Three years ago, Prince's relationship status with the Internet could best be described as "It's complicated."
"The Internet's completely over," he told The Daily Mirror, the UK newspaper which give away copies of his 20Ten album. (No, I haven't heard it, either.) "I don't see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else. They won't pay me an advance for it, and then they get angry when they can't get it."
In 20Thirteen, though, it's like nothing ever happened: You can buy "Screwdriver," his new single, right now. Even so, his star-crossed affairs with the Internet — not to mention plenty of record companies — have resulted in large chunks of his discography still being unavailable for digital download, some of them among his very best work. 4 Shame on U, Purple 1!
Prince is playing the Marquee Theatre in Tempe on Tuesday and Wednesday.
1. For You (1978)
Prince's debut album, the one that gave us "Soft and Wet," has been left high and dry out of the iTunes catalog. Maybe Prince doesn't like his puffed-out fro on the cover; maybe this second-rate Sylvester impersonation played better when everyone thought he was a 19-year-old wunderkind instead of a 21-year-old shaving years off his official bio.
Whatever the reason, the only Prince album worth owning for purely historical reasons isn't worth owning — or possible to own — digitally.
2. Love Symbol Album (1994)
The album where he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol. If you buy just one Prince album in which he converses with Kirstie Alley between songs, make it this one.
3. The Black Album (1994)
Withdrawn from release in 1988 and replaced withLovesexy
only to become one of the most bootlegged albums of all time, Prince'sBlack Album
saw a quiet official release in 1994 but remains unavailable digitally.
Maybe Spinal Tap saw the all-black cover and issued a cease-and-desist.
4. The Gold Experience (1995)
A concept album and cut-for-cut probably Prince's strongest sinceSign "O" the Times
. Here's where his relationship with Warner Brothers went south, as evidenced by tracks like "Eye Hate U."
Curiously, Come, a 1994 collection of tracks recorded at the same time as The Gold Experience that Prince himself disowned at release, is available on iTunes.
5. Chaos and Disorder (1996)
The contract-fulfillment album that was his obligatory "see ya" to Warner Brothers. Universally accepted as a bad idea.
6. Emancipation (1996)
His wrists are breaking chains on the cover so that no one misses his point: He's free from his oppressors at Warner Brothers, who prevented him from releasing two triple-disc sets in 14 months, including this one where he covers Joan Osborne's "One of Us." Cause that's what every artistically free person would've done, right?
7. Crystal Ball (1998)
The first album by anybody to be sold exclusively on the Internet is currently not available on the Internet. This three-CD set was so poorly distributed it made ex-fans out of the 50,000 who pre-ordered it and got a crappier package than the one that reached the stores.
Prince made amends by sending those fans a bonus album, which (of course) pissed off the folks who bought Crystal Ball at stores.
8. Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic (1999)
9. Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic (2000
The year he re-recorded "1999," he also released this "party over" album to less-than-joyous, fantastic raves. He went back to a conventional record company for this one and its follow-up, a collection of remixes that didn't improve on the original's commercial performance.
His latest slavemaster? Clive Davis at Arista, thanks for asking!
10. The Rainbow Children (2001)
Released on the New Power Generation Music Club. Let's back up a second—
11. One Nite Alone... (2002)
12. Xpectation (2003)
13. C-Note (2003)
14. N.E.W.S. (2003)
15. The Chocolate Invasion (2004)
16. The Slaughterhouse (2004)
All the above titles, including a bona fide Prince live album, were released through Prince's NPG Music Club, back when he and the Webby were still friends. Shortly after receiving a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 for his "visionary" web prowess, Prince shuttered the site for good.
17. Musicology (2004)
The title track to his well-received (and major label) comeback album contained snippets of snippets of "Kiss," "Little Red Corvette," "Sign o' the Times," "17 Days," and "If I Was Your Girlfriend" to remind people who the artist by now known as Prince again was.
18. 3121 (2006)
Named for Psalm 31:21 ("Blessed be Jehovah, for He has rendered wonderful loving-kindness to me in a city under stress.")
Prince further stressed out his mailman by painting 3121 outside his L.A. mansion, where the actual address was 1235 Sierra Alta Way.
19. Lotusflow3r / MPLSound (2009)
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Another three-disc set (including one album that's not by Prince at all), this one released exclusively in Target stores.
20. 20Ten (2010)
"All these computers and digital gadgets are no good," Prince said. "They just fill your head with numbers, and that can't be good for you." This from a guy who's never met a preposition-replacing number he didn't like?