Una Visual History delle cover degli album di Prince

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A Visual History of Prince’s Album Covers

An iconoclast, a music majesty, and a true living legend—The Purple One has been known in many forms.

However you may know him, as Jamie Starr or Joey Coco, as Christopher or Camille, as Alexander Nevermind, as The Artist Formerly Known As…, or simply as a symbol, we present to you a look back on the staggering repertoire of releases from Minnesota’s funkiest mononym, as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of his iconic album, Prince. This is a visual history, in album cover form, of Prince Rogers Nelson: best known as Prince.

With a staggering 30+ albums, and just as many Top 40 hits almost exclusively conceived, written, and executed to his exacting standards, it’s easy to understand why so many regard him as a visionary. Prince’s metamorphosis as a recording artist began with a chrysalis marked by a humble introduction on his debut solo album For You in 1978, which acted as a precursor to his first multi-platinum record, the eponymous Prince.

Significantly, it was Prince which established a distinct visual identity for Prince, one which would continue to evolve, excite, and stimulate the world’s respective canons of funk, R&B, rock, soul, electronica, and more. He has continued to pioneer and refine his own brand of general experimentalism over decades.

As much as he has continually enjoyed flirting with genres, Prince has also gotten attention for the unabashed sexual themes throughout his music—themes abundant from albums like Dirty Mind, Controversy, 1999, and beyond. It was around this time, though, that Purple truly took reign, solidifying his position as a pop genius with one of the most ubiquitous soundtrack covers of all time.

Over 20 worldwide tours, numerous releases, name changes, and label disputes later, things have only seemed to get more and more interesting. Read on as we take a trip back through the history of one of music’s all-time greats and how this near-mythical creature came to be.

Image via Coveralia

For You (1978)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Jeff Farmakes (The Ad Company)
Photographer: Joe Giannetti
Illustrator: N/A

There’s no better place to start than at the beginning.

Prince’s debut feature-length album was a low-key affair, which didn’t initially receive widespread recognition but allowed for a view into the mind of an ambitious, then 19-year-old Prince, displaying the foundations from which he would continue to flourish.

Arguably, this album is a comparatively tepid offering considering his full body of work to date, but we all have to start somewhere, and this was it for Prince. On it, he was at full command of almost all aspects of the album’s sounds, as through the rest of his career.

The cover of For You is a fleeting, trailing image of him that focuses more on his piercing gaze than the fashion that has later come to characterize him.

Image via Imgur

Prince (1979)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: George Chacon / Lynn Barron (RIA Images)
Photographer: Jurgen Reisch
Illustrator: N/A

Prince had evidently made marked differences since his first album, unveiling a follow-up with much more stylistic clarity.

Shirtless, coiffed, and primed for action on the cover, Prince’s first platinum record Prince featured tracks including “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” Again, this was a very “hands on” effort with Prince responsible for almost all roles in the album’s sound and direction. Whilst an excellent album in its own right, this was also really just a hint at what was to follow.

Image via CDN

Dirty Mind (1980)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Unknown
Photographer: Allen Beaulieu
Illustrator: N/A

With the gloves starting to come off, so did the shirt and the pants.

This time, R&B took a backseat as Prince continued to define and expose the deeper complexities of his character. Delving into more salacious and, at times, outrageous subject matter, paired with a post-watershed version of the prior album’s artwork; Prince caused a stir. His shocking tales of a promiscuous bride-to-be on “Head,” underage incest on “Sister,” and using his dad’s car to satisfy sexual urges on the album’s title track, Dirty Mind shocked people.

30 years on, the songs still seem risque when played before a certain hour in the day.

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Image via Memoirs of an Urban Gentleman

Controversy (1981)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Unknown
Photographer: Allen Beaulieu
Illustrator: N/A

Controversy could be seen as the aftershock to Dirty Mind’s earthquake, and in that sense, the cover is a fair reflection of the album’s contents—engaging headlines that are slightly underwhelming in the grand scheme.

Still, Prince’s fourth album was no less restrained, as demonstrated during its more inviting moments on “Do Me, Baby” and “Jack U Off.” But the irony, perhaps, is that the majority of it wasn’t quite as controversial as what people expected.

Image via The Lavender Luxery

1999 (1982)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Unknown
Photographer: Unknown
Illustrator: N/A

Prince disputed any doubts cast against him in the 12 months following Controversy, as everyone in the world simultaneously started dancing like it was 1999. The year was 1982.

Funk was in full flow around the release of his fifth album, bolstered by tracks including “Little Red Corvette,” “Delirious,” and “Let’s Pretend.” It was a multi-platinum, breakthrough album for Prince and an introductory one for The Revolution band. Themes matured (for the most part), and tracks like “Free” acted like a subconscious nod to ideas he would continue to expand upon.

The cover was a psychedelic-looking, hand-drawn, almost folk art design that read, “Prince 1999.”

 
Image via Fan Art

Purple Rain (1984)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Laura LiPuma
Photographer: Ed Thrasher and Associates/Ron Slenzak
Illustrator: N/A

The soundtrack to the film of the same name, Purple Rain is regarded by many as one of the greatest albums ever.

The LP recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, and to this day earns its place in music’s figurative hall of fame with a total of 20+ million sales. Prince’s timeless blend of rock, pop, R&B, funk, balladry, and breathtaking arrangements were showcased exquisitely on tracks like “When Doves Cry,” “I Would Die 4 U,” and “Let’s Go Crazy.” Purple Rain was the first album to formally credit The Revolution on the album’s sleeve, and more importantly, it was Prince’s first proper foray into film.

This was the moment “Prince” became a household name. The cover has Prince boldly on a motorbike, wearing purple and on a purple bike, surrounded by fog and a floral cover. Only Prince could pull it off.

Image via Onlyiplus

Around the World in A Day (1985)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Laura LiPuma
Photographer: N/A
Illustrator: Doug Henders

As any good roller-coaster has its ups and its downs, so does the career of any musician worth basing a list on.

The grandeur of Purple Rain was always going to be a difficult album to follow, especially considering the positive reception 1999 had also received prior. And so with little-to-no promotion for the album from Prince, did he manage to pull it off? The short answer would be “no,” but then again, it was only 1985, and “Raspberry Beret” (albeit feeling slightly out of place on the album) acts as some kind of saving grace to an otherwise low-profile Prince release for Around The World.

In an interview at the time with Rolling Stone, Prince disputed claims that the album cover was inspired by The Beatles and said, “The cover art came about because I thought people were tired of looking at me. Who wants another picture of him? I would only want so many pictures of my woman, then I would want the real thing. What would be a little more happening than just another picture would be if there was some way I could materialize in people’s cribs when they play the record.”

Image via Amazon

Parade (1986)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Laura LiPuma
Photographer: Jeff Katz
Illustrator: N/A

Prince’s musical accompaniment for his second feature film Under The Cherry Moon, Parade, actually preceded the release of the film itself by three months, and was the last album to feature contributions from The Revolution collective.

“Kiss” being the most memorable track to emerge from the album, the song was originally recorded as a bluesy acoustic demo by Prince, and then re-recorded by studio neighbours Mazarati. It was only after hearing the band’s funkier reinterpretation of Prince’s original version that he reclaimed it as his own, tweaking it slightly to produce the “Kiss” we all know, love, and have danced inappropriately to.

Image via Fan Art

Sign ‘O’ The Times (1987)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Laura LiPuma
Photographer: Jeff Katz
Illustrator: N/A

With the album’s image possibly poking fun at the idea of his best years being behind him, Prince had by this point released an amazing eight albums in those years.

As one of the many examples of Prince’s artistic stamina and his notorious one-man-bandsmanship, some of the music was originally going to be included in a larger release with The Revolution. But after disbanding the group, Prince was left with yet-to-be released songs. After gathering all the tracks intended to made the final cut, the label requested that the selections be reduced to two LPs, and thus Sign O The Times came into being, as did the visible signs of friction between Prince and Warner Bros.

Image via Blogspot

Lovesexy (1988)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Unknown
Photographer: Jean Baptiste Mondino
Illustrator: N/A

Representing his 10th studio album, the cover for Lovesexy was amongst Prince’s more outrageous.

The original release contained nine tracks without breaks, creating one long 45-minute track, but it was Prince’s emulation of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus, butt-naked, which was always going to cause more of a fuss. And it did.

Some record shops outright refused to stock the album, whilst others had to cover Prince’s modesty with a black bag, which was slightly ironic, in that Lovesexy was the last-minute replacement album for The Black Album, which saw its own seperate release years later.

Image via Pulp Busters

Batman OST (1989)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Tom Recchion
Photographer: Jeff Katz
Illustrator: Anton Furst

Another film soundtrack this time, Prince’s contribution to the Batman franchise was released alongside Danny Elfman’s original score and received mixed reviews from fans.

After using two Prince songs (“1999” and “Baby I’m A Star”) in a rough cut of the movie, director Tim Burton felt they worked so well together that in mid-December of 1988, he reached out to Prince to see if he would re-record the tracks for use in the movie, or provide new tracks instead.

Dialogue and other film excerpts aside, Prince ended up creating an entire album for the project. However, some have speculated that due to the publishing deals in place which favored Warner Bros., Prince purposefully selected tracks he felt were essentially throwaways yet were still commercially viable. But hey, Prince on an average day is still Prince, much as Batman is still Bruce Wayne.

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Graffiti Bridge OST (1990)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Tom Recchion
Photographer: Bob McNamara
Illustrator: Steve Parke

The Graffiti Bridge Soundtrack, Prince’s second and last film that he also worked on as director, is, if you’ll excuse the pun, a distinguishable bridge between the artist (at that point known as Prince) and the New Power Generation Prince.

Though much of the album’s songs were in fact created in previous sessions stretching as far back as the Controversy days, only minor changes and alterations were required, which also stands as a testament to the durability of Prince’s ideas.

The cover has half of Prince’s face on the right, with a surreal portrait and upside down tree on the left side.

Image via Pop Verse

Diamonds And Pearls (1991)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Tom Recchion/Jeff Gold
Photographer: Joel Larson
Illustrator: Greg Ross

This album marked the beginning of a new era for Prince, and was the first to be credited to Prince and the New Power Generation.

Characterised by hip-hop overtones, “Diamonds and Pearls” sees Prince honing in on the best balance of commercial appeal and his tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Unlike many of Prince’s previous albums, Diamonds And Pearls didn’t contain any updated tracks from the vault, with all 13 songs written and recorded over the course of a year and a half. Overall, the album was seen as a strong opening statement from Prince’s new formation, complete with a cover featuring Prince and his ladies in a blued hue.

Image via Until Sunday

Love Symbol Album (1992)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Jeff Gold/Greg Ross
Photographer: Jeff Katz
Illustrator: Unknown

The 14th album from Prince features the symbol which would later become his name, and a cover design which shows a contrast of ancient tradition and a futuristic horizon.

Originally conceived as a “fantasy rock soap opera,” Prince’s various interludes, narrated by Kirstie Alley, are a bit odd. However, you’re not listening to a Prince album to hear the interludes. Prince, as ever, brings the funk in bundles on tracks like “My Name Is Prince” and “Sexy MF.” Interestingly, this album debuted contributions from Mayte Garcia, who would later become Prince’s wife.

Image via Cartulascd

The Hits 1 (1993)

Label: Paisley Park Records
Art direction: Unknown
Photographer: Herb Ritts
Illustrator: N/A

The release of The Hits albums marked the peak of Prince’s feuding with Warner Bros., having changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol on his previous album, whilst making threats to stop putting out new music atogether.

The label originally wanted to release a greatest hits collection around the time Diamonds and Pearls was released, but instead it was released post-love symbol. For this retrospective, Warner Bros. had initially floated the idea of releasing a 4-5 disc box set, but this was quickly rejected as the retail price would’ve been way too high for most.

Instead, the project was contained to three discs, with Prince contributing six previously-unreleased songs to the whole set. At one point, he wanted to be more involved in the release, but apparently Warner Bros. was already behind schedule on the set, and in the end paid Prince not to be involved as to expedite the compilation’s release.

Naturally, the collection is fronted by a bold portrait of the artist.

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Image via Amazon

The Hits 2 (1993)

Label: Paisley Park Records
Art direction: Unknown
Photographer: Herb Ritts
Illustrator: N/A

Released simultaneously with The Hits 1 and The Hits/B-Sides, in September 1993, The Hits 2 featured some of Prince’s best-known material to date, in addition to two previously unreleased songs, “Peach” and “Pope.” When comparing the previously unreleased tracks included on The Hits 1, the two new tracks included on the album were relatively contemporary. “Peach” was recorded in June 1992, and “Pope” was recorded in May 1993.

As with each of these compilations, they remain incomplete without Prince’s unmistakable portraiture on the front.

Image via Kane

The Hits/B-Sides (1993)

Label: Paisley Park Records
Art direction: Unknown
Photographer: Herb Ritts
Illustrator: N/A

At the time of release, The Hits discs were sold individually, so if you wanted the B-Sides, you needed to buy the three-disc set.

A considerable expense for anyone, this trio of LPs is still an essential purchase for anyone looking to cover all the bases.

Most of the tracks on The Hits discs were single versions including the single remix of “Kiss,” which wasn’t available on CD before this point. Overall, it was a spectacular display of his output by this point, and the cover was a simple, stunning side-view of Prince’s face in a classic-looking, black and white meets sepia tone.

Image via WordPress

Come (1994)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: J.C. Munson
Photographer: Terry Gydesen
Illustrator: N/A

Prince’s allusion to his own death on the album cover for Come wasn’t subtle. It read “Prince 1958-1993” and was his way of communicating the death of Prince and the life of The Artist Formerly Known As…

Although the album did actually reach respectable gold status, it was noticeably his weakest seller in years. Considering most of the music on it was recorded a year earlier (around the same time as recordings later included on The Gold Experience), also during the midst of his feud with Warner Bros., Prince wanted to release both at the same time to show a contrast between the old Prince and the new Prince.

Warner Bros. ended up releasing the albums seperately, to which Prince responded in the media claiming that Come was a disc of old material (despite the fact it wasn’t actually that old).

Image via Wikipedia

The Black Album (1994)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Unknown
Photographer: N/A
Illustrator: N/A

No cover and no credits.

Originally recorded in 1987, The Black Album was shelved a few weeks before its scheduled release, and at the time was replaced with Lovesexy. Seemingly, Prince’s goal was to shed his poppy persona to record a highly conceptual funk record. And he did, in a way.

Prince seemed to anticipate the album’s lacklustre response, as can be seen in the music video for “Alphabet St.” There’s actually text amongst all the letters, which reads “don’t buy the black album, I’m sorry.”

Image via Maniadb

The Gold Experience (1995)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: O{->
Photographer: Unknown
Illustrator: Unknown

A distinct moment in Prince’s career, he clearly tried to create another masterpiece with The Gold Experience.

Noticeably different in sound when held up against Come and The Black Album, The Artist Formerly Known As… presented a stable album with all the essential components of a Prince album and a shimmering cover to boot. Featuring the captivating hit “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World,” the song hadn’t been connected to an album until that the time and actually preceded the album’s release by 19 months.

Image via Onlyiplus

Chaos and Disorder (1996)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Steve Parke
Photographer: Steve Parke
Illustrator: Steve Parke

This was what the bitter end of Prince and Warner Bros.’ relationship looked like.

Some have speculated that Prince purposefully featured B-list tracks on Chaos And Disorder as way of satisfying the contract, but also to leave label execs as unsatisfied as possible, at the same time. No tour coincided to support the album, and Prince openly talked about the album as a contractual obligation to fulfill his recording contract after his relationship with Warner Bros. had soured.

The liner notes state: “Originally intended for private use only, this compilation serves as the last original material recorded for Warner Brothers.” Ouch.

 
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Emancipation (1996)

Label: NPG/EMI
Art direction: Steve Parke
Photographer: Jeff Katz
Illustrator: Unknown

Freedom!

Closure for the ongoing saga between Prince and the label came in the form of Emancipation. It had a less than subtle “unshackling” of Prince’s wrists on the cover, less than a week after Prince’s contact had expired. This saw Prince drop a huge lump sum of material he seemed to have amassed exactly for a moment like this. And what better way to express your freedom than by releasing the first triple, full-length, original R&B studio album ever, with three hours of songs uninhibited by previous forms of label restraints or impositions. The album was released in conjunction with EMI.

Image via Photobucket

Crystal Ball (1998)

Label: NPG Records
Art direction: Steve Parke
Photographer: Unknown
Illustrator: Unknown

Prince’s 20th release, the fourth under his unpronouncable moniker, was a bulk of vault materal recorded over the period of a decade. It’s an essential piece for anyone looking for those deeper Prince cuts.

If you bought Crystal Ball after its initial release on the Internet, you received a four-disc package with one characteristically featuring acoustic versions, titled The Truth. However, if you pre-ordered it over the Internet, you also received a fifth disc of instrumentals called Kamasutra.

Prince then learned things the hard way when it came to distribution, with this his first release via NPG Records causing problems for fans simply trying to get a hold of previously unheard versions. For example, many Internet pre-orders never got filled, and the ones that did came with no additional liner notes. Then, physical copies started showing up in shops before many of the Internet orders were filled, which were complete with the aforementioned liner notes.

Hell hath no fury like a music geek scorned, although this wouldn’t be the last time that Prince’s unorthodox release methods caused a headache for some. The Wordart-eqsue design probably had a similar effect for any graphic designers who purchased the album, too.

Image via Coveralia

The Vault… Old Friends 4 Sale (1999)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Steve Parke
Photographer: Claude Gassain
Illustrator: Unknown

The year is now actually 1999, and Prince’s relationship with his old label flares up again.

A stipulation of the deal to leave his contract with Warner Bros. was that they could release an album of vault material whenever they wished. They (perhaps tactically) chose to do so a few months before Arista was scheduled to release his new record.

The result was The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale. It was a disappointing one in various respects and could arguably be seen as little more than a spiteful act, intentionally releasing a substandard set of 10 tracks in order to mess up Prince’s own release schedule.

Image via Onlyiplus

Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic (1999)

Label: NPG/Arista Records
Art direction: Steve Parke
Photographer: Steve Parke
Illustrator: Unknown

It’s still very much 1999 on the cover of Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic, with Prince’s eye-catching blue leather number stealing the spotlight.

Strangely hailed as some kind of “comeback” album by Arista Records, it was met by mainly negative reviews, and didn’t really come close to his previous sales records. Much like the leather onesie, it all probably seemed like such a good idea at the time.

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Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic (2001)

Label: NPG Records
Art direction: Steve Parke
Photographer: Steve Parke
Illustrator: Unknown

A year or so after Rave Un2…, the ever-so-slightly tweaked Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic was released in April 2000 via email to members of the NPG Music Club.

The cover of Rave In2… is identical to that of Rave Un2…, aside from the unnerving amount of eye contact, and was basically considered to be a remix record. However, seven of the tracks are either extended versions or essentially the same track but just slightly updated from the former.

Image via Fanpop

The Very Best of Prince (2001)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Unknown
Photographer: Various
Illustrator: N/A

The Very Best of Prince, a best-of compilation featuring material from Prince’s time at Warner Bros, is exactly what you’d expect.

Soon before its release, Prince suggested he was in negotiations with a major record store chain to distribute an album tentatively titled A Celebration via his NPG Ahdio Show, and said it would contain 20 “remastered re-recordings” of his greatest hits, along with “at least four brand new songs.”

A Celebration was never released, however The Very Best Of Prince was. Feel free to read between the liner notes on that one. Prince even abandoned plans for a summer tour, as he didn’t want to appear to be promoting the Warner Bros. compilation.

Image via Blogspot

The Rainbow Children (2001)

Label: NPG/Redline Entertainment
Art direction: Jeremy Gavin
Photographer: N/A
Illustrator: Cbabi Bayoc

The Rainbow Children was a concept album full of religious themes which centered around the idea of creating a movement which would ultimately forge a utopian society.

It was around this time that the artist once again known as Prince had converted to become a Jehovah’s Witness, and his newfound religious interests were represented. With this noticeable transition, Prince said that he wasn’t going to make music as explicit as he once did, which also meant that his live shows were modified accordingly.

Unfortunately for Prince, the response to this comparatively jazzy outing wasn’t a particularly warm one, and so it rarely makes it onto top 10 lists. Thankfully, this isn’t one of those lists, and we still love the album’s vibrant, jazzy cover.

Image via WordPress

One Nite Alone (2002)

Label: NPG
Art direction: Steve Parke/Jeremy Gavin
Photographer: Steve Parke
Illustrator: Unknown

One for the fans, One Nite Alone was not available on the commercial market, nor was it eligible for the charts.

Instead, the album was mailed to NPG Music Club members worldwide in May 2002. The album is sparse in nature and visual layout, focusing mainly on piano and vocals, bearing stylistic similarities to The Truth in its “stripped back” sound. An interesting fact about the album is that Prince’s doves, which were named Divinity and Majesty, are credited for “ambient singing” on the album.

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Xpectation (2003)

Label: NPG Records
Art direction: Unknown
Photographer: Unknown
Illustrator: Unknown

Xpectation was Prince’s first all-instrumental album, available only online.

It arrived as a surprise release on New Years Day in 2003, exclusive to members of the NPG Music Club as a free download, containing songs which only started with the letter “X”: Xpand, Xotica, Xcetera, xcetera, and xcetera.

Image via Caratulascd

N.E.W.S (2003)

Label: NPG Records
Art direction: Jeremy Gavin
Photographer: Unknown
Illustrator: Unknown

Released the same year as Xpectation, N.E.W.S was Prince’s second fully instrumental album, and contained only four tracks, each exactly 14 minutes long.

At the time of this album’s release, Prince’s succession of jazz/funk-inspired releases between 2001-2003 indicated that he was entering into a new era of Prince. However, he dispelled that notion with a return to vocal pop music the following year on Musicology, again proving his ability to shed and don genres like they were fur coats.

So maybe the album’s cover of a storm forming was some kind of warning, maybe?

Image via Fan Art

Musicology (2004)

Label: NPG/Columbia
Art direction: Jeremy Gavin/Sam Jennings
Photographer: Afshin Shahidi
Illustrator: Unknown

Prince’s emergence from the shadows on the cover of Musicology was doubtfully an afterthought. This was the comeback album Rave Un2… wasn’t.

The release, and the corresponding tour, were timed to coincide with Prince’s induction into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame, and marked Prince’s return from obscurity following five years of low-key and Internet-only releases. Those who attended any of the dates on the Musicology tour could pay a little extra for their ticket to receive a copy of the album upon arrival. Singles included “Cinnamon Girl,” “Call My Name,” and title track “Musicology.”

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The Chocolate Invasion (2004)

Label: NPG Records
Art direction: Sam Jennings
Photographer: Unknown
Illustrator: Unknown

The Chocolate Invasion aka Trax from the NPG Music Club Volume One, had already been available online to members of the NPG Music Group for years, except one track featured on the final tracklist. Its cover wasn’t necessarily a piece of art, but it relayed Prince’s style as the others before it had.

Most of the tracks were reportedly supposed to get released in 2000 under the title High, but due to Prince’s religious conversion at the time, and the naughty lyrics contained within, the album was archived, and The Rainbow Children was released instead. The album contains Prince’s signature brand of funky pop, buffered by ballads at each end of the album.

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The Slaughterhouse (2004)

Label: NPG Records
Art direction: Sam Jennings
Photographer: Unknown
Illustrator: Unknown

Released on the same day as The Chocolate Invasion, The Slaughterhouse was technically the 30th full-length studio album by Prince.

If anyone was let down by underwhelming levels of funk on previous albums (i.e. The Black Album—dubbed “The Funk Bible”), they were set straight by those found on The Slaughterhouse.

It also seems reasonable to point out that Prince seemed to be taking inspiration from bargain bins of old Playstation games you’d never heard of when designing the covers, especially when you consider the visual identities of his earlier releases.

Image via Photobucket

C-Note (2003)

Label: NPG Records
Art direction: Unknown
Photographer: Unknown
Illustrator: Unknown

Rounding off 2004 was Prince’s C-Note: four tracks of instrumental jazz pieces plus a live version of a track written for Susannah Melvoin making the fifth. Its cover simply shows a photograph of an empty lounge stage with blue and purple lighting.

The first letter of all the tracks make the title C-Note, with the jazz pieces titled according to where they were recorded during sound checks on the One Night Alone tour—“Copenhagen,” “Nagoya,” “Osaka,” “Tokyo,” and the album closer, “Empty Room.”

Image via Lagardere

3121 (2006)

Label: NPG/Universal
Art direction: Sam Jennings
Photographer: Afshin Shahidi
Illustrator: Unknown

2 years on from his last flurry of releases, Prince solidified his stature with an album shrowded in numerology and a strikingly simple cover to match.

You’re welcome to look through Prince forums in search of deeper meaning behind the numbers, but the likeliest explanation says it relates to the address where the album was recorded, as well as Psalm 31:21, and this being his 31st album, released on the 21st. If number-play isn’t your thing, there’s some music on 3121, too.

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Ultimate Prince (2006)

Label: Warner Bros.
Art direction: Matthieu Bitton
Photographer: Matthieu Bitton
Illustrator: Unknown

If an alien landed on planet Earth looking to expand their record collection, but only had time to buy the one Prince album (well, one “Best Of” Prince album), Ultimate Prince would provide the broad strokes. Fittingly, the text on the cover looks like it was painted in literally broad strokes.

The original timing of the album’s launch by Warner Bros. on March 14, 2006 caused friction for Prince, intending to put out his 3121 release via Universal only a week later. And so, Warner Bros. bumped the release to August later that year, providing a collection of anthems to the enjoyment of audiences terrestrial or otherwise.

Image via Onlyiplus

Planet Earth (2007)

Label: NPG Records
Art direction: Sam Jennings
Photographer: Afshin Shahidi
Illustrator: Unknown

Seeing Prince assuming the role of Atlas for the cover of Planet Earth is certainly as a pleasant surprise, and it must have been when it was thrown in with the weekend’s Daily Mail newspaper one day in 2007, in an attempt to bypass conventional methods of distributing music through a record label.

A mellower record on the whole, album track “Future Baby Mama” actually ended up earning Prince a Grammy, alongside a ton of new British fans who just wanted to buy a newpaper and got a free Prince album.

Image via Drfunkenberry

Lotusflow3r (2009)

Label: NPG Records
Art direction: Unknown
Photographer: Unknown
Illustrator: Unknown

By this stage in the list, we’d say it’s pretty fair to look back and see where an album registers on the bell curve of awesomeness, and Lotusflow3r doesn’t place well.

The album was first released as an exclusive Target release (i.e. foreign countries weren’t selling it), or you could begrudgingly join the new fan site (for $77!) and get a digital download of it. The album itself was pretty weak with no standout moments, but at least the cover is kinda cool.

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Image via Wikipedia

MPLSound (2009)

Label: NPG Records
Art direction: Unknown
Photographer: Unknown
Illustrator: Unknown

The second part of 2009’s dual release, Prince’s MPLSound was more keyboard-driven, whereas Lotusflow3r featured more guitar (i.e. on “Guitar”).

Much smoother and perhaps easier to take than its counterpart, this is a much more fun/funky album. Other than a brief rap appearance by Q-Tip on “Chocolate Box,” all vocals and instrumentals on the album were performed by Prince.

Image via Wikipedia

20Ten (2010)

Label: NPG Records
Art direction: Debbie McGuan/Anthony Malzone
Photographer: N/A
Illustrator: Unknown

And here we reach 20Ten (released in 2010, obviously.

The psychedelic, anime-style fashion sketch graced the covers of publications including Het Nieuwsblad & de Gentenaar, the Daily Mirror (again), and Rolling Stone, much like he did for Planet Earth, marking a dramatic evolution from Prince’s output over nearly 40 years.

Image via Plectrumelectrum

PlectrumElectrum (2014)

Label: NPG Records / Warner Bros.
Art direction: Jesse Draxler and Madison Dube
Photographer: Jesse Draxler and Madison Dube
Illustrator: N/A

After years of waiting, we have ourselves not one but two new Prince albums.

A version of the title track “Plectrumelectrum” first surfaced back in March 2013 as a rehearsal video, and later in April, blogger Dr. Funkenberry broke news about a tour launch party wherein music from an album tentatively-titled Plectrum Electrum would be premiered. Since then, newer, finished tracks featuring the 3rdEyeGirl band popped up on Prince’s Soundcloud, and now, the album with its mirrored, nearly kaleidoscopic, purple-hued color, is out.

Image via Hip-Hop N More

Art Official Age (2014)

Label: NPG Records / Warner Bros.
Art direction: Maya Washington
Photographer: Maya Washington
Illustrator: Unknown

Finally, the 37th full-length studio album from Prince—Art Official Age.

Featuring a Dave Chapelle-fronted single release in the lead-up, and a tri-spectacled Prince on the final cover, Art Official Age more pertinently demonstrates that years and albums down the line, he can still make you move as easily as he can move you. Art Official Age will surely mark another era in Prince’s evolution.

….

Fonte: uk.complex.com

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