Diamonds sat on the shelf for a while at Warner Bros’ urging and so, according to engineer Michael Koppelman in Ronnin Ro’s book Prince: Inside the Music and the Masks, “we just kept working on it.” That drafting process may account for the many alternate versions that populate the vault discs, including an extended title track (with even higher vamps from Gaines), a more swinging version of the anti-war song “Live 4 Love,” a sparser (and cooler) version of the B-side “Horny Pony,” and a remix of “Jughead” dubbed “The Last Dance (Bang Pow Zoom And The Whole Nine)” that’s less cluttered and features an endearing moment of Prince cracking up Tony M with a self-effacing punchline.
Eleven of the vault tracks—a third of them—weren’t released in any form. They include the gag track “Work That Fat” (using a pitched-down voice a la The Black Album’s “Bob George” over the “Martika’s Kitchen” instrumental, Prince objectifies and mocks fat women and then learns a valuable lesson), “Schoolyard” (which lived on early configurations of the D&P tracklist, and according to a 1990 Rolling Stone interview is about “the first time I got any”), the moving instrumental Miles Davis tribute “Letter 4 Miles” (recorded two days after the innovator’s death), some early rock noodling that the N.P.G. would hone in subsequent years, and “I Pledge Allegiance To Your Love” (a killer torch song that Prince curls his vocal around, like smoke on fingers at a nightclub a few decades ago).
The vault tracks show Prince as reliably prolific in the early ’90s, though there were now very clear bounds on his creativity—at least in the studio, and especially when writing for others in attempt to gussy them up in the day’s fashion. Onstage was a different matter, as evidenced by the blistering performance recorded January 11, 1992, at Prince’s Minneapolis club Glam Slam that appears in both audio and video in this set. It was an intimate version of the Diamonds & Pearls tour he was about to take to larger venues and it’s absolutely insane. At its most populated, there are damn near 20 people onstage (including the five-piece NPG Hornz and the vocal group the Steeles, who join for an extended, gospel-infused version of the then-unreleased “The Sacrifice of Victor” from the Love Symbol album). Prince dons four different outfits—he both ties his tie onstage then undoes it along with his button-down shirt a few songs later, during a seductive “Insatiable.” Virtually everything here outdoes its studio counterpart. “Cream” is funkier. “Gett Off,” at over 14 minutes, is longer. “Jughead” is… more tolerable. The show climaxes with Prince practically floating back and forth across the bar.
Also included on the Blu-ray is Prince’s performance at the 1992 Special Olympics (as well as its soundcheck) and the Diamonds and Pearls Video Collection. Missing, though, is the “Gett Off” video maxi-single, which included videos for its B-sides like “Violet the Organ Grinder.” There are also many tracks associated with this era, like “Gett Off’s Cousin,” “Player,” and “I Wonder,” that are absent from the vault discs. The Diamonds and Pearls Super Deluxe Edition makes the picture of Prince’s creativity during this period more complete but it’s still far from complete. It’s a solid study of a genius after he’d peaked creatively, but it doesn’t transcend that mission. There are some gems, yes, but we already knew about those. Too few are the diamonds in the rough.
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