Friday, January 28, 2011

40. O+> The Gold Experience (1995)

45 years, 45 LPs, 45 days...
The Artist Formerly Known as Prince: The Gold Experience (1995)
The mid-1990’s saw our man Prince going thru some tough times. Despite having recently signed one of the most lucrative record deals in the history of the music biz, he was becoming publicly agitated about (as he saw it) Warner Brothers’ mistreatment of him as an artist. Some have speculated that Prince’s problem had little to do with how he was being treated, that the issue was more about WB’s refusal to release the quantity of music that
Limited edition, #257
Prince was generating at such a fast pace, fearing that it would saturate the market with product and dilute sales. It didn’t help matters that neither the public nor the press regarded Prince’s recent output to be as strong as past efforts. His most recent incarnation of the New Power Generation (NPG) featured 2nd rate rappers and dancers (OK maybe not 2nd rate; More like 3rd rate), along with Prince’s sorry attempt at adopting a new “gangsta” persona. The result: record buyers were starting to view Prince as a joke rather than a serious artist. He was at a crossroads, where his finances were dwindling and his artistic reputation was at stake.

The Gold Experience cassette
Prince’s response to his problems was certainly unprecedented: He changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol (O+>), eventually taking on the ridiculous title of “The Artist formerly known as Prince”. He began releasing music independently through his own NPG records, scoring a surprise number one single (“The Most Beautiful Girl In the World”). Rather than capitalize on the momentum of the single’s success by releasing a full-length album, O+> decided to hold a new album (The Gold Experience) hostage  from Warner Brothers. Instead, he released a new “Prince” album titled Come (1994), a collection of tracks reportedly culled from the vaults and released “posthumously”. The cover even included “1958-1993” under Prince’s name, a dramatic attempt at emphasizing that Prince as we once knew him was no longer with us. Yawn. Whatevs, P.

Fast forward to fall, 1995, when the much talked about Gold Experience finally gets released. Response from the general public was tepid to say the least, resulting in another chart dud for “The Artist”. Fan reactions ranged from “He needs to release Purple Rain part II
Fall 1995, visiting U of M-Duluth. Very sick with Crohn's disease.
to “This is his most brilliant work in years!” I fell into the second category. The Gold Experience was an exciting and consistent record that did not require multiple plays for the listener to “warm up” to it. I was on a trip from Mankato to St. Paul when The Gold Experience came out, so I bought the album on cassette and listened to it in my car. A few years ago I finally got a limited promotional copy of the album (pictured, above), pressed on double gold vinyl.

Sadly, The Gold Experience did little in 1995 to save Prince’s sinking fortunes. His career fell into considerable obscurity for the remainder of the decade following his departure from Warner Brothers. In 2001 he reclaimed his old name to little fanfare and independently released The Rainbow Children, a musically interesting album about his Jehovah Witness faith. Fans and critics both loathed and loved the record (personally, I love the album). Regardless, it was a first step for Prince in getting his career back on track.

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