There are legendary lost albums in music history,
recordings like the Beatles Live at the BBC, The Beach Boys' Smile and
Dylan's Basement Tapes and the Sex Pistols' Great Rock & Roll Swindle.
They all get released eventually, and usually they've become museum pieces by the time
they see the light of day.
Probably the most sought after lost album in recent years
is The Black Album by Prince (back when he had a name and not a symbol.) It
came hard on the heels of Prince's last complete masterpiece of an album, Sign 'O' the
Times. Originally slated for release without an artist's name by the purple
one, tapes started circulating and it was quickly discovered it was Prince. Then the
album was pulled from release, with only the ballad "When 2 Are In Love" seeing
the light of day on his next album Lovesexy.
Since then, The Black
Album has been a popular bootleg, but only now is getting an official release (and
only for a few months). Waiting this long did the record no favors. This may
have been cutting edge stuff in 1988, but now it sounds a little bit dated. There
are some cool funk jams, like the sexy come-on to supermodel "Cindy C" and the
truly demented character study "Bob George."
Unfortunately, too many of
the albums' experiments like "2 Nigs United for West Compton" sound like
yesterday's news. And the so-called raunchiness sounds pretty tame after rap has
taken over, unless lines like "A blow job, a blow job, feels so good" on
"Le Grind" turn you on. The Black Album undoubtedly deserves its
place in funk history. Too bad it will always bear the asterisk of being released
too late. (1/95)
Jay S. Jacobs