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By Any Name, Prince Is Still a Hit

September 12, 1993|DENNIS HUNT


"The Hits: Vol. I and II"

Paisley Park

* * * * 1/2

Prince's first greatest-hits package after 14 years of recording is no ordinary retrospective--naturally.

Not only do you get two albums worth of hits, from his early "I Wanna Be Your Lover" to the recent "Diamonds and Pearls," but also an album of B-sides, such as "Another Lonely X-mas" and "Erotic City," that have only been available as singles.

This comprehensive, intriguing collection also includes new material--"Pink Cashmere," "Peach," "Pope" and "Power Fantastic," as well as his first recorded version of "Nothing Compares 2 U." Actually, Sinead O'Connor's hit version is better, reaching a level of intensity and yearning that Prince doesn't. As a group, the new songs are among his best in recent years, particularly "Peach," with its '50s rock 'n' roll flavor, and the funky, enigmatic "Pope."

This package niftily summarizes a career highlighted by trend-setting syntheses of funk, rock, blues and dance music. Essentially, Prince picked up where Sly Stone left off in the late '60s and powered his way to the next level. Like any great artist, Prince has left a trail of failed explorations--none of which are included here. The only disappointment in this package is that it includes nothing from his infamous, unreleased 1987 "Black Album."

So is this really the end for Prince?

The best guess is probably not. This feels like a farewell package--but just a fancy funeral for the old Prince. He's taken his electronic funk-rock explorations as far as they can go. Expect Prince--or whatever he's calling himself--to blaze some more trails.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). Five stars (a classic) is reserved for retrospective albums.

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