Prince was an enormously prolific artist, releasing 39 studio albums in his too short lifetime. That’s more than any modern artist including those who’ve been around even longer like Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder AND Aretha Franklin.
But many people only know his most successful commercial (and arguably most groundbreaking) run of albums from the 80’s. Of course, when those albums include Purple Rain, Dirty Mind and Sign Of The Times, it’s understandable. But whether you are a newbie to Prince or a lifelong ‘fam,’ if you haven’t already gone deeper into his vast catalogue, on the anniversary of his transition to the heavenly realms, here’s a guide to the best of the rest.
Art Official Age
Released September 26, 2014
Why It’s Worth A Listen: Prince contemplates his own mortality but of course does so in the funkiest way.
Key Tracks: “Breakdown,” “Way Back Home”
Released January 29, 1998
Why It’s Worth A Listen: It’s a compilation of live tracks, B-sides, alternate versions and unreleased material.
Key Tracks: ‘Days of Wild” (live) “The Ride” (live) “Movie Star”
The NPG Orchestra – Kama Sutra
Released February 14, 1997
Why It’s Worth A Listen: It was originally meant to be played at Prince and first wife Mayte’s 1996 wedding, but was released by NPG Records. It’s a beautiful instrumental, chill out (or do other things) kind of record.
Key Tracks: “Kamasutra”
The Vault – Old Friends 4 Sale
Released August 24, 1999
Why It’s Worth A Listen: Although it was billed as a throwaway project at the end of his Warner Bros. contract, it stands on its own as an album that encompasses a variety of genres.
Key Tracks: “When The Lights Go Down,” “Five Women”
The Rainbow Children
Released Nov. 20, 2001
Why It’s Worth A Listen: It’s somewhat of a concept album that puts Prince’s then newfound Jehovah Witness faith into musical form. Musically, it leans towards the jazzier and soulful R&B music of his output.
Key Tracks: “Muse 2 The Pharoah” “Family Name” “Mellow”
Released March 21, 2006
Why It’s Worth A Listen: It’s the first Prince album to debut at #1 and was the next album after his ‘comeback’ release, 2004’s Musicology.
Key Tracks: “Black Sweat,” “The Dance,” “Beautiful, Loved And Blessed”
Hit N Run Phase 1 and 2
Phase 1: Released September 7, 2015
Phase 2: Released December 12, 2015
Why It’s Worth A Listen: They are the last of two albums of his lifetime. And they prove that despite his critics, he was still capable of making great music and evolving creatively. Phase 1 is also Prince’s only studio album with a co-producer, Joshua Welton.
Key Tracks: Phase 1: “June,” “This Could Be Us” Phase 2: “Groovy Potential” “Revelation” “When She Comes”
Released: March 24, 2009
Why It’s Worth A Listen: Yet another 3-album set, this one was not as commercially successful as others, despite being sold exclusively at Target in the U.S., but its full of gems. (Lotusflow3r is one of the the three album set, the other two are MPLSsound and Wh, with Bria Valente.)
Key Tracks: “Dreamer,” “Colonized Mind”
Madhouse – 8
Why It’s Worth A Listen: Among Prince’s many side projects was Madhouse, a jazzy album that has become a true Prince fans’ favorite.
Key Tracks: There are eight tracks and each one is named by its number. Try it as an entire album listen.
The Chocolate Invasion
Released March 29, 2004
Why It’s Worth A Listen: It’s just one of Prince’s most funkiest, most overlooked records.
Key Tracks: “When Eye Lay My Hands On U,” “My Medallion” “U Make My Sun Shine”
(Note, this was originally released as a download only, but is now available with a different track listing on Tidal)
Most, but not all of these albums, can be found on Tidal. Others can be found via Amazon or Ebay.