NEW MUSIC EAR'S FAVOURITES - PRINCE "SIGN 'O' THE TIMES"
The singles, the lead track "Sign 'O' The Times" was pretty cutting edge containing references to AIDS (the first song that mentioned the disease), gang violence, drug abuse and poverty. The Blues guitar and minimal drum machine backing made it thought provoking and with the ground breaking lyric only video just made it more powerful. It was the lyrics and not the performer that mattered, something Prince was always proud of, breaking boundaries. The single sleeve amused me because some people thought Prince had shaved his legs, wore a skirt and modelled for the cover. It was actually Cathy (Cat) Glover who was part of Prince's backing band. "If I Was Your Girlfriend" was the alter ego Camille, again minimal keyboard, bass and drum beat singing a unique perspective of a man asking the woman if he was a woman would she open up her feelings to him. Again, ground breaking at the time but it reached number 20 in the UK charts but didn't match the title track's top 10 placing. "U Got The Look" with Sheena Easton, there is so much going on but its a great thumping track and background guitar riffs with harmonies, Camille vocals and Sheena's unmistakeable (to UK fans who remember her hits from the 80s) vocal. The song reached number 11 but the last single from the album, "I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man" could only scrape to 29. This was a single version as the album is much longer at over 6 minutes. Its Blues driven guitar with catchy chorus and searing solos and funky Blues break in the middle is one of my favourite Prince tracks.
"Housequake" is a funky scorching dancefloor track, its manic and features the brass section of the band with a minimal drum beat. "Shut Up Already..Damn!"
"The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker" allegedly was about a dream Prince had, even though the name was the same as an American writer and poet he later said he did not know who she was! Its a very nice song, although the lyrics suggest it must have been a sex dream! Minimal backing again with just Prince on vocals and a lady harmonising which perhaps is Susannah Melvoin.
"It" is a guitar driven track, almost Hendrix style with a drum machine backing, searing guitars and Prince basically saying he wants to do "it", and yes your imagination is correct, it is precisely "that"! Great track though.
"Starfish And Coffee" is apparently a sweet little story about one of Susannah and Wendy Melvoin's classmates, including all the names and even the starfish for breakfast were Susannah's recolelctions of Cynthia Rose! Minor drum, bass and keyboards that make for a jolly little ditty that kids can enjoy.
"Slow Love" is an orchestrated typical Prince ballad with a little guitar and a lot of strings, an epic almost Classical Opera style. Falsetto and normal Prince vocals abound for the full romantic effect.
"Hot Thing" is one of my favourites, a pulsating drumbeat with brass accompaniment and bass was one of the "Crystal Ball" tracks as it references "tell him you're going to the Crystal Ball". A little like another of my favourites from the "Lovesexy" album the following year called "Dance On".
"Forever In My Life" is minimal here and is a really lovely track and romantic, Prince singing in his usual voice and the backing vocals sometimes come to the fore over the lead which is very unique. The "Sign 'O' The Times" concert film version has superb guitar backing, very Blues style and a little funky. Classic Prince.
Another of my all time Prince favourites is "Strange Relationship", credited as Camille once again on vocals. The keyboard Sitar sound gives a faint Easter feel to the track and its thumping drumbeat keeps the tempo going.
"The Cross" is just amazing, the song that epitomises Prince as a superb guitarist and underrated. A bluesy feel to the song, spiritual lyrics with slow guitar building and building into a mega crescendo solo ending. Always loved this song live, the lighters would come out, the arena goes dark, and everyone feels part of the Prince family. Maybe it wasn't God they believed in but Prince. Just awesome.
"Its Gonna Be A Beautiful Night" is a live Instrumental jam with all the Revolution involved, and fun is had by all. Funky and with overdubs, a "transmississippirap" by Sheila E (allegedly recorded over the phone!) and each section of the band gets a segment to show their skills. Brilliant fun and is a live killer.
"Adore" ends the album with a falsetto ballad that would not be out of place on Prince's first couple of albums. Its a couple of minutes too long for me, but its a lovely song and I am sure its been used on many a romantic night for lovers!