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The Artist's latest album isn't quite new

These old Warner Bros. recordings date back to his Prince days

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Prince
Stephen Trupp/Star Max

”The Vault…Old Friends 4 Sale” is the Artist Formerly Known as Prince’s new album (in stores Aug. 24), but the word ”new” should be taken very loosely. Not only is it a collection of previously unreleased recordings from the late 1980s to early ’90s, but it’s a collection he handed to Warner Bros. records three years ago as the last contractual obligation of his 1992 $100 million deal, which had devolved into a bitter feud that had him scrawling ”Slave” on his face.

The three-year wait seems appropriate, considering the Artist’s main gripe with Warner was that the company only wanted him to put out one album a year, while he didn’t want a limit set on his creative output. (Part of Warner’s reticence to let him go record crazy was that the Artist would earn a reported $10 million per release.) For the label’s part, Warner Bros. senior VP Bob Merlis says that the three-year hold on the album was ”just a marketing judgment… (We wanted) to find a space in the marketplace that seemed right for it.” As for the Artist, he doesn’t seem to care when they put it out, but he won’t be promoting it and doesn’t want the release taken as a symbol of detente between him and his ex-label. ”It was the last thing he delivered to them, so it was like, ‘This is what I owe ya, see ya,”’ says his spokesperson. ”He has no love for Warner Bros., but they can (release it), and he’s fine with it.”

The CD has the name ”Prince” on it, and both Warner Bros. and the Artist’s spokesperson say this was his decision, meant to indicate that the music was recorded before he changed his name to the confounding glyph in 1993. ”That was who he was at the time of these recordings,” says Merlis. ”You can’t (change that) ex post facto.” One of the songs, however, does postdate the name switch: An extended 1994 version of ”She Spoke 2 Me,” a different mix of which appeared on the 1996 soundtrack to Spike Lee’s ”Girl 6.”

Other songs on ”The Vault” were also written for soundtracks: The tune ”Old Friends 4 Sale” came from the sessions for the ”Under the Cherry Moon” score in 1985. And three other tracks were written for James L. Brooks’ 1994 comedy ”I’ll Do Anything,” which was originally intended to be a musical, but for which the songs were stripped out after disastrous test screenings.