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Jan 29 2018

Prince – Crystal Ball / The Truth / Kamasutra

Prince - Crystal Ball - Website entry to disc information (crystalballcd.com)

– Crystal Ball – Website entry to disc information

Introduction

This article is about Crystal Ball, The Truth & Kamasutra. On January 29th, 1998, 20 years ago today, the first shipment was delivered.

Content

Because Prince used as his name in 1998, this symbol will be used regularly in this story to identify Prince.

After describing the manner of releasing the album, all 3 albums within the set are reviewed, followed by a conclusion and the subsequent actions. Therefore, this article is divided up into 5 parts:

  1. Way of release
  2. Crystal Ball
  3. The Truth
  4. Kamasutra
  5. Conclusion and after
Prince - Crystal Ball - Flyer (facebook.com)

– Crystal Ball – Flyer

Way of release

With the release of Emancipation, was finally freed of his, in his eyes, stifling Warner Bros. Records contract. His first release was a 3 hour long, 3 cd box-set, containing 36 new songs. A ‘tour de force’ by one-man band . To , it was what he had craved for all along. One of the major reasons behind his unhappiness with Warners was that his output, by definition, outpaced the record company’s release ability and capability. From now on that was all going to be different.

New business-model

On July 7th, 1997, MTV NEWS announced:

MTV News logo (mtv.com)

PRINCE’S “CRYSTAL BALL” ONLINE

Fans of Prince will soon be able to order a three-CD set called, “Crystal Ball,” directly from the artist, by phone or through the Internet.

Eliminating the middle man, the artist has decided to take pre-orders for the set, which features only unreleased material — although much of it has already been played in concert and bootlegged. There will be both old and new material, ten tracks of which are already listed on the Internet.

The set can be ordered through Prince’s website (www.love4oneanother.com), or through his toll-free line, 1-800-NEW-FUNK.

The price and release date haven’t been revealed yet, although it’s rumored the set will go for about $50. The sound is said to fall somewhere between “Sign O’ the Times” and “The Gold Experience,” with a New Power Generation Vibe. As a special touch, some 2,500 copies of the set will be packaged to look like a crystal ball.

The artist also just finished a 12-track acoustic guitar album entitled, “The Truth.” Some 100,000 lucky fans who have either filled out flyers at the artist’s concerts or who call his 800 number, will receive copies mailed at random, when the album’s ready.

MTV NEWS STAFF, 07-07-1997

N.B.: Noticeably, MTV still identifies as Prince, which was unusual at the time.

Away with the intermediary trade, away with the record executives, away with the retail trade: was going to deliver his music directly to his fans, by himself. And lots of it.

As announced, Crystal Ball was going to be a 3 cd box-set, containing bootlegged material, popular among fans. At the same time it was a (futile) attempt to beat the bootleggers. And, a new album: The Truth, an acoustic album with 12 new songs. Great times!

Screenshot 1800newfunk.com website (hyperallergic.com)

Screenshot 1800newfunk.com website

In reality

The release of the cd-set Crystal Ball was first mentioned as early as November 1996. It could only be ordered by phone, using the number 1-800 NEW FUNK. I ordered it by calling the US. I don’t recall when exactly, but I guess it must have been in the first half of 1997. The album was going to be released when at least 100,000 copies were ordered. Midway through 1997 it was confirmed that Crystal Ball would indeed be released.

Prince - Crystal Ball - Flyer (prince.org)

– Crystal Ball – Flyer

However, it lasted and lasted. Fans became irritated. Compensations were announced. The album wasn’t only going to contain the acoustic album The Truth, but also the (instrumental) album Kamasutra, performed by The NPG Orchestra, which had been previously released on February 14th, 1997, only on cassette-tape.

The first batch of box-sets were shipped in early January of 1998. The release date of the set has been set on January 29th, 1998, because on that date first reports were made by people actually receiving it in the mail.

More problems arose at the time of shipping the box-sets. Many didn’t receive the set, because their orders hadn’t come through (completely). On other occasions the set was billed several times, sometimes up to 4 or 5 times. Luckily, all went well with my order, although I received the package very late: on April 8th, 1998.

Prince - Crystal Ball - Retail version (wikipedia.org)

– Crystal Ball – Retail version

Adding to the chaos: by the time I received Crystal Ball, it was readily available in shops. On March 21st, 1998, Crystal Ball was released to retail stores (March 30th, 1998, in the Netherlands). But, it was a 4 cd version. The Kamasutra cd was not a part of that version.

Prince - Crystal Ball - Pre-order versie (apoplife.nl)

– Crystal Ball – Pre-order version

Everyone who had ordered on-line or using the phone service, received the set in a transparent box (meant to resemble a crystal ball), in which 5 cd’s could be placed. Liner-notes, a booklet, photos, etc. were lacking. However, the retail version did contain them. Once again a disappointment for all those who went through the NPG ordering procedures.

Meanwhile, all of ‘s dealings were monitored very closely by the music industry. did something innovative and the industry feared its consequences. At the time, Napster was around the corner, but copying digital music had been discovered, which was a far greater threat than using cassettes in the vinyl era.

Many must have been very relieved to witness ‘s supposed failure. Most likely the results were met with derision, especially when details of all things that went less prosperous than was expected/hoped for.

Every step of the way could be followed through the MTV news service:

‘s first attempt to provide his fans with music directly, wasn’t a huge success. It was a learning process. By the time the on-line forum NPG Music Club was founded in 2001, was able to fulfill his promise of releasing his music directly to and for the fans.

Prince - Crystal Ball - CD Round Front (crystalballcd.com)

– Crystal Ball – CD Round Front

Crystal Ball

Besides all of the commotion surrounding the release of the 3cd’s worth of “previously bootlegged material”, how did the end result turn out musically?

To intensify the public’s lack of clarity regarding Prince/‘s name, the set was made up of songs from the Paisley Park Vault from 1983 until 1996. That meant that a part of the songs were accredited to Prince and the others to , his official name since June 7th, 1993.

The album is regarded as ‘s fourth album. It is Prince’s 20th.

Originele startpagina van Crystal Ball website (crystalballcd.com)

Original startpage of Crystal Ball website

Relationship to former Crystal Ball

As described in the story on Sign O’ The Times, Prince was considering (in 1986) the release of a 3cd album called Crystal Ball. This eventually evolved into Sign O’ The Times, arguably his ultimate musical statement.

This version of Crystal Ball stands on its own and is not connected to the 1986 version.

Songs

Below, every song will be described, cd by cd.

The liner-notes and images used in the image compilations preceding cd 1, 2 & 3 are copyrighted to website www.crystalballcd.com. The input to the texts is from NPG Records/. The website and contents: © 1997-2001 NPG Records. Design: © 1998 Steffen Bieker & Alica Männl.

Prince - Crystal Ball - CD 1 (crystalballcd.com/apoplife.nl)

– Crystal Ball – CD 1

Crystal Ball

(recorded in 1986)

Intended to be the title song for the planned 3cd Crystal Ball, scheduled for release in 1987. A fan favorite. A kaleidoscopic song that goes in every direction possible. 10 minutes and 26 seconds of funk, rock, jazz, fusion, orchestration, reggae. A magnificent opener to the set.

Liner-notes:
The song Crystal Ball was written in a deepbluefunk depression as Prince pondered his future in a music business that had become more business than music. His only solace during this time was his continuing search 4 a soul mate. All that matters is the love we make 2night. The notion of making love during the apocalypse was an interesting notion 2 us at the time.
Susannah Melvoin lends her voice 2 the track and Claire Fischer arranged and conducted the orchestra. All other noises r made by Prince.

Dream Factory

(recorded in 1985)

Title song to the project Prince was working on with The Revolution, right before they were fired. This would have been a great introduction to the new album, which should have been released… The song is said to be about St. Paul (Peterson) leaving Prince satellite act The Family.

Liner-notes:
Written for a turn coat, who after a quick brush with success, lost themselves in a haze of wine, women and pills… or so the fiction goes? This person is not Prince – “Listen 2 the story of a man m not”.
Susannah sang background and Prince played all instruments.

Acknowledge Me

(recorded in 1993)

Top funk song. In the liner notes The Line is mentioned to be released at a later date. That never happened. The end contains a (voice) sample from the, also never released, (magnificent) All My Dreams from 1985, which was placed on one of the configurations for the Parade album from 1986.

Liner-notes:
Originallty recorded 4 the Gold Experience and replaced by P. Control. Intro voice is by Boni Boyer, sampled from a dop track called “The Line” (2 b released at a later date).

Ripopgodazippa

(recorded in 1993)

One of the most sexually charged song by Prince/:

Instead of walking inside, I just knock on the door
I take a look around until she beggin’ me “More, more, more!”
When I finally come inside, I’m standin’ perfectly still
“I can’t take no more!” Pump U then I will
“I just wanna call your name, but I don’t know what 2 say”

© 1997, NPG Records

Despite the overt eroticism, a mediocre song.

Liner-notes:
Inspired by an episode on a weight lifting bench… Chanté Moore’s “Precious” was the background music.
NPG Hornz are featured with Kathy J. on clarinet, Michael B. and Sonny T. also groovin’ underneath.

Love Sign

(recorded in 1994)

A remix, absolutely dispensable. Has nothing to do with the promised “previously bootlegged material”. A bad remix at that, that does the original no credit at all.

Liner-notes:
Remix by Shock G. was gettin’ ready 2 come out, when Prince’s record company at the time refused license 2 release another single on his own (after the phenomenal success of the release of The Most Beautiful Girl in the World). Sample includes a replayed version of D.M.S.R.

Prince - Crystal Ball - CD 1 (coveralia.com)

– Crystal Ball – CD 1

Hide The Bone

(recorded in 1993)

The live version had been available on bootleg prior to this release. The studio version, which is presented here, was new. Glorious funk song. Great guitar, ‘heavy’ beat. Top song.

Liner-notes:
Original lyrics by Brenda Lee Eager and Hilliard Wilson. Once NPG got it, the dogs buried it in the yard, and when it was finally found, it sounded like this.
Recorded by the NPG – Tommy Barbarella, Sonny T. and Michael B., guitar and vocals by yo mama!

2morrow

(recorded in 1995)

Contains samples of The Most Beautiful Girl In The World. No masterpiece this ballad.

Liner-notes:
Inspired by Cory, the girl from the Love4oneanother experience, but not necessarily true. An unknown member of the NPG had a crush on her.

So Dark

(recorded in 1994)

An oddity in Prince’s body of work, a remake of a previously recorded (and released) song: Dark off the 1994 album Come. A great version of the song. Not essential, but a nice addition anyway.

Liner-notes:
completely redone, phatter joint than the original

Movie Star

(recorded in 1986)

Hilarious song about a movie star (or is it Prince?), who thinks he can get away with various privileges. People surrounding him think differently. A fan favorite. Although it is an edited version, still a great addition!

9:30 – gettin’ dressed
I had a couple sips of wine
Boo! – I swear 2 God
My suit was hangin’ fine
Everybody at the club freaked
When I stepped from the limousine
They said – “Ooh, it’s good 2 see ya”
I said – “Oh, it’s good 2 be seen
U know what I mean'”

© 1997, NPG Records

Liner-notes:
D’Angelo’s favorite bootleg. His love 4 this track inspired its inclusion.
Imagine Morris Day doin’ this! That’s who it was written 4 – The Time.

Tell Me how u Wanna Be Done

(recorded in 1992)

Second remix. It is highly funky and concentrates on the second part of The Continental, one of the (few) highlights of the Prince & The New Power Generation – O(+> album. Despite the omnipresent swing, once again dispensable.

Liner-notes:
During the summer of ’95, this joint was a favorite of Erotic City Dancers in L.A. and MPLS.
Kirky J. did the remix and was rewarded by getting the producer job on Emancipation… PHAT! Carmen Electra is featured on honey-dripped vocal. Video is available upon clearance from Carmen’s conscience.

Prince - Crystal Ball - CD 2 (crystalballcd.com/apoplife.nl)

– Crystal Ball – CD 2

Interactive

(recorded in 1993)

Are you ready?, followed by an impassioned scream. The song had previously been released, in a live version, on the cd-rom Interactive, a true videogame from 1994 (more on that at a later time).

This is the complete studio version of Interactive. A fantastic song!

Liner-notes:
This track was replaced by the Endorphin Machine on the Gold Experience – the Artist didn’t think they worked back 2 back. Originally written because of continued domination of the thought police – this track was a safety valve and probably saved lives.
Mayte sings background.

Da Bang

(recorded in 1995)

Also that good. Rocking, glorious guitar work. Great!

Liner-notes:
Cool little track about no one. bored in L.A., the Artist in the studio, recorded and mixed this little ditty in one day, rode around in a limo and heard it back 32 times.

Calhoun Square

(recorded in 1993)

Incredible funk song with rock intermission. delivers fantastically frantic guitar.

Liner-notes:
This song was actually about the NPG store in Uptown. “Look across the street.”
Michael B., Sonny T., Mr. Hayes and Tommy Barbarella supplied the funk on this. Guitar and Clav by yo grandma!

What’s My Name?

(recorded in 1993)

CD 2 is running very smoothly. Another great song. Mysterious with wild outbursts. Perfect dynamics.

Do U dream in color or do U discriminate?
Do U love others, do U love or do U hate?
Do U worship fire or do U worship a dove?
Do U live a liar or do U live 4 love?

© 1997, NPG Records

Liner-notes:
After the increasing amounts of lollipops using the name Prince – the original came hard with this one.
With Michael B., Mr. Hayes and Sonny T. Solo bass by the original.

Crucial

(recorded in 1986)

Can the second cd become any better than this? Crucial! One of the most favorite Prince songs. Beautiful moving ballad. And it’s the guitar version! But, just before the guitars really break loose, the song is faded out. An inexcusable choice/mistake. The reasoning behind this is completely unclear.

Number 30 in my Prince song top 50.

Liner-notes:
Cool ballad, originally intended for Sign “” The Times album – replaced by Adore.
All instruments and vocals by Prince.

Prince - Crystal Ball - CD 2 (coveralia.com)

– Crystal Ball – CD2

An Honest Man

(recorded in 1985)

A futility. Prior to this, only available as a (live) rehearsal.

Liner-notes:
All vocals by Prince, inspired by Kristin Scott Thomas’ character in Under the Cherry Moon.

Sexual Suicide

(recorded in 1985)

Once again a fan favorite! What a song. Great to own this in this sound quality. A superb addition to his released body of work.

Liner-notes:
After Sheila E. showed Prince this drum beat – he snatched the sticks and pushed record in his warehouse recording studio. The same joint where Girls & boys was recorded. In that same week Superfunkycalifragisexy was cut as well.
Either Wendy or Susannah are on background vocals. Eric Leeds on all hornz.

We r here – where r U?

Cloreen Baconskin

(recorded in 1983)

Very nice jam. Funny ad-libs, but, clocking in at 15:35 minutes, too long.

Liner-notes:
In need of the most explanation. Morris and Prince were in the studio working on The Time’s second album “What time is it?”. 2 keep Morris in the pocket, Prince would go in2 an alter ego voice that was sick, spirited, and highly percussive. This kept it funky. He was just looking 4 a funky beat 2 layer instruments on. The bass line was not important, so he just played the beat on the bass so 2 speak. A new style of playing derived from this recording style, and several songs were cut in the same vibe – the coolest being Irresistible Bitch. Only Morris and Prince were present on this recording. Everything U hear is impromptu. No lyrics or music, even the title was made up a split second be4 U hear it.

Good Love

(recorded in 1986)

Previously released as part of the 1988 soundtrack to the Bright Lights, Big City movie. Edited version. Great song.

Liner-notes:
This track was recorded during an intense period of musical change 4 Prince – he had disbanded the Revolution and moved 2 L.A., booking Sunset Studios – sometimes 4 months at a time. Shockadelica, Feel U Up and parts of the Black Album were also recorded during this period. Prince was happy during this time and very optimistic about his musical possibilities with a new line-up of musicians, which included Sheila E.

Strays Of the World

(recorded in 1993)

Awful song. Period.

Liner-notes:
Originally intended 4 a Broadway musical. Prince would sometimes take meetings with potential collaborators 2 discuss ideas 4 musicals he had. The meetings usually turned the “inspirational well” on and complex introspective songs like this would flow 4th.
Micheal B., Sonny T., Tommy B., and Mr. Hayes backed the Artist on this recording. Claire Fischer arranged and conducted the orchestration.

Prince - Crystal Ball - CD 3 (crystalballcd.com/apoplife.nl)

– Crystal Ball – CD 3

Days Of Wild

(live recording, recorded in 1995)

A fantastic song. Incomprehensibly, the studio version was never released. One of favorite Prince/ songs: number 11 in my Prince song top 50.

Liner-notes:
The spirit of the late-nite Love4OneAnother jams in Paisley Park were best captured by this song and particularly this performance. Peace 2 the friends’ “Free The Slave!”
The NPG stomped on this. Theynowhotheyb!

Last Heart

(recorded in 1986)

Nice pop song.

Liner-notes:
This was intended as a demo, which is usually unheard of in Prince’s mind. He had always intended on re-recording this track, but never got around to it.
Eric Leeds is on sax.

Poom Poom

(recorded in 1996)

A funk song. A bit monotonous, but ‘s maniacal screaming near the end of the song, makes up for a lot, if not everything.

Liner-notes:
Never intended 4 any album, just a funny track 2 make a female laugh – What yo name is?
All sounds by

She Gave Her Angels

(recorded in 1996)

Beautiful ballad with an Empty Room (number 26 in my Prince song top 50) like build-up. played this song when he appeared on the TV show The Muppets Tonight.

Liner-notes:
A true story about Mayte.
All instruments and voices by .

18 & Over

(recorded in 1994)

Horny beat, lyrically rather juvenile. This is very very funky!

Liner-notes:
Party favorite. Check the flo.
Kirky J. And B hooked up this loop. Mike Scott played guitar.

Prince - Crystal Ball - CD 3 (coveralia.com)

– Crystal Ball – CD 3

The Ride

(live recording, recorded in 1995)

Blues song: great, with glorious guitar playing by . Prince/ played this song a lot live. I have heard/seen him play this many time. The guitar solo was spot on, every time. This recording is no exception.

Liner-notes:
Performed on numerous occasions, but never worn out. This particular version is not necessarily the best, but the overdubs and live vibe keep it in check. The version from the Sacrifice of Victor is a bit more riveting, only because of it’s inspiration being present at the concert. She knows who she is!

Get Loose

(recorded in 1994)

A remix of Loose! off the 1994 Come album. Dispensable.

Liner-notes:
GET LOOSE & P CONTROL. These 2 played back 2 back, were favorites of the Erotic City Dancers in L.A.
Carmen, P. Control, Shockadelica and the others packed the club and shook what their mamas gave them 2 these 2 bombs!

P. Control

(recorded in 1995)

A remix of the song off the 1995 The Gold Experience album. Dispensable.

Liner-notes:
Get Loose & P. Control – these 2, played back 2 back, were favorites of the Erotic City dancers in L.A.
Carmen, P. Control, Shockadelica and the others packed the club and shook what their mamas gave them 2 these 2 bombs!

Make Yo Mama Happy

(recorded in 1986)

Not one of his greatest songs. Being inspired by Sly Stone’s Fresh could (should) lead to (much) more.

Liner-notes:
This was recorded after listening 2 Fresh by Sly and 2 prove a point 2 Susannah that Mpls was in the house.
She sings background on this. Eris is on sax. Terry Lewis gets ugly while listening 2 this!

Goodbye

(recorded in 1995)

Beautiful song. A Ballad. Much better than The Holy River, by which this song was replaced (see the liner-notes).

Liner-notes:
Parting with the moon and the rain and looking 4 the sun. Intended 4 Emancipation and replaced by The Holy River.
Orchestration by the everbeautiful Claire Fischer.

Prince - The Truth CD Square Back (cystalballcd.com)

– The Truth CD Square Back

The Truth

On May 14th, 1997, I finally received the cd-single The Truth through the mail. The single was released on February 14th, 1997, 3 months before. The single could only be ordered through 1800-NEW-FUNK. A stunning single with two great songs (The Truth and Don’t Play Me. That was going to be a hell of a good album!

Prince - The Truth - Bootleg (discogs.com)

– The Truth – Bootleg

On December 12th, 1997, I got a present from my good friend Bram: the bootleg album! The Truth is Prince’s 21st album, and ‘s 5th, and was only available as part of the Crystal Ball box-set.

The album is Prince/‘s first acoustic album. However, the label ‘acoustic’ doesn’t fully cover its content. The album is filled with a lot of sound effects, multiple vocal tracks and percussion (including electronic percussion). But, all in all, the album has an undeniable acoustic ‘feel’.

The album was recorded in Paisley Park Studios at the end of 1996, after work on Emancipation had finished. The album was scheduled for release in 1997 on EMI Records, but very soon following the Emancipation release, EMI went bankrupt. All scheduling plans were therefore void. This implied The Truth also.

Prince - The Truth (tidal.com)

– The Truth

Cover

Because the album was part of the Crystal Ball box-set, an official cover for the release has never been released/designed. Apparently, plans were underway to release The Truth separately in 2000. Rumor has it, work was done on a cover. The release was canceled. In 2015 The Truth was offered through streaming service Tidal, accompanied by a black-white photo for a cover. As far as I’m concerned, that is the The Truth cover.

Songs

For this album every song will be described. All songs are written by , unless stated otherwise.

The Truth

Fantastic opener to the album. is in search for answers.

Questionaire, What did U stand 4?
Questionaire, Who did U save

© 1997, NPG Records

Despite the fact the song was barely played live, I have been so lucky to have witnessed it once. On November 2nd, 2002 (Dutch link only) he played it during the soundcheck, which was open to NPG Music Club members at the time.

Don’t Play Me

Once again a great song. Great atmosphere. appears to be looking back and realize that he is less trend-setting, but seems to be at peace with that.

Prince - The Truth/Don't Play Me - single (princevault.com)

– The Truth/Don’t Play Me – single

Don’t play me
I’m over 30 & I don’t smoke weed
I put my ass away & music I’ve played
aint the type of stereo U’re tryin to feed
Don’t play me

Don’t play me
I’m the wrong color & I play guitar
My only competition is well in the past
Time & time if time existed movin ever so fast
Don’t play me

U couldn’t play enough of me now
2 make me feel like a star
Don’t play me I already do in my car
Don’t play me

© 1997, NPG Records

Despite the fact the song was barely played live, I have been so lucky to have witnessed it once. On November 2nd, 2002 (Dutch link only) he played it during the soundcheck, which was open to NPG Music Club members at the time.

Number 43 of my Prince song top 50.

Circle of Amour

Melancholy, lovely song. And, is this really about Vanity? Vanity’s real name was Denise Matthews.

Cheerleaders except 4 Denise
She was the wild one
She was the beast
She was the one who named the group

© 1997, NPG Records

3rd

Fine up-tempo song: Ultimately the only one / That can save U is U.

Dionne

No favorite of mine.

In 1999 a fan asked on love4oneanother.com during the so-called ? of the week what/who inspired this song. responded: “Dionne lives in London and knows quite well the heart she broke. All Dionnes r heartbreakers!”.

It is, allegedly, about Arrested Development singer Dionne Farris.

Man in a Uniform

(music: and Rhonda Smith; lyrics: )

The ‘me’ in the song dresses up in a uniform for the woman in the song. Or is it about S&M?

She said “Man in a uniform
Sufferin’ every stroke of my hand
From the dusk until the early morn’
U will grant this girl’s demands”

© 1997, NPG Records

Animal Kingdom

Prince - Vegetarian Times - 1997 (books.google.com)

– Vegetarian Times – 1997

(music: and Rhonda Smith; lyrics: )

Somewhere around 1996/1997 became an avid vegetarian. Mayte, his wife at the time, introduced him to it. He never ate meat again until the day he died. This song is about the fact that consuming meat is unnecessary and that mankind doesn’t have to kill animals to survive. The remarks on nurses past maturity and blue cheese seem to point to veganism. However, in an interview with the Vegetarian Times in 1997, only vegetarianism is discussed.

The dolphin sounds are a bit too much, but it is sung very convincingly, with a distorted voice.

No member of the animal kingdom nurses past maturity
No member of the animal kingdom ever did a thing 2 me
It’s why I don’t eat red meat or white fish
Don’t give me no blue cheese
We’re all members of the animal kingdom
Leave your brothers and sisters in the sea

© 1997, NPG Records

The Other Side of the Pillow

Beautiful, tiny love song`.

Also released on the 2002 live-box One Nite Alone… Live!.

Fascination

Spanish like song, with Arabic influences (it reminds me of 7 off the Prince & The New Power Generation – O(+> album). Very nice instrumentation.

And is the birth of Michael Jackson’s son Prince memorized in the line So called king gives birth 2 so called … prince?

Great song.

One of Your Tears

Did U get the tape I sent U
I thought it be better in a song
Better than the used condom U sent me
Baby that was wrong

© 1997, NPG Records

Baby that was wrong?? Ehh, for sure! Rather distasteful to imagine!

Apart from that: great song. sings filled with passion and whispers/begs convincingly. Beautiful!

Comeback

One of the most moving songs Prince/ ever recorded. Recorded shortly after the tragic passing of his only born son, the lyrics impress (me). Even though the hurt isn’t explicitly named, it is clear this is accredited to the loss of his son:

Walking up the stairs
Just the afternoon
Sweet wind blew
Not a moment 2 soon
I cry when I realized
That sweet wind was U

© 1997, NPG Records

Welcome 2 the Dawn (acoustic version)

Not that great. The album should have been closed with the previous song.

Prince - The Truth CD (lyrics.wikia.com)

– The Truth CD

Musicians

All voices, instruments and effects performed by , except:

  • Rhonda Smith – bass on 3rd , Animal Kingdom and One Of Your Tears; bass, vocals and percussion on Fascination
  • Kirk Johnson – percussion and vocals on Fascination; drum programming on Circle Of Amour and One Of Your Tears
  • Kat Dyson – vocals and percussion on Fascination
  • Mike Scott – guitar solo on Fascination
NPG Orchestra - Kamasutra (crystalballcd.com)

NPG Orchestra – Kamasutra

Kamasutra

Kamasutra is an instrumental studio album performed by The NPG Orchestra. On February 14th, 1997, the album was released on cassette only. The album was written and recorded as the soundtrack to and Mayte’s wedding on February 14th, 1996.

The songs have a (modern) classic feel with jazz influences.

An edited version of The Plan was part of Emancipation.

Songs

NPG Orchestra - Kamasutra - cassette cover (wikipedia.org)

NPG Orchestra – Kamasutra – cassette cover

All songs composed by .

  • The Plan
  • Kamasutra
  • At Last… The Lost Is Found
  • The Ever Changing Light
  • Cutz
  • Serotonin
  • Promise/Broken
  • Barcelona
  • Kamasutra/Overture #8
  • Coincidence or Fate?
  • Kamasutra/Eternal Embrace

Performers

All instruments by , aided by:

  • Eric Leeds – saxophone and flute
  • Michael B. Nelson – trombone
  • Kathy Jensen & Brian Gallagher – saxophone
  • Dave Jensen & Steve Strand – trumpet
  • Clare Fischer & orchestra – orchestration
Prince - Crystal Ball - Pre-order versie CD's (suruga-ya.jp)

– Crystal Ball – Pre-order version CD’s

Conclusion

A rather vast amount of music had to be digested. 5 compacts discs filled with it! The danger being, of course, that not all of it got the attention it needed or deserved. Luckily I had been able to listen to The Truth before.

Concerning the 3cd Crystal Ball box-set: barring two songs, I already owned them all. Going through my administration, I notice that I only added two new songs to my collection on the day of receiving the set: Cloreen Baconskin and Poom Poom. That means I owned all other songs prior to that day. Truth be told: for a number of songs, which are presented here in their studio version, I only had a live version. The live recordings of Days Of Wild and The Ride were completely new. These had never appeared, not that particular performance anyway, on any bootleg. Despite of that, I still had a lot of the songs on one the (very) many bootleg I had acquired, on which I had spent a small fortune.

And yet, I was very pleased with the release. Particularly for the promise it seemed to hold: this was eligible for a sequel.

But, was it really that good?

Review Crystal Ball

Prince - Crystal Ball - Best Buy ad (pinterest.com)

– Crystal Ball – Best Buy ad

Unfortunately, no. The delivered material didn’t quite live up to the promise of all “previously bootlegged material”. Of course, the remixes were a major let-down. No-one I knew was waiting for that. But, the selection of the outtakes themselves was rather peculiar. Many songs from the era 1993/1996, while may fans were really waiting for older material. Some choices are odd. Why include An Honest Man and not All My Dreams, why the remixes, while the vault has songs like Purple Music, Big Tall Wall, Coco Boys, Eye Wonder and Electric Intercourse? Every cd only lasts 50 minutes. Every cd could have contained 20 minutes of music more. Why the inexcusable error of fading-out Crucial?

And yet, and yet… Despite all that: three cd’s, of which much music is incredibly good. Is it essential? Cd 2: yes, absolutely. The other two, less so.

Review The Truth

This can be short. A great album. Switch up the last two songs and it is an absolute essential album, that every Prince music lover must own, but really belongs in any music lover collection.

had never sounded that direct, that intimate and sincere on this recording, as ever before. Four years later Prince (as he was called then) would make another intimate album: One Nite Alone… Solo piano and voice by Prince.

Kamasutra

This really doesn’t work for me. It is nice and has some nice musical themes, but it sounds awfully dated now, in 2018.

While I appreciate the choice and the boldness of it, this is nowhere near essential.

Final judgment

Crystal Ball CD 1  
Crystal Ball CD 2  
Crystal Ball CD 3  
The Truth  
Kamasutra  

My average score for the total box-set is .

Prince - Press conference 05/16/2000 New York (twincities.com)

Prince – Press conference 05/16/2000 New York

Sequel?

Despite all of the criticism on the way the distribution was handled, orders that went missing and the chaotic administration at 1800-NEW-FUNK, Prince was rather content:

To me, Crystal Ball was a test case. I was testing the water to see if people would buy music over the internet, and whether they would be receptive to a five-CD set.

Since the album was a success, it leads me to believe that the whole interactive thing offers great possibilities

Guitar World magazine 1998

I’m one of the most bootlegged artists in the world. […] I’m putting it out anyway, Crystal Ball – I made that for the fans.

Paper magazine, June 1999

Prince: A Celebration

On May 9th, 2000, MTV published an article announcing an event to be organized by Prince at his own Paisley Park Studios: Prince: A Celebration

Prince - A Celebration (prince.org)

Prince : A Celebration – program

The line visitors can vote on which of Prince’s unreleased songs should be issued on future New Power Generation albums is particularly interesting.

During the Prince: A Celebration visitors were indeed asked which album Prince was to release next. 8 choices were offered:

  1. Crystal Ball II
    22 titles were offered to choose from
  2. Roadhouse Garden
    A Prince And The Revolution album, which was, among others, to contain the songs Splash, Wonderful Ass, Roadhouse Garden and All My Dreams
  3. Live album
    Visitors were offered the opportunity to select an era
  4. ‘Rock Guitar’ album
  5. Madrid 2 Chicago
    Described as a “smooth jazz album”
  6. When 2 R In Love
    A compilation album, which was to contain a collection of ballads, among which Do Me, Baby, Insatiable, Scandalous and Adore
  7. Collection of covers
    Covers of songs by other artists, performed by Prince, among which A Case Of You, Just My Imagination and other funk classix
  8. New studio album
    Visitors were offered a chance to select the album’s musical style

At the end of the week the ‘Rock Guitar’ was the winner. But, of all the choices above, not one was finally released. Some of the songs mentioned did find other ways of being released.

Crystal Ball II

The choice for Crystal Ball II gave way to a subsequent choice. Out of 22 pre-selected titles, songs could be voted for. The songs ranged from 1980 until 1991. The list was made up of:

Prince - Crystal Ball - Bootleg (4th3funk.com)

Many Prince bootlegs were called Crystal Ball

  • 3 Nigs Watchin’ A Kung Fu Movie (1987)
  • Adonis & Bathsheba (1986)
  • American Jam (1980)
  • Come Electra Tuesday (1985)
  • Electric Intercourse (1983)
  • Everybody Wants What They Don’t Got (1986)
  • Evolsidog (1985)
  • Eye Wonder (1990)
  • Girl (which version of Girl is unclear)
  • Girl O’ My Dreams (1982/1986)
  • Gotta Stop (Messin’ About) (B-side van Let’s Work, 1981)
  • If It’ll Make U Happy (1982)
  • Katrina’s Paper Dolls (1983)
  • Kiss (Unreleased Xtended Version) (?)
  • Love & Sex (1983)
  • Lust U Always (1982)
  • Others Here With Us (1985)
  • She’s Just A Baby (1981)
  • Strange Way Of Saying Eye Love U (1981)
  • Turn It Up (1982)
  • U’re All Eye Want (1982/1991)
  • Xtralovable (1982/1983)

17 songs were selected from the total list. She’s Just A Baby, If It’ll Make U Happy, Girl, Gotta Stop (Messin’ About) and Come Elektra Tuesday were scrapped. Strangely enough, the Kiss remix was part of that first 17 songs.

It was rumored that Crystal Ball II would be a 2 disc release. The double-cd was meant to be sent in a package containing the artwork for The Truth and Kamasutra, and one booklet for both of the Crystal Ball sets. Both new cd’s could be placed in the 5cd box. It was supposedly only available through New Power Generation.

As stated, unfortunately all plans didn’t materialize. Crystal Ball II was never released. The reason for withdrawal has never been published..

In closing

NPGMC Logo (princevault.com)

Crystal Ball was Prince’s first step in on-line service delivery. Due to the lack of administration and communication many fans looked back on the endeavor with mixed feelings. Prince however, had become excited by the new business model and its revenues on one hand, and the opportunities internet and on-line services provided on the other. It was to lead into the (very well executed) on-line platform NPG Music Club, through which Prince had found a successful way of communicating directly with his fans and distributing his music.

What do you think of Crystal Ball? Let me know; it is highly appreciated!

 

Thank you

Thanks to Bram for proof reading and Edgar for the Dutch release date for Crystal Ball.

 

3 comments

  1. Benita MiMi Gainer

    ☔️☔️

  2. Richard Papper

    Awesome, very informative great read

    1. A Pop Life (Erwin Barendregt)

      Thanks! Truly appreciate it.

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