Sign 'O' the Times - Prince

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Sign 'O' the Times - Prince

2 CD(s) - Contemporary R&B - Label: Paisley Park - Distributor: Arvato Services, Cinram Logistics - Released: 01/04/1987, 04/1987 - 75992557726

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Review of "Sign 'O' the Times - Prince"

published 23/03/2005 | KTDouthwaite
Member since : 30/11/-0001
Reviews : 36
Members who trust : 1
About me :
Super
Pro An original sounding double disc
Cons Some of the songs are a little dated
very helpful
Originality
Quality and consistency of tracks
Cover / Inlay Design and Content
Value for Money
Lyrics

"Sign O' The Times"

I have to admit that I’m filled with trepidation at the prospect of writing this review. As any of you who have cast your critical eyes over my previous Prince album ops will know (and if you haven’t looked, please don’t), they were, well, crap. In my defense, I was a newbie, and, as I often point out, I was actually unaware as to how Ciao worked, and didn’t know anyone would actually be reading my reviews. Why did I write them then? Um, pass!

Anyway, in an attempt to redeem myself, I’m making a one-off effort to review another Prince album: “Sign O’ The Times”, originally recorded and released in 1987. Following the demise of his backing band The Revolution (best remembered for performing on his “Purple Rain” and “1999” albums), this two-disc album was created before Prince’s recordings with the New Power Generation, and it heralds a transitional period in his distinct style. If you’re unfamiliar with Prince or his music, or if, like a lot of people, you’re only familiar with the single “Purple Rain”, this album isn’t really the best place to start. In those circumstances, try the more mainstream offerings, such as the “Purple Rain LP”, “The Gold Experience”, or even his latest outing “Musicology”.

But back to “Sign O’ The Times”. There are 16 tracks in total, spread over two discs, and all tracks are produced, arranged, composed and performed by Prince (there’s control-freakery for you!).

The best way that I can describe the overall sound of the album is funk and jazz-fusion. Sounds off-putting, doesn’t it?!?! But honestly, it generally works really well!

Disc 1

1. Sign O’ The Times
The album opens with the title track. Despite its lack of actual ‘music’, this is quite a catchy song. Written more as a social comment, it features mainly percussion with minimal bass and guitar, with the focus very much on the lyrics. I believe this was a relatively successful single in its day, although it maybe seems a little dated now. I still like it, though!

2. Play in the Sunshine
This high-tempo track is quite a shock after the opening track! It’s very upbeat, a little “poppy”, and one of those songs you know could fill a dancefloor at a party. The lyrics make no sense whatsoever (“The colour green will make your best friends leave ya”?), but in a way, that only adds to the playfulness of this track. A definite mood-lifter.

3. Housequake
This is an incredibly funky track, which Prince performs as one of his alter egos, Camille. As with track 1, there’s very little in the way of conventional melody, but that doesn’t stop this song being catchy. There are some excellent saxophone arrangements to listen out for, though.

4. The Ballad of Dorothy Parker
So enters the first jazz track. I’m not eloquent (or musically knowledgeable) enough to really convey the sound of this song in words. I have to admit, I couldn’t get into it for ages, but then I’m not really one for jazz. Most of it just sounds off-key to me! This mellow track is worth a listen just for the lyrics, though:

I ordered – “Yeah, let me get a fruit cocktail, I ain’t too hungry”
Dorothy laughed
She said, “Sounds like a real man to me”
Kinda cute, you wanna take a bath?
I said, “Cool, But I’m leaving my pants on
Cuz I’m kinda going with someone”.

5. IT
An obligatory Prince song about sex. Every album has at least one, and this one is incredibly polite by Prince standards. So much so, in fact, that it pretty much just says, “I wanna do IT all the time” over and over. For over 5 minutes. Accompanied by the same monotonous drumbeat. I tend to just hit the skip button.

6. STARFISH AND COFFEE
It’s catchy, upbeat, and quirky. This is the shortest track on the album at 2 minutes 51 seconds, but it’s one of the best. Again, the lyrics are a little bizarre – telling a story about a girl at school whose lunchbox contained oddities. I’m sure it’s deeper than that (in fact, the lyric itself goes on to say: “If you set your mind free, baby, maybe you’ll understand”).

7. SLOW LOVE
It’s a mushy ballad, it croons, and generally, it’s not my cup of tea. It sounds incredibly dated, and it’s guilty of the most heinous moon/June lyrics! Another one to skip, methinks!

8. HOT THING
“Hot Thing, I could read you poetry, and then we could make a story of our own”. This song is funky, sexy, and another standout track. There’s a hard beat to it, and it’s so distinctively a Prince track. It apparently contains samples from the excellent “I Would Die 4 U” from the Purple Rain soundtrack, but unfortunately, I can’t pick them out!

9. FOREVER IN MY LIFE
It’s a love song, but I like it because a.) it’s only three and a half minutes, and b.) it doesn’t slow down the pace. Again, it’s largely words and beat, but the melody of the lyrics carries it well. This track heralds the end of disc 1.

Are you still with me? It's a long one, this, isn't it?!?!

Disc 2

1. U GOT THE LOOK
Disc 2 opens with U Got the Look, a vocal duet between Sheena Easton and “Camille”. Bizarrely, when he sings as his alter ego, Prince’s voice does have a different edge to it (although I think it’s electronically altered), and this works very well on this track. It’s a very tongue-in-cheek look at superficial beauty. Musically, it’s another fast, funky singalong.

2. IF I WAS YOUR GIRLFRIEND
This track opens with a sample from “The Wedding March”, and then quickly develops into a really good jazz-fusion track, which asks “If I was your girlfriend, would you remember to tell me all the things you forgot when I was your man?”. Although it has a strong beat, this track is quite laid back, and features another outing for Camille.

3. STRANGE RELATIONSHIP
This is definitely my favourite track on this album. It’s also the last outing for Camille on this recording. It’s lyrics, tempo, arrangement and melody are all so flawless, and it’s incredibly catchy. It also features some more unusual instruments than other songs, like the sitar and wooden flute. It’s what I would call a “happy song”. My only criticism is that the outro goes on a bit too long.

4. I COULD NEVER TAKE THE PLACE OF YOUR MAN
This is more “rock” than the rest of the album, although it doesn’t seem out of place. Lyrically, it’s quite fun, and it always merits a place on my Prince compilation albums. It also works very well live, as the Sign O’ The Times concert video demonstrates (although that recording is quite hard to get hold of. I got mine from the Black Star website, a company which I believe is now going under the name of sendit.com).

5. THE CROSS
This track is terribly overrated, and I actually think Prince intended it to be far more touching than it actually is. One of those songs that takes itself far too seriously, I’m afraid.

6. IT’S GONNA BE A BEAUTIFUL NIGHT
A shout back to his previous era, this track was recorded live in Paris with the other members of The Revolution. At nearly 9 minutes long, it does become a little tiresome, especially as it’s just a showcase of random input by the band members. It’s quite funky, though.

7. ADORE
It’s a shame that such a good album is let down by its last few tracks. This mediocre ballad is no-doubt heartfelt, but its sickly, dull, and bland. I would have shuffled the tracks on the album to go out on a high.


CONCLUSION

Overall, I really like this album. It has a good balance of upbeat songs and mellow ballads. Most of it hasn't dated, and generally it can be purchased for about £10 now, which is excellent value for a double disc. Plus, all the lyrics are in the inlay, so you can sing along to the strangeness!

There we go. Hopefully I've redeemed myself.

KTDouthwaite x

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Comments on this review

  • armor567 published 23/08/2016
    Excellent review!
  • jonathanb published 09/05/2005
    Consider yourself redeemed, my son. An excellent review of an album I haven't heard for ages and have an urge to dig out now. Prince is quite nauseatingly talented - the blasted man is even a superb dancer - so I console myself with the thoughts that he is obviously rather short and, perhaps more relevantly, barking mad. I don't like all the tracks on the album, but for me the title track and U Got The Look still sound great and I disagree with you in that I do like The Cross. The lyrics are a bit suspect, but I love the way it builds then launches into some b***cks-out heavy guitar. Great stuff.
  • lizzy8 published 03/04/2005
    LOL at K8's comment! Great review! x
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Product Information : Sign 'O' the Times - Prince

Manufacturer's product description

2 CD(s) - Contemporary R&B - Label: Paisley Park - Distributor: Arvato Services, Cinram Logistics - Released: 01/04/1987, 04/1987 - 75992557726

Product Details

EAN: 75992557726

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