With the Prince catalog recently returned to streaming services and the release of the new Anthology: 1995-2010, those of us who continue to mourn the loss of one of pop’s greatest visionaries have a fresh a reminder of just how much amazing music he created during his life — including the 19 (!) albums he issued during the period Anthology covers. And those were the official releases. Here’s our quick-hit sampler of that era — some songs that were featured on that collection, some it missed, all soulful as hell and heaven combined.
“Endorphinmachine,” from The Gold Experience (1995)
A raga-rap-rock air raid studded with enough vintage hooks, come-shot screams and over-the-top guitar salvos to distinguish a merely-good band’s entire career. With echoes of Van Halen and Digital Underground (whose Sex Packets shtick owed not a little to Prince in the first place), this lives up to its title preposterously.
“Dream Factory,” from Crystal Ball (1998)
Midwestern party funk dissing the emptiness of West Coast emptiness, presumably, with processed vocals recalling his wiggy “Housequake,” this is a version of the title track to his famously unreleased 1986 album. It ultimately surfaced on Crystal Ball, his royal badness’ first full-on vault excavation.
“Every Day Is a Winding Road,” from Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic (1999)
When Prince cover’s your song, it’s got to be both honor and head-fuck — his reinventions are almost always rival the originals. Sheryl Crow’s ’96 hit, a sort of Liz Phair/Rolling Stones mash-up, gets turned here into a slinky house-funk anthem.
“My Computer,” from Emanicipation (1996)
This was the second collaboration to surface between Prince and his English soul-sister-genius Kate Bush (the first being “Why Should I Love You,” which appeared on her 1993 The Red Shoes). A advance-warning ballad about loneliness and need in the digital era, it nods to Bush’s likeminded 1989 track “Deeper Understanding,” and the dated references only make it more poignant.
“Xpedition,” from Xpectation (2003)
An amped-up, over-the-top fusion jam in a Bitches Brew-meets Mahavishnu Orchestra mode, from one of two all-instrumental LPs Prince issued in 2003 (the other was N.E.W.S.) One helluva band, with Candy Dulfer on saxes and Vanessa Rae on violin.
“U’re Gonna C Me,” from One Nite Alone…. (2002)
All falsetto, floral piano with synth washes, this track from Prince’s solo-piano LP is an evident bouquet to latter-day Joni Mitchell. Of course, he bowed to early Joni with his gorgeous re-envisioning of her “A Case of You” on the same set.
“Call My Name,” from Musicology (2004)
A luscious, coconut-oiled slow jam that shows Prince engaging with the neo-soul artists of the era, whose aesthetic was shaped by his in the first place. This one seems like a cutting contest with D’Angelo for the title of Sexiest M.F.
“Black Sweat,” from 3121 (2006)
A horny, yet charmingly restrained single with a stuttering electro-funk groove and a nagging Dr. Dre – style synth whine. Dance music to re-arrange your bones – “You’ll be screaming like a white lady/When I count to three!”
“Chelsea Rodgers,” from Planet Earth (2007)
A praise song to a “21st century hippie” who “don’t eat no meat” but “still got butt like a leather seat,” this duet with journeywoman vocalist Shelby Johnson (D’Angelo, Soulquarians) is a disco-funk burner with handclaps relentless brass stabs, and a wicked breakdown. It’s a secret weapon among discerning club DJs, notably Detroit legend Moodyman.
“So Far, So Pleased,” from Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic (1999)
This high-velocity duet with Gwen Stefani throws echoes of “Little Red Corvette” into a dancefloor stormer that spits out pop flourishes like a confetti cannon. Play it for anyone who thinks Prince was coasting through his latter years.