Mention Crystal Ball to most fans of the Artist Formerly Known As
Prince and they'll tell you that it's the title of His Royal Badness' next
More than a few, however, will wish they had a crystal ball themselves to
discern just when that album -- which is being sold exclusively by mail
order -- will be released.
An announcement on the Artist's "Love 4 One Another" Web site on Tuesday
promised "The moment u've all been waiting 4" when it proclaimed that the
Artist himself had received the first pressing of the three-CD set. The
brief note then piqued fans' excitement further by telling them to expect
delivery of Crystal Ball by Christmas.
But phone calls on Wednesday to 1-800-NEW-FUNK, the Minneapolis phone
service operation handling much of the ordering for the Artist, painted a different
picture. It seems fans may have to wait a bit longer for the moment
they've all been waiting for.
One operator said Wednesday that not only have the albums not been
shipped, but that "We haven't received any in yet."
He added that "It's
not necessarily true" that purchasers would receive Crystal Ball by
Christmas. Another operator said there is "no way" fans would receive the
set by the holiday.
Frances Pennington, spokeswoman for the Artist, did not return phone calls
by press time.
Anticipation has run high for Crystal Ball since it was
announced earlier this year. A source close to the Artist said this past summer that the collection will consist of three CDs
packaged in a clear plastic sphere and will contain unreleased and
often bootlegged material from the Artist's Sign O' The Times (1987)
and Diamonds and Pearls (1991) periods. Among the tracks confirmed
for the set are "Crystal Ball," "Dream Factory," "Lovesign (Shock's Silky
Smoove Mix)," "Movie Star," "18 & Over," "Make Your Mama Happy," "Days 'O'
Wild," "Da Bang" and "Calhoun Square." In addition, the first 100,000
people to pre-order the $50 set are slated to receive a copy of the
Artist's unreleased acoustic album The Truth.
Rodney Fitzgerald, 27, of Philadelphia, ordered his copy of Crystal
Ball back in July. He said he's grown a bit impatient for the set,
which was being held from production until the first 100,000 orders were
Nonetheless, Fitzgerald said he appreciated the Artist's efforts to release
the album directly to fans rather than through a traditional record label.
"It's trend-setting to have someone sell exclusively through the Internet a
triple-CD album -- which is rare in its own right -- and have it done with
no middle man or major promotion," Fitzgerald said. "It's amazing."
But asked if he would prefer that the Artist release all his albums in the
manner of Crystal Ball, Fitzgerald replied, "Not really."
One reason that fans are growing impatient is that while 1-800-NEW-FUNK is
billing itself as a revolutionary step in record production, the operation
seems to be run in a manner more akin to a lemonade stand than a record
One operator -- none of whom, as company policy, may reveal their names --
told Addicted To Noise Wednesday that orders for Crystal Ball were
being taken by hand. Computer inputting for the data involving 100,000
orders began only two weeks ago and is expected to require another two
weeks for completion. Only then will the album be sent, by Federal
Express, to customers.
Another operator said that the Artist himself is the only person who knows
how many copies of Crystal Ball have been ordered -- and thus she
could not confirm whether someone ordering now would receive a free copy of
The Truth for being among the first 100,000 orders.
Jane O'Brien, director of operations for the
Minneapolis Better Business Bureau, said
1-800-NEW-FUNK is listed with her organization
under the name New Power Generation, the title of the
Artist's band and record label. She said the company
has had two complaints filed against it, one related
to timeliness of order fulfillment, the other concerning the wrong product
Fitzgerald said he began ordering from 1-800-NEW-FUNK a year ago. "They
were a little slow," he said. "Sometimes the voice mail didn't work. You
couldn't get through, and when you got through you had to wait. I guess it
was growing pains, basically."
But no matter when he receives Crystal Ball, Fitzgerald said he's
still excited about the collection. "It'll be worth the wait. Most of the
stuff, I'd say 60 percent of the tentative track list, I already have in
bootleg form. But this is supposedly redone or remastered. It'll be an
excellent copy." [Thurs., Dec. 11, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]