The Hits/The B-Sides
(Paisley Park/Warner Bros. 45440)

How better to say it: slammin'! Two discs crammed to the gills with the crème de la crème from Prince, plus a disc of choice b-sides – not an unmemorable song to be found, hopscotching from mid-80s to late 70s to early 90s to late 80s for an instant party no matter what the occasion.

Everyone will have their own nomination for a favorite song that wasn't included ("Girls & Boys," "The Arms of Orion," "Take me With U," "Glam Slam"), but that's not a shortcoming of the set as much as a statement on how much purely great material the man has made in the past 20+ years. People roll their eyes these days when he releases another mammoth collection, or another new album, but the fact is that on his most uninspired day, the man is still twenty times the musician than almost anyone you can name. He literally breathes music. In the time it's taken you to read this far in, he's probably recorded some new ones.

The Hits/The B-Sides is the no-filler collection that everyone who hasn't the patience for his massive catalog needs to have. For those who buy everything The Artist puts out, this is still totally essential, not just for the otherwise unavailable songs ("Pope," "Nothing Compares 2 U," "Pink Cashmere," "Peach," "Power Fantastic"), but just for the thrill of playing these discs all the way through and beholding the staggering reach of the man's achievement.

For those who joined the parade around Purple Rain or after, a great facet of this CD is that it mixes some of the early classics in and allows them to shine alongside the more widely recognized radio hits. "When You Were Mine," "Dirty Mind," "Head," "Uptown," "Soft and Wet," "Do Me, Baby," "I Wanna Be Your Lover" – the best moments from the first four albums, which have always been more of the diehard fan favorites than the mainstream hits. Also, the big hits off the late 80s/early 90s albums (the period many think of as being the beginning of a long wayward path for The Artist) stand proudly beside stuff like "1999," "Let's Go Crazy," "Little Red Corvette," and the other stock giganto-hits. "Thieves in the Temple," "7," "Gett Off," "Sexy MF," "Alphabet Street" – great songs that don't always get thought of when people start rattling off their favorite Prince songs.

And who needs an excuse to sit back and kick it to "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" or "Delirious" or "U Got the Look" or "Raspberry Beret?" Slammin'. The first 2 discs are available separately also, but the only way you can get the b-sides disc is to spring for the whole set – and believe me, it's not an option to pass on that opportunity. Prince's b-sides are legendarily great, and he's been known to toss off some of his best songs as b-sides or even to not release them at all. This is where you'll start to find the truly dirty Prince shit – "Erotic City," "Gotta Stop (Messin' About)," "Scarlet Pussy," "Feel U Up," and probably my all-time favorite Prince b-side, "Horny Toad," which is a lot like "Delirious" (to which it was the b-side) but possibly better.

"She's Always in My Hair," "Another Lonely Christmas," "4 the Tears in Your Eyes," "How Comu U Don't Call Me Anymore" – songs so good you're wondering how you managed to miss these. Not everyone was a rabid Prince fan back in the day, so this disc is essential for anyone remotely interested in playing catch-up. "Shockadelica" and "Power Fantastic" are a couple of great outtakes from the "Camille" era that ultimately produced Sign O' the Times, but first produced like three unreleased albums. I'll always have a place in my heart for "La, La, La, He, He Hee," which proves that, perhaps even moreso than Paul McCartney, Prince can even make crap sublime.

"17 days," "God," "Irrestible Bitch" – yowza. This is the heart of the set. The collection would have been wonderful with just the hits, but the b-sides make it something totally special. Few artists could manage a set like this – the best moments from 15 years as possibly the most prolific and brilliant pop artist in the world. After this, the name was changed and who knows, maybe in another ten years we'll have another set like this to cover the second phase. Next time you find yourself dismissing Prince for whatever recent weirdness you don't get, just sit down with this for 30 minutes (or three hours) – you'll shut your fat mouth in no time.

Review by Nelson Rogers