Album Review: Prince - Deliverance EP

There’s really no way to not view the release (or at least, the attempted release) of the Deliverance EP as a pathetic cash grab on the part of its engineer, George Ian Boxhill.

Slated to arrive on the one year anniversary of the death of Prince Rogers Nelson, Prince’s estate quickly sought legal council and blocked, at least temporarily, the release of the EP as a whole—however, the titular track is still currently available for download, much to the chagrin of those controlling Prince’s catalog.

Recorded at some point between 2006 and 2008, Deliverance is, at first glance, sad; sad because a once great musician is now only able to speak to us from beyond, and sad in the way it is being released, exploiting people’s emotional connection to Prince, as well as “commemorating” the year that has passed since he died unexpectedly and tragically.

The songs themselves weren’t even finished at the time of their recording according to press materials about the release. After being relegated to a vault somewhere for a decade, Boxhill exhumed them, just in time to try to catch a quick payday.

Deliverance works in two ways: the first is it presents a completed titular track, which is self contained; the second is that it features a four-part suite, accounting for the rest of the material included. Spanning roughly eight minutes of music, the songs “I Am,” “Touch Me,” “Sunrise Sunset,” and “No One Else” somehow blur a line: they are technically one completed piece of music, but even taking all four of them as a whole, they seem more like fragments or ideas that were left unfinished.

Looking at the titular track, it’s impressive for latter day Prince. The guy was prolific, but his output over the last decade plus was relatively uneven as far as quality goes. “Deliverance” is a rollicking, slow burning, soulfully tinged jam—complete with searing guitar solos and a gospel choir. The song itself is unfortunately short, however. Not even four minutes, it arrives at a climax, and quickly resolves, leaving the listener wishing there was still a little more to follow.

“I Am” and the songs that follow, aren’t necessarily cut from the same cloth as “Deliverance,” per se; they lean heavily (at least the first part does) into that not really “forgettable” guitar heavy funk that Prince explored throughout his career, but musically, the chugging guitar riffs are certainly not among the most memorable things he’s ever committed to tape. “I Am” slides effortlessly into “Touch Me” and the suite changes gears suddenly, as an antiquated synthesized string sound (think Around The World in A Day) arrives, and Prince trades in the electric guitar for the acoustic.

Those synths then make way for “Sunrise Sunset,” which is marked by very dramatic and theatrical piano flourishes—leading seamlessly into the suite’s final, bass heavy movement, “No One Else,” which also happens to be the longest of the four individual pieces. Lyrically, it makes slight call backs to the songs that have preceded it, before coming to an anticlimactic end.

The EP concludes, thoughtlessly, with an “extended” take of  “I Am,” which finds the song playing for another minute, and fading out, rather than slamming right into the beginning of something else.

It seems cruel to say this, but in many cases, death is the best career move someone can make. Prince was never “irrelevant,” but he was a far less bankable name prior to his death. But after the news spread that he passed away, well shit—everybody is a fucking Prince fan. His CDs sell out on Amazon and are immediately out of print, the few albums that were available in iTunes take up the top 20, and the clamor for repressing and reissue reaches a fever pitch.

His former label, Warner Brothers, quickly started exploiting the newfound interest in Prince by hastily issuing another “best of” compilation in November of 2016, complete with one previously unreleased song, “Moonbeam Levels.” The label already has plans to reissue Purple Rain in June with two discs of single edits and unreleased songs from the era, along with two additional collections of unreleased material from the Paisley Park vaults.

Part of me gets why Prince’s estate is trying to block the release of this EP—it’s not officially sanctioned or whatever—but for 20 minutes of music being digitally released by some shithead engineer trying to make quick buck, a legal battle hardly seems worth it. The music isn’t even that good, and if their plan is to continue to mine the vaults of shelved music, no one will remember the Deliverance EP by the end of the year.

Much like the recently released tell-all memoir by Prince’s ex-wife, the Deliverance EP is a poorly timed ploy for nostalgia, sympathy, and money. If you’re a fan (fair weather or otherwise) you’re better served listening to what Prince records you do actually have, and remembering the man and his music that way, rather than getting caught up in the ongoing affairs and battles within his estate’s management.