 and gives Prince the chance to stretch out on a lengthy guitar solo. At the song's conclusion, it leads immediately into "Get Loose", a mostly instrumental reworking of "Loose" from Come. The only prominent line is "Lemme see that body get loose!" This reworking is more sinister than the original and ends with Prince throwing a barb at record company Warner Bros. Next up is a remix of "P. Control", with the original opening The Gold Experience. "Make Your Mama Happy" is more interesting. The 1986 track was recorded with Susannah Melvoin (Wendy's twin sister & ex-Prince fiancee) singing background vocals and has a positive message to do your best in life. the track's vocals are sung as a sort of homage to Sly & The Family stone in its approach. The music is jazzy and playful with funky horns from Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss. The disc and the album end with "Goodbye", a ballad originally intended for Emancipation. Sung in falsetto, the song is musically very reminiscent of the other Emancipation ballads.

Album controversy[edit]

The album is a source of much controversy and a sore spot with many fans. Initially promised to be released in early 1997, Prince later stated that he wouldn't even press the album until he received a minimum of 50,000 pre-orders. Even after pre-orders were received, it was nearly a year before fans started receiving their copies.[citation needed] The shipping process was poorly managed, and some fans received their orders months later, if at all. Fans were also promised a transparent package in the shape of an actual crystal ball; instead, when the album finally shipped, it appeared in a flat circular container that many fans dubbed "the Plastic Hockey Puck" or "Crystal Petri Dish." Fans who pre-ordered the disc were directed to a website containing the liner notes and cover art for consumers to print, cut out, and place in their CD case.

The album was also made available in retail stores, which questioned the need for pre-orders in the first place. Furthermore, the album that appeared in stores contained an actual booklet with cover art liner notes, which the pre-ordered copies did not. As a peace-offering, Prince included a fifth disc, Kamasutra, which was not available in the version shipped to stores. Some customers also received a New Power Generation concert t-shirt or a cassette tape of the newly recorded "The War" for free.

The contents were also a point of contention with fans. Although advertised as a decades-spanning collection, most of the tracks were from the mid- to late-1990s. Also nearly a third of the tracks were remixes of previously released material. Some of the other tracks were unnecessarily edited; this was a particular problem since Crystal Ball's stated purpose was to eliminate the need for bootlegs, yet fans would still have to depend on said bootlegs to hear the full versions of the songs. Many consumers also complained that there was room for more material on the three discs, which ran about 45 minutes each. Indeed, the set could have easily fit 5 or more additional songs per disc. Others complained that the "bonus" albums The Truth and Kamasutra were filled with sub-par material. All in all, the album was considered a debacle. Prince inadvertently alienated a large portion of his fan base due to his poor handling of the release,[6] particularly in his sizable online fan community, where a number of anti-fan sites sprang up citing Crystal Ball as the catalyst.

Track listing[edit]

  • * - denotes song edited/revised for this compilation & can be found in original form on unofficial bootlegs.
  • ‡ - denotes remix of already released song.
  • † - Found in full form on Bright Lights, Big City soundtrack.
Disc One
  1. "Crystal Ball"* - 10:28 (recorded 1986)
  2. "Dream Factory"* - 3:07 (recorded 1985)
  3. "Acknowledge Me"* - 5:27 (recorded 1993)
  4. "Ripopgodazippa" - 4:39 (recorded 1993)
  5. "Love Sign" (Shock G's Silky Remix)‡ - 3:53 (recorded 1994)
  6. "Hide the Bone" - 5:04 (recorded 1993)
  7. "2morrow" - 4:14 (recorded 1995)
  8. "So Dark"‡ - 5:14 (recorded 1994)
  9. "Movie Star"* - 4:26 (recorded 1986)
  10. "Tell Me How U Wanna B Done"‡ - 3:16 (recorded 1992)
Disc Two
  1. "Interactive" - 3:04 (recorded 1993)
  2. "Da Bang" - 3:20 (recorded 1995)
  3. "Calhoun Square"* - 4:47 (recorded 1993)
  4. "What's My Name" - 3:04 (recorded 1993)
  5. "Crucial"* - 5:06 (recorded 1986)
  6. "An Honest Man"* - 1:13 (recorded 1985)
  7. "Sexual Suicide"* - 3:40 (recorded 1985)
  8. "Cloreen Baconskin" - 15:37 (recorded 1983)
  9. "Good Love"† - 4:55 (recorded 1986)
  10. "Strays of the World" - 5:07 (recorded 1993)
Disc Three
  1. "Days of Wild" (Live)* - 9:20 (recorded 1995)
  2. "Last Heart"* - 3:01 (recorded 1986)
  3. "Poom Poom" - 4:32 (recorded 1996)
  4. "She Gave Her Angels" - 3:53 (recorded 1996)
  5. "18 & Over"* - 5:40 (recorded 1994)
  6. "The Ride" (Live)* - 5:14 (recorded 1995)
  7. "Get Loose"‡ - 3:31 (recorded 1994)
  8. "P Control"‡ - 6:00 (recorded 1995)
  9. "Make Your Mama Happy" - 4:01 (recorded 1986)
  10. "Goodbye" - 4:35 (recorded 1995)

Bonus discs[edit]

The Truth[edit]

The Truth
Studio album by Prince
Recorded 1996–1997
Genre Acoustic
Length 43:25
Label NPG
Producer Prince

The Truth was included with the Crystal Ball 3-CD set. The arrangements are mainly based around the acoustic guitar, augmented with elaborate production effects, multi-layered vocals, and occasional percussion and percussive effects. A CD single was released prior to the album consisting of the album's first 2 tracks.

  1. "The Truth" – 3:34
  2. "Don't Play Me" – 2:48
  3. "Circle of Amour" – 4:43
  4. "3rd Eye" – 4:53
  5. "Dionne" – 3:13
  6. "Man In a Uniform" – 3:07
  7. "Animal Kingdom" – 4:01
  8. "The Other Side of the Pillow" – 3:21
  9. "Fascination" – 4:55
  10. "One of Your Tears" – 3:27
  11. "Comeback" – 1:59
  12. "Welcome 2 the Dawn" (acoustic version) – 3:17

Kamasutra[edit]

Kamasutra
Studio album by The NPG Orchestra
Released January 29, 1998[7]
Recorded 1995
Genre Classical, Jazz
Label NPG Records
Producer Prince

Kamasutra is an instrumental album by Prince, using the pseudonym of 'The NPG Orchestra', released in 1998. The album was written to be played during Prince's wedding to Mayte in 1996. All the tracks are instrumentals, ranging from classical music, jazz and experimentations with various sounds. For example, the track "Cutz" uses the sound of scissors snipping as its basis. One of the tracks, "The Plan" was previewed in an excerpt on the 1996 3-CD set Emancipation.

  1. "The Plan" – 2:02
  2. "Kamasutra" – 11:49
  3. "At Last... The Lost Is Found" – 3:38
  4. "The Ever Changing Light" – 3:00
  5. "Cutz" – 3:03
  6. "Serotonin" – 0:46
  7. "Promise/Broken" – 3:45
  8. "Barcelona" – 2:17
  9. "Kamasutra/Overture #8" – 3:13
  10. "Coincidence or Fate?" – 3:22
  11. "Kamasutra/Eternal Embrace" – 4:02

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]