Music, Recorded

The Not So Pointless Review of Prince’s 4Ever

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You seldom see reviews of greatest hits packages as it’s almost an entirely pointless exercise describing the sequencing and collation of a well-known artists best known songs. And when it comes to Prince, let’s be honest – many of us are quite familiar with his formidable collection of hits.

I own all of Prince’s official albums as well as his previous hits packages, so with the exception of the new unreleased song featured on 4Ever, I could have easily recreated this compilation without buying it, but I didn’t. I went old-school, I went to my local music retailer, bought a copy of 4Ever on CD and listened to it from beginning to end. Here are my thoughts…

4Ever delivers 40 Prince hits over two discs in a cardboard three-panel sleeve with an eight-page booklet tucked away in the centre. This collection broadly sticks to hits from Prince’s albums 1978 – 1985 on disc one and then key tracks 1986 -1993 on disc two. Each disc starts with a cluster of the biggest hits from the albums in each era before cherry picking other songs from the featured albums in a somewhat chronological order.

The track selection on 4Ever is limited to Prince’s Warner Bros. output, so unfortunately it doesn’t include The Most Beautiful Girl in The World or Musicology, both released on other labels. 4Ever also overlooks singles from Prince’s less successful Warner Bros. albums; Come, The Black Album, The Gold Experience and Chaos & Disorder. Prince or ‘The Artist Former Known As Prince’ as he was known then, was battling to end his contract with Warners and released these albums with little promotion to fulfill contractual obligations. As a result, while well worth a listen, these albums didn’t deliver the hits singles they might have – hence their likely omission.

4Ever CD one kicks off with five of Prince’s biggest hits it 1999, Little Red Corvette, When Doves Cry, Let’s Go Crazy and Raspberry Beret before veering off to his very first disco-flavoured singles Soft and Wet, I Wanna Be Your Lover and Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad. Three tracks from Dirty Mind album follow in Uptown, When You Were Mine (more famously covered by Cindy Lauper) and his filth pop classic, Head. Gotta Stop (Messin’ About) is also featured, which is odd, as it was a UK only, non-album single and was more appropriately featured on the The Hits/The B-Sides collection in 1993. Two cuts from Controversy are next, the classic title track and the less so, Let’s Work. As this disc started off with three of the biggest hits from the 1999 album, we are given just one in the back-end, Delirious – which, as much as I love Prince, is still one of my least favorite of his singles. Side one ends with smatterings of Around The World In A Day (Paisley Park, Pop Life) amongst hits from the mega-selling Purple Rain (I Would Die 4 U, Take Me With U) and of course the title track which is rightfully included in its near 9 minute glory.

CD two again starts with a group of the biggest hits from the albums represented on this half with; Kiss, Sign O The Times, Alphabet St, Batdance, Thieves In The Temple and Cream. Of note, this is the first time Prince’s megahit Batdance, from his soundtrack to Tim Burton’s Batman, has featured on a Prince hits collection – but sadly it’s in its edited four-minute form. From here we dip into the Parade album with Girls and Boys and Mountains, then three songs from Sign O The Times in, If I Was Your Girlfriend, U Got The Look with Sheena Easton and I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man. The second single from the Lovesexy album, Glam Slam, is unfortunately included whereas the third single and infinitely better I Wish U Heaven, would have been my preferred choice. It’s track thirteen before we get to hear one of the key reasons to buy this release – the previously unreleased, Moonbeam Levels, from Prince’s legendary vault.

Moonbeam Levels, was originally recorded in 1982 during the sessions for the 1999 album, so it could comfortably have been included on disc one here. The track appears on disc two as it turns out that Prince had considered releasing the song in 1988 as part of the planned Rave Unto The Joy Fantastic album before he aborted it in favor of the Batman album in 1989. Moonbeam Levels is a downbeat  R&B ballad and shares much of the same DNA as The Beautiful Ones from the Purple Rain album. The track starts off with sparse drums, piano and vocals before the guitars kick in at the chorus with Prince singing urgently “Please send all your moonbeam levels to me, I’m looking for a better place to die”.

Disc two winds up with hits from Prince’s hip-hop flavored Diamonds and Pearls and Lovesymbol albums with Diamonds and Pearls, Gett Off, Sexy MF, My Name Is Prince and 7. The last two tracks on 4Ever originally appeared for the first time on Prince’s The Hits/The B-Sides compilation.  While I question the inclusion of the catchy rocker Peach (which wasn’t a commercial hit), the repeat inclusion on this hits package of Prince’s version of Nothing Compares 2 U, makes complete sense, as since his death, this song has very much been reclaimed as his own.

While too much Prince is never enough in my biased opinion, five tracks could easily have been trimmed from this release to make it a tighter, yet still a comprehensive, package of hits. The room afforded by trimming some of the lesser cuts could have allowed for longer versions of some tracks or better still, another unreleased song– but alas, for now, we only get the one. Warner Bros. is already prepping a deluxe edition release of Purple Rain for early 2017 that will feature a new disc of unreleased material, so those of us wanting to hear more from the vault won’t have too long to wait.

Overall, 4Ever is a solid and worthwhile addition, if not quite the ‘Definitive hits collection’ that the sticker claims it to be. Depending on which era of Prince was your favourite will determine if disc one or two get the most rotation at your place. For fans – having a pristine version of the much-bootlegged Moonbeam Levels, alongside previously unreleased photos of Prince by Herb Ritts on the CD’s booklet justifies the purchase of this collection. For those with a more casual interest, 4Ever serves as a powerful reminder of just how successful Prince was as a hit-maker. While reviewing a hits collection may be a somewhat pointless exercise, listening to one this strong never is.

4Ever Track listing: 

CD 1

1.    1999
2.    Little Red Corvette*
3.    When Doves Cry
4.    Let’s Go Crazy*
5.    Raspberry Beret
6.    I Wanna Be Your Lover
7.    Soft and Wet
8.    Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad*
9.    Uptown
10. When You Were Mine
11. Head
12. Gotta Stop (Messin’ About)
13. Controversy
14. Let’s Work*
15. Delirious
16. I Would Die 4 U
17. Take Me With U*
18. Paisley Park
19. Pop Life
20. Purple Rain

CD 2

21. Kiss
22. Sign ‘O’ The Times
23. Alphabet Street*
24. Batdance
25. Thieves In The Temple
26. Cream
27. Mountains
28. Girls & Boys*
29. If I Was Your Girlfriend
30. U Got The Look
31. I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man
32. Glam Slam*
33. Moonbeam Levels**
34. Diamonds and Pearls
35. Gett Off
36. Sexy MF
37. My Name Is Prince
38. 7
39. Peach
40. Nothing Compares 2 U

** Previously unreleased

* Edited version previously unavailable on CD

8 responses to “The Not So Pointless Review of Prince’s 4Ever

  1. I would guess like me, most people would not have much awareness of the recordings he made after 1993 – over twenty years! Are there any albums you’d rate alongside his iconic releases? Or are they more like the proverbial box of chocolates?

    1. For me, 3121 and Art Official Age rank amongst his finest. A pity nothing from his under rated modern work could be included on a compilation like this

    2. I think his last 2 albums (HITnRUN 1 & 2) were great. Played them many many times. They are styled differently from each other which gives a nice contrast. Art Official Age is also good.

  2. Hi Mr Smith,
    Prince has so many worthwhile releases, its hard to pick : ) From his later period I really like The Gold Experience – its in the ilk of his Diamonds & Pearls and the Lovesymbol albums and in many ways was his last crack at producing an album of hits. I also enjoy his last Warner Bros release Chaos & Disorder – its short, patchy and quite different from his usual albums and was a big F.U. to his record label. Also worth a look are his Crystal Ball 3 CD set and Musicology. There is so much more and all have their value (except Rainbow Children and NEWS both of which I really struggle with) but hopefully that points you the direction of some further listening you might enjoy.

  3. I’ve considered purchasing the new “Hits” compilation yet as a fan since 1982 there isn’t much reason to. Prince is hands down one of the best Entertainers/Writer/Producers of all time. Peach is a good song yet why include it on this GH’s package? At least the “Hits” collection from 1993 included B sides & gems ( @ that time NC2U). When Doves Cry always gets the radio edit too, ugh. Moonbeam Levels is mentioned often by Susan Rogers and other Prince collaborators/musicians so good choice for including this gem. Glad to see Glam Slam & Batdance finally. Like many other die hard/original fans I will wait patiently for a collection that is remastered, inclusive of his overall work ( Gold Album is fantastic, Black Sweat is a Prince classic). Still cannot believe he is gone but we all have his music/memories to get us through!

    1. I love “Peach” which he played as encore the only time I saw him live. It’s a little different to his usual style which increases it’s appeal to me.

  4. Prince was not a simple hit-maker, so this will only scrape the surface of his flamboyant artistry. But he was as inventive an hit-maker as anyone else that comes to mind. I hope this collection can help young people know him better and discover the gargantuan influence he had on today’s popular music.
    Thanks for the review.

  5. I would love to have seen Pink Cashmere included in the compilation. I feel like it is a forgotten song most of the time, but a gem to me.

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