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Prince – The Truth

April 28, 2021
RSD Drops 2021 June 12th, 2021

My son recently asked me about my take on the Prince release that will part of this year’s Record Store Day. I had seen it on the list, but I had not checked it out. When I did, I realized it was part of the 1998 release Crystal Ball which is in my CD collection.

Per Record Store Day site:

The Truth is widely regarded as one of Prince’s most underappreciated hidden gems. Originally released as an accompaniment to the 1998 triple album Crystal Ball, which marked the first time that Prince released an album totally independently, The Truth was also the first Prince album to be labeled “acoustic,” though it does contain electronic instruments and elements, and it gave listeners an unprecedented chance to hear his songwriting and voice in a stripped-down presentation. This release as part of RSD Drops marks the first time The Truth is available on vinyl, with gorgeous, foil-embossed artwork designed by Prince’s long-time art director Steve Parke.

I am a Prince fan, but not an obsessive. I have most of Prince’s official albums, but he released so much material that a lot of it’s not that familiar to me (even stuff I own). I am more familiar with the packaging of Crystal Ball than the music. The Truth album is a worthy candidate for my “Lost on the shelves” posts – this is a new release to my ears.

Packaging: “The Truth,” the song, was originally released as a mail order CD single via Prince’s fan club. There was a plan to release The Truth as an album, but label trouble resulted in the album getting shelved.

The original 1998 CD

Eventually, it was included as a bonus CD with a three CD set Crystal Ball. Crystal Ball was in a clear plastic round box. This packaging was kind of cool to look at, but not very practical. It did not file easily on a typical CD shelf and it was challenging to pull an individual CD out of the package to play it.

History: Originally Prince had a album concept called Crystal Ball. The concept was abandoned and many of those songs ended up on Sign O’ The Times. The Crystal Ball that ultimately got released as a “box set” was a collection of outtakes and songs from Prince’s vault. The Truth was thrown in as a bonus and ironically was a more thought-out album vs. the hodgepodge that is Crystal Ball.

The Music: The shorthand take on The Truth is that it is Prince’s acoustic album. It certainly leans acoustic, but it does have some electronic instruments.

The album opens with “The Truth” that has a Tracy Chapman “Give Me One Reason” vibe, but with stranger lyrics and odd vocals – in a good way.

“Don’t Play Me” has a singer songwriter feel. Lyrically, Prince is direct and mysterious at the same time.

After two sparse acoustic songs (augmented with some electronics), Prince gets lush. “Circle of Amour” is a gorgeous ballad recounting a kinky high school memory.

“3rd Eye” is acoustic guitar and bad ass electric bass. Prince explores religious themes. Prince offers some self-help:

“In self-pity so dark
This shitty and stark
Realization is all that will soothe
Ultimately the only one
That can save you is you
Your God is inside and for that God you will do
Whatever it takes
If nothing else is true
The only one that can save you is you, yeah

Some trivia: the “This shitty and stark” line is the last time Prince cussed on record.

“Dionne” is lushly arranged and has a Broadway show tune feel.

“Man In A Uniform” is a kinky novelty song, but in Prince’s hands it is funky AF.

“Animal Kingdom” is a vegan anthem and sonically is as weird as you would expect.

“The Other Side Of The Pillow” is an acoustic blues with the epic lyric: “Cool as the other side of the pillow.”

“Fascination” has a jazzy Doobie Brothers vibe.

“One Of Your Tears” is a heartbreak song where Prince coos: “Sometimes I want to die and come back as one of your tears.”

“Comeback” is about the ultimate loss.

The album ends with “Welcome 2 The Dawn (Acoustic Version)” which is a brilliant ending – it is the kind of song you would play for the end credits of a movie. It is the strongest song on an album of good songs.

This truly is a hidden gem in the tsunami that is Prince’s catalog. It is totally Prince, but another side of his brilliant star. It is not quite like anything else in his catalog, it’s wonderfully oddball. So glad to have been reminded of its existence by Record Store Day. It is not one of his greatest albums, but it is a fascinating footnote to his genius.

P.S. Sonically this is a great sounding record. Super clean and intimate sounding. Proof a CD can sound fantastic.

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