Thursday, March 20, 2008

Your face is jammin', your body's heck-a-slammin'

I'm stuck in the middle of a Prince mode this week which kind of surprises me because truthfully, I am very much a fair-weather Prince fan. I have The Hits 1 & 2 on CD (which contain sacrilegious edits of Prince's songs) and that's about it. I have never listened to the entire Purple Rain soundtrack and his output lately has been hit and miss (emphasis on the miss part.) But there is one Prince album that I always gravitate toward when I start getting a hankering for the Purple One.

Sign O The Times is the album that I consider to be Prince's best, most consistent and most accomplished. It's hardly an unpopular opinion as many Prince fans also cite this album as either their personal favorite or as Prince's best work. A double album released in 1987, it was shaved down from a triple album under pressure from the record company. And in terms of number of songs (sixteen), it actually contains fewer songs than most non-double albums these days.

As I said before, I am so not a die-hard Prince fan. I have not really followed his career through the years and am therefore, not really qualified to write about Prince in the way that I am qualified to write about Madonna and Stevie Nicks. But I just love Sign O The Times. Like a lot of music that has stuck with me through the years, it takes me back to my high school/college years. When the song "Sign O The Times" hit the radio, I remember being slightly unnerved by it, with Prince singing about people dying of AIDS, a hurricane devastating a church, and the then still relatively fresh Challenger explosion.

There are a several things that I REALLY like about this record. One is that it contains what is perhaps my very favorite Prince song in "Hot Thing." It does not help that it is incredible fun to sing the chorus "Hot thang/Barely 21/Hot thang/Looking for big fun." And it is so absolutely important to sing "thing" as "thang." Five and a half minutes of funky goodness. Another thing I like about the album is "Starfish & Coffee," a little song about Prince and some of his school friends looking in someone's lunchbox or something like that anyway. It's Prince being weird, and if you can get past that, it's a fun little song. Matt Nathanson even did a live cover of it (mp3) which is just a riot. (as Matt Nathanson generally is at his live shows per Caryle.)

The centerpiece of the album is, without a doubt, "U Got The Look." This was really the track that pushed me into buying the album, which was my very first Prince album purchase via one of those Columbia House or BMG things. Sheila E. on the drums, Sheena Easton sharing the vocals, a driving beat and a spoken breakdown. What's not to love?

A great record from Prince. I would love to see him top this someday, but I just don't think he will.

Buyer beware if you're buying this record from iTunes. The songs on the iTunes versions are mostly intact, but the version of "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man" (another favorite) offered as the album version is actually an edit.


Yuяi said...

"Hot Thing" is the jam! Love that song! Isn't that Heidi's anthmem, as I recall? :)

I, too, was at first taken aback at all the "reality" in "Sign". I can remember " he's doing Horse. It's June" ... and then the baseline hits. Great stuff (not the Horse thing, but you know what I mean!) It could be a cleaned up "Darling Nikki" done especially for the radio. Well, maybe! "Nikki" was such a scandalous song! I always had to be sure my folks were not in earshot when it came on! LOL!

I certainly do not have all of Prince's albums either, but I did count him a fave artist for a while back in the day. Purple Rain was good, but I liked "Raspberry Beret", "Pop Life," and "Kiss" so much better. I think Sign was the last time I had really paid heavy attention to him. It all got pretty much "hit or miss" (as you aptly put it) after that.

Dan said...

It IS Heidi's theme song, although she kind of looks over her glasses at and gives me this kind of half smile every time I sing it to her. ;)

I always loved Prince's singles, even after SOTT, but you're right, as far as albums go, I never really purchased another.

And "Raspberry Beret"? How many people here thought it was "Raspberry Parade" at first?

Yuяi said...

Well, I was going to say because of "Christopher Tracy's Parade" but that's a different album! Curses!

I saw the video on MTV first so I sorta was "in the know" but you could totally miss that. Sounds like an XO post about misheard lyrics to me! :)

xolondon said...

I was OBSESSED with Prince for about 10 years until he started to suck. He has not had a genius song since The Holy River (like 1997?). The run from 1999 through to Lovesexy (or maybe Graffiti Bridge) was absolutely imperial! A lot of the non-hit songs on Sign sound good now, like Forever In My Life, which John John and Carolyn played at their wedding. And remember how the title song was so revolutionary - th efirst time you heard it, you thought "Errr, that is not an actual song" and then it hit you that it's one of his finest moments. What happened? Don't even get me started on how he went from the best art direction to the worst in the biz.

Anyway, Adore is another one that has aged well.

Great post! And I should say that I just sold my Sign concert film DVD for 25 bucks on Amazon! Cleaning house.

xolondon said...

PS If ya'll don't know Something In The Water (from 1999) or Anna Stesia (from Lovesexy), you have work to do. AND The Question of U from G. Bridge.

Myfizzypop said...

I have to say I did like Prince a lot from around this album up until my absolutely fave Prince album Diamonds and Pearls. I worshipped at the altar of that album. From slutty grooves like Gett Off to gorgeous ballads like the title track everything about it won me over. Viva Prince. And well done XO!

Dan said...

That Prince phase was pretty good too. I was always quite fond of "Thieves In The Temple."

The one song on Sign that has not aged all that well, I think, is "Slow Love." Yuck. I just don't like it. I never really did.

And XO, I grabbed "Something In The Water" off of iTunes last night, but alas, Lovesexy is sold as one track and I'm just not willing to plunk down 10 bucks for an album I'm not sure I'll like!!

Matthew said...

I reference the boy vs. girl world series of love and nobody knows what I'm talking about!