In 10 Words or Less
A collection of underrated Prince songs finally ported from VHS
Loves: Prince, music videos, Diamonds and Pearls
Likes: New Power Generation
Dislikes: Prince's experiments in rap
Hates: Craptacular transfers, no effort put into releases
Prince's "Diamonds and Pearls" album, released just before the symbol era but after his classic early albums, was a top-notch collection of Prince compositions, but one that doesn't get the respect that earlier albums enjoy. Part of it might be the ill-advised dabbling in rap, part of it might be the focus on the overtly sexual tracks. It can be argued though that the album has as many quality songs as anything Prince has released since "Purple Rain."
Back in the day, when MTV showed music videos, Prince was responsible for some of the most controversial ones seen on the channel. Two of them came from "Diamonds and Pearls," as "Gett Off" and "Cream" brought some very sexual imagery to the small screen, mirroring the sexy tone of the songs. They were just the right videos to introduce Prince's latest "proteges," Diamond and Pearl. These spokesmodels were very good at looking good, and they performed that role quite well in these videos.
The 58-minute film stitches together seven videos from the album, the awful, stereotypical rap video for "Call the Law" (from the NPG album "Gold Nigga") , and four live performances, with some segue material drawn from media reports and the extended video shoot with director Rebecca Blake for "Cream" and "Diamonds and Pearls". To say it's a loose construction is putting it mildly, as the concert footage is well short of showing full-songs, and the videos have no reason to go in the presented order. Why we couldn't get the full stage songs, including the great "Thunder" and "Live 4 Love," makes no sense, unless the makers were instructed to keep this under an hour in length. If so, "Call the Law", at best anembarrassing footnote in Prince's career, could have easily been jettisoned.
Prince has never really been known for making the kinds of music videos that leave a last impact, letting the music do the talking. But even so, there are a few interesting clips on this DVD, including an appearance by Spike Lee, who helms the black-and-white video for "Money Don't Matter 2 Night." The best of the group, and not for anything done visually, is "Willing and Able," the jazzy, fun number that is shot in a recording/rehearsal space. The reason it's worth checking out, is the song is a different performance than the one on the album, with Prince improvising a slower pace and a higher pitch that gives the already-great song a new feel. For a Prince fan, it's a must listen.
Though the songs are great, the videos aren't, which makes this DVD a judgment call for Prince fans. If you truly enjoy the album, getting the alternate version of "Willing and Able" is reason enough to pick this one up, but casual followers could easily skip it and pick up the album instead, to enjoy the full-length songs and to miss "Call the Law."
The one-disc release is packed in a clear keepcase, without an insert. The DVD has an animated full-frame main menu, with two options: play the film or select scenes. There are no audio options, subtitles or closed captioning on this DVD.
Yuck. Pick a negative aspect about video quality, and this full-frame transfer probably has it. Dull color? Yup. Excessive grain? All over. Soft image? Indeed. Lack of detail? Sadly so. I don't have a VHS copy of the video to compare, but everything seen on the screen reminds me of when I was dubbing from VHS deck to VHS deck. Disappointing is putting it lightly.
Considering this is a music DVD release, you'd think maybe they were just ignoring the video so they could pump up the audio. Then you listen to the audio, a PCM 2.0 track, and realize they just didn't care. It's a very pedestrian sounding DVD, with good music and clean voices. Nothing about it stands out in any way.
The animosity between Prince and Warner Brothers makes finding extras on a WB release an unlikely event. Prince wouldn't be involved, and WB likes to milk his work for every penny they can, without any additional effort.
The Bottom Line
It's great that this collection is finally available again, as these videos and the live concert footage are certainly desirable to Prince fans. There are some great Prince songs here, even if the videos don't stack up quite as high, and the "live" version of "Willing and Able" is a real treat for The Purple One's faithful who haven't heard it before. The problem is, the translation from VHS to DVD has been a rough one, and the transfer will make you wonder if you haven't gone back in time to the days of magnetic tape. Aside from all the grain, there's no extras here, which again leaves Prince fans out in the cold. If you're a hardcore Prince fan, you'll want to own this, despite the crap that's gone into it, but anyone else could rent it and be satisfied.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.