Rare copy of Prince's disavowed 'Black Album' found in Canada
Prince performs during the halftime show at the Super Bowl XLI football game at Dolphin Stadium in Miami on Feb. 4, 2007. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Chris O'Meara
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, June 5, 2018 2:38PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 5, 2018 3:06PM EDT
TORONTO - It's considered rare even among rarities: A Canadian-made vinyl copy of Prince's disavowed “Black Album.” And it can be had for a cool US$27,500.
The L.A.-based memorabilia company Recordmecca has put it on the market, billing it as so rare that it had never even been rumoured to exist.
“Nobody's ever heard of a Canadian one,” company owner Jeff Gold said Tuesday from Los Angeles. “It's literally one of a kind.”
The rarities expert said he was skeptical of its veracity when someone contacted him claiming to have saved the disc from the garbage pile.
Gold said the seller is a former employee of a Toronto pressing plant that manufactured the album in 1987 and wishes to remain anonymous.
The disc was among more than 500,000 copies Prince ordered destroyed just before the album's planned release in late 1987, said Gold.
The late superstar had initially planned it as a surprise followup to his pop-oriented double-album “Sign o' the Times,” insisting there be no title or name on the cover, and no advance promotion, said Gold.
It was followed up instead by “Lovesexy,” and although bootlegs flourished, “The Black Album” wouldn't get an official release until 1994, when Warner gave it a limited run.
Gold knows of only eight other original copies that have surfaced, all in the United States. He sold one at auction in February 2018 for $42,298.
He said the owner of the Canadian disc contacted him in April after learning about that sale, announcing that he, too, had something of value.
Gold didn't believe it at first.
“But he sent me some pictures and he told me his story and I thought, 'God, that really sounds and looks real',” said Gold, who was courting collectors through the online marketplace Discogs.com.
Incredibly, Gold said the album's rarity was unknown to the seller for 30 years. That changed when he came across a Rolling Stone article outlining demand for the legendary disc.
“When he read that article he had no idea it was a really valuable record. He just thought it was a record that had been cancelled and he saved a copy from being destroyed and had it in his record collection and never thought about it.”
So much of the lore surrounding “The Black Album” is unusual, added Gold, a former Warner Bros. Records executive who worked with Prince in the '90s.
The top-secret circumstances and Prince's abrupt change of heart - reportedly the result of a drug-induced epiphany - has lent even more mystique to the disc, which include the dance jams “Superfunkycalifragisexy” and “Le grind.”
Gold said the Canadian pressing is unique from the others because of the Canadian record company information that runs around the perimeter of the label and a different engraving in the matrix, which is the area between the label and the grooves.
“There are a lot of people interested in it,” said Gold, who put it up for sale Monday and describes it as being “in near mint condition, having been played perhaps 2-3 times.”
“He's an incredibly collectible artist and obviously very highly regarded, one of the most talented musicians to ever live, the only genius I ever worked with.
“His records are voraciously collected and this is the pinnacle of Prince collectibles.”