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The third time around isn't quite a charm for Prince compilations -- in fact, 2006's Ultimate Prince falls far short from the promise of its title. Although Ultimate Prince was touted upon its release as being the first double-disc Prince hits collection (what does that make 1993's Hits 1 and Hits 2, then?), that claim is a little misleading, since this hardly serves up two discs of hit singles: instead, the second disc is devoted to 12" mixes and extended dance mixes issued on CD maxi-singles. There is certainly a market for these mixes -- they have not been compiled on CD, so hardcore fans have been awaiting their reissue, not just for the sake of completism, but because the mixes were often very good -- but tacking them onto another hits disc doesn't serve anybody's needs, since it forces the dedicated to once again purchase the familiar hits, and anybody who just wanted the hits heard on the radio will not be happy with having "Let's Go Crazy," "Little Red Corvette," "Pop Life," "Raspberry Beret," "Kiss," "U Got the Look," "Thieves in the Temple," and "Cream" all here in different mixes. Of course, the first disc of hits is not executed particularly well, either. Most of the 17 songs on the first disc are single edits, but there are a few exceptions to the rule, as "Controversy," "Purple Rain," "Alphabet St," "7," and "Gett Off" are all presented in their original full-length album incarnations -- and even if "Controversy" and "Purple Rain" benefit from the unedited treatment (which is not necessarily the case with "Alphabet St.," which is one time Prince's song got better on a single edit), it's hard to see why those were included uncut when "1999" and "When Doves Cry" fade out rather abruptly. Then there's the problem of omissions, an issue that will always come up when an artist as great and prolific as Prince gets his work condensed to compilation, but there are some big oversights here, among them "I Feel for You," "Dirty Mind," "Let's Pretend We're Married," "Take Me with U," "Mountains," "If I Was Your Girlfriend," "Batdance" (definitely not his best single, but a chart-topper in 1989), and "Sexy MF," plus the B-side "Erotic City," which would have been an ideal inclusion on the 12" mix disc but is regrettably absent. So, Ultimate Prince is a bit of a mess -- granted, it's a listenable mess, since any Prince song from 1979-1992 is at the very least worth hearing and often is nothing less than brilliant (plus, the remastered sound is very good, better than the original CDs in nearly every case). But for listeners who just want the hits, they'll be better served by 1993's Hits discs or 2001's The Very Best of Prince, which may have their share of oversights or flaws, but both are better samplers of his best work than this muddled, intermittently enjoyable, hodgepodge.

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