Tales From The Crypt

Features a new version of the oft-bootlegged "Old Friends 4 Sale."

I'm not going to waste everyone's time by chronicling The Artist's

adventures in name-changing and attempts to get out of his record

contract with Warner Bros., so I'll just cut straight to the chase:

The Vault ... Old Friends 4 Sale, much like Chaos and

Disorder (1996), is a slapped-together collection of unreleased gems

from Prince's past that was released to satisfy terms of his old

contract with Warner Bros. Whereas most of the songs on Chaos and

Disorder were electrifying rock workouts, the 10 tracks on The

Vault are all jazz- and blues-based.

First, let's recognize that the term "previously unreleased" is somewhat

relative here. The jazziest song on the album, "She Spoke To Me,"

originally appeared on the "Girl 6" soundtrack in a much shorter form;

fading out before the litany of lite-jazz solos that conclude The

Vault's version, "5 Women" (RealAudio excerpt), by far the most traditional-sounding

blues song on The Vault, was covered by blues-rockers the Kinsey

Report in 1993. You may recognize "Old Friends 4 Sale" if you were

paying very close attention to the background music in "Under The Cherry

Moon" or if you're a big fan of Prince bootlegs, although the version

included here features some fabulous new string work that gives the song

more of an epic feel than the intimacy of the original. Lastly, the

bouncy New Orleans jazz of "The Rest of My Life" (RealAudio excerpt), the tepid avant-garde

tune "My Little Pill" and the stunning blues-pop tune "There Is Lonely" (RealAudio excerpt)

were all originally written for the 1994 James Brooks/ Nick Nolte movie

"I'll Do Anything," but were cut when audience reaction to the actors

singing these gems (except for "My Little Pill," not a gem by any

standard) was less than encouraging.

According to the liner notes, the newest song on The Vault is

from five years ago and the oldest is 15 years old. Yet the songs flow

together relatively seamlessly, which is either a testament to The

Artist's ability to be years ahead of his time or a testament to the

fact that The Artist hasn't changed his genre-mixing sound since

Around The World In A Day. You be the judge.

"The Rest of My Life" (which could be a track by Ben Folds or Harry

Connick Jr.) and the very Boz Scaggs-like "It's About That Walk" kick

off the record in fine, bouncy jazz form, but the pacing slows down

considerably with "She Spoke To Me" and doesn't pick up the ballad pace

until "Sarah" (the album's lone funk jam) six tracks later. The

alarmingly mistitled "Extraordinary" closes the album and doesn't come

close to living up to it's title, but is still a relatively satisfying,

by-the-numbers Prince slow jam. It's no "Slow Love" or "Adore" or

"Crucial" or "Scandalous" or "Do Me, Baby" — hell, it isn't even

"Insatiable" — but it will fit if you're in a pinch and need a slow

song to be the cherry on top of a sonic seduction.

Come to think of it, there's no better way to sum up The Vault

than that. If you need some Prince/ The Artist and you've tired of every

album in your collection (a lot of you still need to pick up

Emancipation and Crystal Ball, you can't fool me), The

Vault is a rather pedestrian way to get your fix. This is a fine

trip through The Artist's leftovers, but previous expeditions yielded

greater results.