Prince - Sign O' The Times : Revisited


14 jui. 2007, 20h39m

Sign O' The Times arrived today as part of my annual big, fat Amazon order. This was the first compact disc I ever bought, the year it was released *gulp*... and it wasn't even for me, it was a present. If I am not mistaken, it cost me £16, which was a heck of a lot of money in 1987.

I haven't listened to Sign O' The Times for absolutely years. At least ten, possibly fifteen. I am so pleased now to add it to my library. Quite rightly, it is considered his masterpiece. With the advent of his new album being given away free with one of tomorrow's Sunday papers, I have decided to have a Prince weekend.

First track - Sign o' the Times - and what's on my mind? Bodymap tight-fitting clothes and trying to dance and look good at the same time in clubs! LOL!! We all knew the moves and couldn't resist trying them out; far too self-absorbed to notice if anyone else was better. (or was that just me?). I'm trying not to mention hair...

Play in the Sunshine - this is what Prince calls a filler. A gentle introduction to what's to come.

Listening all this time later, it still sounds fresh. I'm astonished. It hasn't dated at all, unlike a lot of old favourites.

Housequake - Nothing else like this at the time. Brilliantly executed vocal distortion, yet to be bettered by any other artist. Prince makes it sound good. No scratch that, he makes it sound essential to the track. Without that distortion, the track wouldn't work so well.

Just remembered: I saw Cat, one of Prince's key dancers, dancing at the Wag Club in Soho. We cleared the floor and just watched. She was incredible.

The Ballad of Dorothy Parker - too slow and funky / soul-y for me. Still, I'll hear it from the master and not from anyone else.

It - I adore this. I love it's sparsity and minimalism. Hmm, some 80s keyboards in the background there, and that electronic drum. First sign of date and time. Hasn't detracted from the album yet.

Starfish and Coffee - how on earth do I remember all the words after all this time?! One of my favourite lyrics of all time, telling a story in a simple way, kind of like Dr Seuss.

Slow Love - Prince getting seductive. The slow dance at the end of the night. Ugh. Awful to be left on the dancefloor on your own. Awful having to make-do with someone in a shiny suit, wielding a filofax. Who takes a filofax to a nightclub, I ask you??

Hot Thing - One of THE highlights of the album. Hot thing / barely 21 / hot thing / looking for big fun / hot thing / what's your fantasy? / hot thing / do you wanna play with me?. Who doesn't know how this track begins? Over-played at billions of parties, clubs, radio, everywhere. Always a pleasure, never a chore.

*does that birds flying hand move thing*

... I wonder if that's where 'big fish, little fish, cardboard box' came from?

Forever in My Life - Another fantastically sparse, pared-back track. Focus is directed at the lyrics. His voice is monotonous, as if reading a poem in a flat voice. Just forces you to notice the words all the more.

U Got The Look - THE hit, one of the biggest of the decade. Sheena Easton was unrecognisable all of a sudden. She was a dull girl from Scotland before Prince got his hands on her. Literally. Sheena glowed singing this. Shame there's no video on YouTube so I can show you. Trust me, go find.

If I Was Your Girlfriend - your chance to get your breath back after dancing like a lunatic to U Got The Look. Just when you're driting off, hypnotised by the drums, you catch some rather saucy lyrics. Find out what they are yourself.

By now, contrast between sparsity and everything including the cherry on top is a clear theme.

Strange Relationship - another great party/dance track. Thumping beat, lyrics we can join in with. Simple in its execution; blinding turned up loud.

I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man - the most rock/pop track on the album. A genuine crowd-pleaser. Cheerful, bouncy, nice.

The Cross - no accident this comes next. Dark, frightening even. Just knowing it was coming up next made me feel a little anxious, even though the previous track was still playing. Back in the 80s, looming over everybody's heads was our mortality. We didn't know if being in the vicinity of someone, let alone kissing someone with AIDS, would mean the end of us. No other artist captured the fear as well as Prince did with this album. It begins with an allusion to the theme in the very first words in the first track. here. The Cross continues the theme of death.

The track begins with the now established stripped-back style, then kicks into heavy rock. Prince gradually raises his voice, eventually yelling the lyrics, his voice clear over the wall of sound.

aaaand relax! cos It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night - I don't know how I lived without this track for all this time. Very Michael Jackson in sound! Blimey, never noticed that before!

*dances like Cat* (or tries to)

You're not a Prince fan unless you know where all the whoops and guitar solos go. You have to be able to sing the guitar solos. Then I'll accept you.

Isn't this where Sheila E used to go crazy on the drums? I idolised her.

Last, but not least, another slow-dance number: Adore. A chance to get your breath back, or fend off unwanted advances.

I am so pleased Sign O' The Times has survived this well! I was a little worried it might sound dated and I wouldn't be able to listen, but that was just an irrational fear, I see. More than just Prince's masterpiece, I think this album might be around for decades yet. Possibly it might define the fin de siècle of the 20th century. Or help define, should I say. Or should I? Something this good, sounding better, one-removed and up a level in comparison to contemporary offerings? You tell me.


  • talking_animal

    [quote]Who takes a filofax to a nightclub, I ask you??[/quote] LOL!! I have lots of good memories of Sign O' The Times, too; I played the 2LP album over and over again and was glad to pick up a digital version recently. You have neglected to mention, however, the amazing descansa at the end of I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man. One of the highlights of the album for me, and one that elevates a so-so track into the top level.

    16 jui. 2007, 18h51m
  • Babs_05

    I had to look up 'descansa'. Only definition I've found so far is for 'descansar', which I imagine is related, which reads: [quote]descansar verbo intransitivo 1 to rest, have a rest (un momento) to take a break[/quote] word reference So, with that in mind, I'll have another listen. I've not known the right word for the end bit of [i]I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man[/i], but I recognise it as something that a lot of musicians do at the end of tracks, or sort of in-between one track and the next, in live performances. I hear it in jazz a lot. It's when they power-down, if you like, at the end of one track but don't stop, they kind of jam along together at a comfortable pace, before picking up again. Is that right? : ) In that case, half of [i]I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man[/i] is pure descansa. It is pretty joyous, isn't it?

    16 jui. 2007, 19h14m
  • talking_animal

    I always use the word for when the energy of the music changes into a more relaxed form.

    16 jui. 2007, 21h09m
  • Babs_05

    Ok, thanks, I'll listen out for that from now on. : )

    16 jui. 2007, 23h25m
  • pogopatterson

    Yeah I think the reason you can remember Starfish and Coffee so well, is because it gets the rhyme to match the rhythm so well. Like you say I didn't realise I knew the words so well until I thought about it, and it's quite a list.

    14 sept. 2010, 14h14m
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