Weighing in at a stupendous nine CDs, this is the most monumental single release in the history of recorded comedy. What boggles the mind more than the size of this package, however, is the fact that it wasn't released sooner. Richard Pryor is the most influential stand-up comic of our time, bar none, but until now, most of his best work has been unavailable on CD. Here, at long last, are That Nigger's Crazy, Wanted: Richard Pryor Live in Concert, Live on the Sunset Strip,
and all his other treasured Warner Bros. albums, including the top seller Is It Something I Said?
Every Richard Pryor album that really matters is here, with just one exception: Craps
(1971), which was recorded for another label, has been out on CD for some time. Pryor shocked the world with his no-holds-barred comments on sex, drugs, and showbiz. He jolted us again and again with his riffs on race -- he used the n-word with fierce pride and later made us think again when he banished it from his act. When he assumed the character of a lewd but ineffably wise old storyteller called Mudbone, even the most cynical listener was soon in the palm of Pryor's hand. Disc Nine, a collection of outtakes spanning two decades, will have serious students of comedy cheerfully comparing alternate versions of familiar bits. But the most moving piece on this disc is the first track ever released from Pryor's final tour in 1992, in which he talks candidly about the multiple sclerosis that would soon end his career. It's heartbreaking -- but the audience can't help laughing, uproariously. After all, what else could you do when Richard Pryor was on stage? The world of comedy would be a very different place without the incisive wit of Richard Pryor.