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Thread started 03/19/21 10:45am

VaultCurator

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The development history of the track ‘Crystal Ball’ (including all known versions)

Hi everyone.

As some of you may already know from my previous thread (https://prince.org/msg/7/466263), I’ve been doing some research into Prince’s earliest know studio bootlegs and leaks. While doing so I discovered a version of Crystal Ball that I’d never heard before (at least not knowling).

I decided to compare it to all the other versions I knew of and tried to construct a timeline of this track’s development with notes on how each version differs. I thought I’d post it as it may be of use.

If anyone here knows of any other versions or differences that I may have missed then please feel free to add more info. Thanks in advance.


Crystal Ball (original uncut version – no Claire Ficher involvement)
As found on Blast to the Past 4.0

Intro
So I’m guessing that Crystal Ball always had a long kick drum intro. I’m not sure how possible it would have been to apply such an intro retroactively in the days of analogue tape. It may have been possible that the intro was imposed onto the track later on via editing, but I’m going to assume Prince was thinking ahead it terms of seeing what Claire Ficher could offer this composition.

So assuming this is the earliest version, it features a long kick drum intro.

Mathematical gas
During the ‘My baby licks me fast, Her mama watch aghast’ part, Susannah Melvoin sings…
“An elderly couple walk in the park

Quietly missiles cut through the dark

A ghastly blast levels the man

The woman dies in the aftermath”

Drum Solo
Being an uncut version, the drum solo appear intact and lasts for 8 bars

Sisters And Brothers
Susannah reads out the ‘Sisters & brothers’ monologue.

After asking the question ‘Don't U want a ball?’ there is a large orchestral build up over the kick drum (It’s odd how an orchestra is included in this early version. I’m guessing Prince must have sourced it from something older. Maybe something intended for The Family or Parade?) which ends with Susannah saying ‘Maybe Not’.

There is then a short bass part where Susannah whispers ‘Expert’ twice before the drum roll.


Crystal Ball (Dream Factory June Versionno Claire Ficher involvement)

As found on the Crystal Ball (1990) bootleg CD (BXA)


This one I’m unsure about. This version appears to match the original uncut version, with the exception of the intro. On this bootleg release the kick drum intro fades in and only last for approximately 16 beats. However, according the Prince Vault, the version used on the June album was the original uncut version with the full intro.

It’s possible that PrinceVault is wrong on this occasion and Prince cut the intro short for the album. Alternatively, it’s also possible that the June Dream Factory did include the entire uncut version as a placeholder until Clare’s contribution was ready. If this is the case, it’s possible that the fade in was done by the bootleggers to shorten the intro.

Update 04/02/2021
After writing this original post I’ve been able to confirm with a second source that PrinceVault.com was indeed right about the full minute and a half intro being present on the Dream Factory June sequence. Therefore the second version I originally listed turns out to be the same as the first. This is very interesting as it seems to prove that this sequence was never finished as it only existed with a placeholder version of Crystal Ball. It also seems to confirm that Crystal Ball without strings was only ever a work in progress and never intended for release at any point.



Crystal Ball (Dream Factory July Versionno Claire Ficher involvement)
As found on a number of releases including the original Thunderball leak, the SaTim clean up, the Sabotage remaster (which I believe is the same as Satim) and the Foefur remaster.

Intro
Only lasts for 8 beats before before Prince’s vocal begins. There is no fade in as the track is meant to segue directly from Sign O’ The Times.

Mathematical gas
Same as the previous version. Susannah sings her ‘elderly couple’ part.

Drum Solo
Is cut far shorter and now only lasts for 2 bars.

Sisters And Brothers
No change here. The part is presented in full.


Crystal Ball (long version with Claire Ficher’s Orchestra)

As found on Satim ‘1987’, Thunder Ball’s ‘Dream Factory’ Bonus CD, and Thunder Ball’s ‘The Work’. Not intended for any known album as far as I know.

Intro

Intro now includes Claire Ficher’s full arrangement and lasts approximately a minute and a half.

Mathematical gas

This part has changed since introducing Claire Ficher’s Orchestra. Although Prince still sings his ‘My baby licks me fast’ part, Susannah’s ‘elderly couple’ part has now been muted.

Drum Solo
Despite this being the most complete version with strings, the drum solo has been slightly edited, now at only 6 bars in length.

Sisters And Brothers
No change here. This part is presented in full.



Crystal Ball (All Day All Night Cassette Version with Claire Ficher’s Orchestra)
As found on the original 'Wonderboy’ CD (1990) and 'Hot Chocolate' (1990). Possibly Prince’s earliest attempt at an album edit with strings.

Intro
Also includes Claire Ficher’s full arrangement and lasts approximately a minute and a half.


Bass Solo
Part of the bass solo has been edited down.

Mathematical gas

Again, no longer includes Susannah’s ‘elderly couple’ part.

Drum Solo
Is now back to being 8 bars long and is presented in full.

Sisters And Brothers
Is now differentially mixed and edited. Initially this part is the same while Susannah delivers her monologue, however during the orchestral build up the kick drum is buried so low in the mix that it’s virtually inaudible. The words ‘Maybe not’ are muted and then the final ‘Expert’ bass segment is cut completely. It cuts straight from the orchestra to the drum roll.


Crystal Ball (Crystal Ball Album Edit with Claire Ficher’s Orchestra)
Officially released on Crystal Ball ‘98. This version was also intended for the original 1986 Crystal Ball album.

Intro
Includes Claire Ficher’s full arrangement and lasts approximately a minute and a half.

Mathematical gas

Again, no longer includesSusannah’s ‘elderly couple’ part.

Drum Solo
Reverts back to being slightly edited, now at only 6 bars in length.

Sisters And Brothers
Removed completely. The track conjoins the 6 bar drum solo to the drum break down.


Crystal Ball (7” mix with Claire Ficher’s Orchestra)
From Sign O’ The Time Super Deluxe


This edit has been cut from one of the Clare Ficher version. The intro has been cut to 4 beats. It lasts for around 3 and half minutes before being cut short and ends on the final beat of the track. Both cuts sound sharp and abrupt.


If anyone else is familiar with this topic, please let me know if I’ve missed anything.

[Edited 4/2/21 16:00pm]

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Reply #1 posted 03/19/21 12:05pm

OldFriends4Sal
e

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moderator

bookmarked

reading this later today

#ALBUMSSTILLMATTER
That's what U want, TRANSCENDENCE. When that happens, O Boy -Prince 2015
https://www.youtube.com/w...nm2Qq6QTFs
#IDEFINEME
https://www.youtube.com/w...7Xc21b6BYE
Keep Looking
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Reply #2 posted 03/19/21 12:13pm

TwiliteKid

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Which is the version you hadn't heard before?

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Reply #3 posted 03/19/21 12:16pm

VaultCurator

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TwiliteKid said:

Which is the version you hadn't heard before?


Hi TwiliteKid.

Crystal Ball (All Day All Night Cassette Version with Claire Ficher’s Orchestra)
As found on the original 'Wonderboy’ CD (1990) and 'Hot Chocolate' (1990). Possibly Prince’s earliest attempt at an album edit with strings.

I'd never heard this version before.

[Edited 3/19/21 12:19pm]

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Reply #4 posted 03/19/21 12:45pm

billymeade

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Very cool. I wonder how many of the "edits" are just bootlegger tags.

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Reply #5 posted 03/19/21 2:50pm

BlueShakooo

You forgot to mention one difference:
The original uncut version [no Claire Ficher involvement
As found on Blast to the Past 4.0] has a delay effect on his voice during the intro ("Expert lover lover...")
I always loved that!
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Reply #6 posted 03/19/21 2:54pm

BartVanHemelen

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billymeade said:

Very cool. I wonder how many of the "edits" are just bootlegger tags.

.

Yes, indeed.

© Bart Van Hemelen
This posting is provided AS IS with no warranties, and confers no rights.
It is not authorized by Prince or the NPG Music Club. You assume all risk for
your use. All rights reserved.
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Reply #7 posted 03/19/21 3:50pm

nayroo2002

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BartVanHemelen said:

billymeade said:

Very cool. I wonder how many of the "edits" are just bootlegger tags.

.

Yes, indeed.

OK

Then there are only 4 real versions?

.

original

.

july dream factory

.

86 crystal ball (incl. 7" edit)

.

98 crystal ball

"Whatever skin Ur in
we all need 2 b friends"
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Reply #8 posted 03/19/21 5:15pm

LILpoundCAKE

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They should have put 1 full intact version of this song on the SOTT SDE. It's a downright crime that it wasn't on there except in the form of that worthless edit. If they could put the edit on there they could have just as well put the entire version on it instead of that stupid shep p remix.




If U're lookin 4 dirt look in Ur own back yard - Plant some Peace Flowers in Ur warzone so I can fire my bodyguards.
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Reply #9 posted 03/19/21 5:56pm

lustmealways

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LILpoundCAKE said:

They should have put 1 full intact version of this song on the SOTT SDE. It's a downright crime that it wasn't on there except in the form of that worthless edit. If they could put the edit on there they could have just as well put the entire version on it instead of that stupid shep p remix.




it's criminal that fuckin remix took up 7 something minutes of vault discs while the 86' version of Katrina's Paper Dolls was left to linger in iron mountain

the lesson here is that life's a crock of shit

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Reply #10 posted 03/19/21 6:52pm

VaultCurator

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Hi guys. Turns out I may have jumped the gun a little on this post. All the information is correct, but on closer inspection I am noticing other differences that I didn’t spot the first time around. BlueShakooo is indeed correct about the reverb on the versions that do not contain strings. Also I noticed that the drum roll after the ‘Sisters and brothers’ part is cut in different places too.

So everything above is valid, just incomplete. I may go through them all counting the bars at some point, but not today.

Unfortunately if there are any bootlegger tags then I can't account for those. wink

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Reply #11 posted 03/20/21 10:45am

funkbabyandthe
babysitters

This track is interesting but overrated.
I first heard it in a bootleg as an edit so was surprised when I found out it was very shortened.
I dont think prince could pull off this kind of longer suite like track with lots of changes that easily.
He did it on ICNTTPOYM but crystal ball is way more ambitious.

I love the edit on the Sde even though it is just a bit too short
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Reply #12 posted 03/20/21 5:47pm

coldcoffeeandc
ocacola

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VaultCurator said:

Hi guys. Turns out I may have jumped the gun a little on this post. All the information is correct, but on closer inspection I am noticing other differences that I didn’t spot the first time around. BlueShakooo is indeed correct about the reverb on the versions that do not contain strings. Also I noticed that the drum roll after the ‘Sisters and brothers’ part is cut in different places too.

So everything above is valid, just incomplete. I may go through them all counting the bars at some point, but not today.

Unfortunately if there are any bootlegger tags then I can't account for those. wink





Brilliant post! Loving this deep dive you're making. Absolutely love Crystal ball it takes you away to another place when you listen.
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Reply #13 posted 03/22/21 10:20am

LILpoundCAKE

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listening to all these versions again on the best headphones i've ever had, i'm completely floored again by how good this song is. it's back to being my #1 prince tune of all time.

clare fischer and his people did some truly outstanding work here as well.

now i feel even more pissed off that none of these versions was on the SOTT SDE. but ok, we do have decent quality bootlegs so i guess there's that. it just pains me to think that it not being on SOTT SDE probably means it won't be released in one of these versions for many years to come.

the one on the Crystal Ball Compilation album is ok and will be reissued it seems this year but that is only a phenomenal version. the other ones are out of this galaxy.


If U're lookin 4 dirt look in Ur own back yard - Plant some Peace Flowers in Ur warzone so I can fire my bodyguards.
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Reply #14 posted 03/22/21 10:26am

jaawwnn

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funkbabyandthebabysitters said:

This track is interesting but overrated. I first heard it in a bootleg as an edit so was surprised when I found out it was very shortened. I dont think prince could pull off this kind of longer suite like track with lots of changes that easily. He did it on ICNTTPOYM but crystal ball is way more ambitious. I love the edit on the Sde even though it is just a bit too short

Get outta here you, it's one of the best tracks he ever did.

"I think people ought to know that we're anti-fascist, we're anti-violence, we're anti-racist and we're pro-creative. We're against ignorance."
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Reply #15 posted 03/22/21 2:57pm

LoveGalore

funkbabyandthebabysitters said:

This track is interesting but overrated.
I first heard it in a bootleg as an edit so was surprised when I found out it was very shortened.
I dont think prince could pull off this kind of longer suite like track with lots of changes that easily.
He did it on ICNTTPOYM but crystal ball is way more ambitious.

I love the edit on the Sde even though it is just a bit too short


You're on actual crack cocaine.
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Reply #16 posted 03/22/21 3:09pm

lustmealways

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LoveGalore said:

You're on actual crack cocaine.

how many accounts does he have

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Reply #17 posted 03/26/21 9:38am

thievesinthete
mple

VaultCurator said:


Crystal Ball (All Day All Night Cassette Version with Claire Ficher’s Orchestra)
As found on the original 'Wonderboy’ CD (1990) and 'Hot Chocolate' (1990). Possibly Prince’s earliest attempt at an album edit with strings.

Intro
Also includes Claire Ficher’s full arrangement and lasts approximately a minute and a half.


Bass Solo
Part of the bass solo has been edited down.

Mathematical gas

Again, no longer includes Susannah’s ‘elderly couple’ part.

Drum Solo
Is now back to being 8 bars long and is presented in full.

Sisters And Brothers
Is now differentially mixed and edited. Initially this part is the same while Susannah delivers her monologue, however during the orchestral build up the kick drum is buried so low in the mix that it’s virtually inaudible. The words ‘Maybe not’ are muted and then the final ‘Expert’ bass segment is cut completely. It cuts straight from the orchestra to the drum roll.

This was the version of the song that I was most familiar with prior to the 1998 version, and for years I was surprised that I never saw anyone talking about it on PVault or anywhere else. To me, one of the most striking differences is the orchestral "solo" after the "purple underground" speech. Notice how much more lush and pronounced the strings are at this moment in this version (no doubt why the kickdrum seems drowned out). All other versions I've ever heard feature a much duller mix of sounds by comparison that Prince may have done on his own as some sort of placeholder for Clare Fischer. These strings were later recycled for Intermission.

[Edited 3/26/21 9:53am]

[Edited 3/26/21 11:24am]

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Reply #18 posted 04/02/21 4:08pm

VaultCurator

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thievesinthetemple said:

VaultCurator said:


Crystal Ball (All Day All Night Cassette Version with Claire Ficher’s Orchestra)
As found on the original 'Wonderboy’ CD (1990) and 'Hot Chocolate' (1990). Possibly Prince’s earliest attempt at an album edit with strings.

Intro
Also includes Claire Ficher’s full arrangement and lasts approximately a minute and a half.


Bass Solo
Part of the bass solo has been edited down.

Mathematical gas

Again, no longer includes Susannah’s ‘elderly couple’ part.

Drum Solo
Is now back to being 8 bars long and is presented in full.

Sisters And Brothers
Is now differentially mixed and edited. Initially this part is the same while Susannah delivers her monologue, however during the orchestral build up the kick drum is buried so low in the mix that it’s virtually inaudible. The words ‘Maybe not’ are muted and then the final ‘Expert’ bass segment is cut completely. It cuts straight from the orchestra to the drum roll.

This was the version of the song that I was most familiar with prior to the 1998 version, and for years I was surprised that I never saw anyone talking about it on PVault or anywhere else. To me, one of the most striking differences is the orchestral "solo" after the "purple underground" speech. Notice how much more lush and pronounced the strings are at this moment in this version (no doubt why the kickdrum seems drowned out). All other versions I've ever heard feature a much duller mix of sounds by comparison that Prince may have done on his own as some sort of placeholder for Clare Fischer. These strings were later recycled for Intermission.


Indeed Thieves.

That orchestra part surprised me as this version was previously alien to me. It sounds really nice. It would be interesting to hear the whole orchestral arrangement without Prince's parts just for comparison. I’d love to have the stems to this track so I could produce my own tailored mix.

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Reply #19 posted 04/02/21 4:10pm

VaultCurator

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Update: After writing this original post I’ve been able to confirm with a second source that PrinceVault.com was indeed right about the full minute and a half intro being present on the Dream Factory June sequence. Therefore the second version I originally listed turns out to be the same as the first. This is very interesting as it seems to prove that this sequence was never finished as it only existed with a placeholder version of Crystal Ball. It also seems to confirm that Crystal Ball without strings was only ever a work in progress and never intended for release at any point.

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