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.