There was a time if you wanted to get your hands on unreleased music from your favorite artist, you had to venture into the world of bootlegs. That could be an indie record store brave enough to include these illegal recordings in with their legitimate stock. Record conventions were always fertile grounds too. Or in my case, I knew a guy who the FBI had labeled (and busted) as the “Midwest King Of The Bottlegs.” He ran a little shop out of his basement. Even sent out a mailer announcing new arrivals.
But after Dylan put out the boxset Biography, Clapton’s Crossroads, and the Beatles Anthology series, these type of things have become common place and big business. In lieu of new material or a between new release offering, bands plundered their vaults and fans rejoice.
Prince’s estate has now released the first album of unreleased music since his death, Piano & A Microphone 1983. The set, which was mastered from a cassette tape, has been released as a nine track, 35-minute album featuring the contents of a previously unreleased 1983 home studio cassette recording of Prince at his piano captured at his Kiowa Trail home studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota by engineer Don Batts.
Hard to say what’s going on here, Prince fleshing out songs for future release or playing for himself. Either way it’s a fascinating listening. Highlights include 17 Days, which would get the full band treatment and become the B-side to When Doves Cry, the same with Strange Relationship, later landing on Sign ‘O’ The Times, a snippet of future classic Purple Rain, and the James Brown workout, Cold Coffee & Cocaine.
Most likely this is the first of many releases. Prince, like Neil Young, was famous for starting and stopping sessions leaving scores of songs and albums on the shelf. Reportedly there are hundreds of hours of music ripe for future airings. But for now we have this, a glimpse of talent, soon to be genius.