With reports last month that Beyonce had scrapped 50 songs to start over completely on jer album, I got to wondering what kind of perfectionist Queen Bey must be. I mean, it says something that she couldn’t sift a good album out of 50 tracks from today’s hottest producers. For artists with lower standards, there were probably four or five great albums in there.
Still, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time an artist had scrapped a great album in the pursuit of a masterpiece. In fact, we’ve even heard some of them years later, like these five.
5. The Misfits, Static Age
How could a collection of some of the greatest punk songs of all time, and an album that paved the way for hardcore punk in general, get scrapped? Blame the labels, who had no interest in this type of music when the Misfits laid it to vinyl in 1978. Instead, most of the tracks ended up being released on seven-inches throughout the band’s brief career.
The album was finally released in its full, official version in 1997, and it is, of course, amazing. It plays like a greatest-hits all the way through. Who knows what record execs could have possibly been thinking by rejecting this one.
4. Prince, The Black Album
In 1987, the world was waiting with bated breath for a new Prince album following his magnum opus, Sign o’ the Times. Advertisements teased something called The Funk Bible, and there were promises Prince was going to be returning to his funk roots. Then the album disappeared without a trace, and the decidedly not-funky-at-all Lovesexy came out in 1988. What happened to the missing album?
Rumor has it that Prince flipped his wig on ecstasy around the time and decided that the album was evil. However, some years later, during his much-publicized battle with Warner Bros., the Artist finally conceded to The Funk Bible‘s release as The Black Album in 1994.
Almost everybody had it as a bootleg by then though, so it met with little fanfare. Shame, because it’s definitely a funk album through and through, and one of Prince’s hardest-hitting and most satisfying efforts.
3. David Bowie, Toy
David Bowie’s early career was a pretty mixed affair, at least before Hunky Dory. It has its proponents, but by and large “The Man Who Sold the World” and “Space Oddity” are the most significant things to come from the era. That didn’t mean the songs were bad, though; it just meant they were rough, or Bowie wasn’t experienced enough to bring out their full potential.
Enter Toy, recorded in 2001 by a much older Bowie and featuring re-recordings and revamps of many songs from his very early career. It could have been a way to reintroduce Bowie’s fans to these songs’ true potential, but it ended up being shelved by his record label EMI because they couldn’t figure out a good time to release it.
It finally leaked in 2011, and it’s a pretty good second look at these songs, filtered through the lens of a wiser, older Bowie.
Neil Young, Homegrown and Chrome Dreams
Being one of the most prolific artists of the ’70s had its ups and downs. For Neil Young, it meant an exceptional creative period, one that couldn’t even be contained to his released albums. As incomprehensible as it may seem, Young had so much great material recorded at any given time that he could simply throw out an album at the last minute and release a different one.
It happened twice for him, first with 1975’s Homegrown and then again with 1977’s Chrome Dreams. Both have grown massive legacies since due to bootlegging and fan-assembled versions culled from live recordings and confirmed tracklists of the records. Though neither has ever been released officially, both have come to be regarded as some of Young’s best work of the ’70s.
1. Jimi Hendrix, Black Gold
It’s a small stretch to say that the album Jimi Hendrix recorded just before his untimely death, Black Gold, which has never been released or heard by anyone outside of close friends and family, is a great album. But seriously, are you going to doubt that it was a classic in the making?
I submit the evidence of “Machine Gun,” a track that ended up appearing live on his Band of Gypsys album and apparently has a studio version on Black Gold, as proof of how badass this album is. I mean, when that’s your starting point, you know you’re dealing with a seriously awesome rock record. Unfortunately, its been over 40 years and Hendrix has seen plenty of posthumous releases, but no Black Gold in its entirety as of yet.