Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
One of the comments made, when Scott Woods posed the question: "Would you have wanted The Camille Album released, knowing that if it had been put out, there would have been no Sign O The Times album??" pointed out that, as it stood the Camille album (in this discography, it's called Controversy) was a complete concept, while Sign O The Times wasn't really a great album, so much as a collection of amazing, if disconnected, songs. But if you pull out all the Camille songs, are you left with an improved and more focused Sign O The Times?
Well, maybe. But not one to want any songs, released or otherwise, to go to waste, I've added the songs from the unreleased Black Album into the mix, thus making this another collection of amazing songs that lacks the focus of an album. It's like Prince's Greatest Hits from 1987. Because he was (not releasing but....) creating two albums a year worth listening to. Even though he decided not to release The Black Album because it was "evil", enough bootlegs of it made the rounds that when Rolling Stone asked rockstars of the era what their favorite album of the year was, many of them named The Black Album.
I probably could have split this into two EPs, but I like listening to a full length album, so I've interspersed the tracks. Call it Sign O The Times or Princes Greatest Hits From 1997 That Weren't From The Camille Album, I love the dizzying result. If it has a theme, it's that Prince can't seem to balance out his religious life and sex life in a satisfying way, which, let's be real, was the theme for his entire career.
Another slow build start, as an acoustic guitar strums the intro track, The Cross, another Jesusy start to an album that's mostly sex. The drums come in, while Prince is still somewhere between a psalm and a croon, they give the occasional snare, and then the grungey guitar fuzzes in and desperate Prince comes to change your religion.
As the religion fades out, the sex breezes right in on Le Grind. A dirty dance floor grinder from The Black Album. The lyrics are pretty generic call and response dance music, but the instrumentation and vocals are peak funk Prince.
Now, if you were looking for cool lyrics, Starfish And Coffee is the song you were waiting for. I probably heard it on the original album at some point, but my first memory of the song was Prince singing it with a bunch of generic-ass Muppets on "Muppets Tonight". Maybe the named Muppets didn't feel cool enough to be included in the song?
The title track is Prince's hyper-focused "We Didn't Start The Fire" as he goes through a list of 1987 society's ills, and how they're just endemic of 1987. AIDS, drug abuse, The Challenger explosion, the internal struggle between religion and sex (via "Annie Christian"), gang violence, and infanticide. With different music, is this a song worth listening to? Maybe. But the production and spare riffage make this one of the best songs that came out in 1987, period.
United In West Compton opens with conversations over bass drums, and then turns into a spectacular instrumental funk song.
Ask Scott Woods, or most Prince fans, what the best track of Sign O The Times is, and they'll agree, it's The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker. A classic funk bassline, a narrative about a waitress, snare, self-examination and deprication, and a bubble bath. What more could one possibly want?
I have long misremembered Roxette's "The Look" as being a cover of U Got The Look. It's not, but Prince definitely should have got some cut of their royalties. This is the song on the album that sounds most like it could have come out during the Revolution era. I love it.
The synth riff of Superfunkcalifragisexy waterfalls out of the previous track. This might be the best combination of surreal lyric Prince and funk synth Prince. The first person that touches you / you want to fuck. Ok, Prince, we get it, you dropped some E before you went out dancing. You'll be fine. Just don't forget to drink some water.
So ... I don't really want to talk about Lovesexy. It's the first Prince album that bored me. But there are a few tracks worth saving. I've put them all in a row here. First off is When Two R In Love. It's a basic Prince ballad but has some nice echoey chorus parts, and he's got the falsetto / baritone melody mix on point on this track.
Positivity, the concept is what killed Lovesexy for me. But the song is catchy, and I enjoy the weird metronomic synth beat and how it balances the screeching background guitars. Someone starts pouring water over the end, and drops a few synth riffs before a warm spacey vibe falls over the track, and
the dark riff of Eye No briefly falls before Prince announces that he's drug-free, and it's an all sunshine and rainbows song falsettos in, and Prince drops the name of the (not included in this discography) album a few times, while discussing how he's been avoiding The Devil. Mmmmmhmmmm. Right.
The previous song fades out with conversations and religious zealotry before being interrupted by Prince screeching No before launching into Alphabet Street, which sounds a bit like the theme song to a kid's show about stealing cars, voyeurism, and being sexy, which is a Terrible Idea for a kid's show. Prince Roger's Neighborhood would have definitely been cancelled before the second episode.
Ok, that's more than enough Lovesexy, time to get back to a killer fuzzy funk riff with Hot Thing. The vocal blend on this track is fire.
In case you wanted a primer on how Prince thinks people should fuck, I've included Slow Love as the penultimate track.
We close the album with Prince claiming I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man. It sounds like Mature Prince is telling someone he's not good enough to be their lover, but it's actually Prince being a cad to some woman whose partner left her. I may be qualified for a one night stand / But I could never take the place of your manis an honest sentiment but he's otherwise not very compassionate here. But why end on compassion? This is an album about how his religion and his sex are interfering with each other, so let's end with him doing the morally proper thing, while still being kind of a jerk, and not getting any.