No self respecting music fan can have a blog praising albums and not include the one and the only, Prince. A true legend and one of, if not the greatest pop/rock/funk/R&B/music writer and performer of all time. Not only is he incredibly successful and beloved but he’s done a great deal for music as a whole. A great storyteller and incredibly versitile musician who really has done it all from rock, R&B, avant garde psychadelic pop, wedding and radio friendly number 1 singles, controversial and overtly sexual deep cuts, movies, soundtracks and much much more. Pretty much as successful as any artist could ever wish to be. Purple Rain is like 13x Platinum or something crazy like that. He’s beloved worldwide by casual music fans, snobs and critics alike, and for damn good reason too. As far as music writing is concerned Prince is the king in my eyes.
While many of Prince’s albums ,espessially his 80’s releases are absolutely brilliant, I do tend to consider Prince a singles artist for the most part. And while he has some increidble hits and b-sides collection, I find myself going more towards the albums and deeper tracks more and more everytime I go through a Prince phase. With that said I should also point out that Prince is one of the few artists that I love where the b-sides are just as good as many of the album tracks and singles. And from 1980’s excellent Dirty Mind till about 1988’s Lovesexy, Prince really did have a beyond successful and great run of classic albums and soundtracks. With albums like the afformentioned Dirty Mind, the unbelivablely great 1999 which we can all thank for “Little Red Corvette”, Controversy, the less talked about but equally amazing Around the World in a Day (however “Raspberry Beret” is still probably his most played wedding jam), the beyond genius and probably my second favorite Prince album Purple Rain (completely undeniable album, “The Beautiful Ones” is one of my favorite songs ever by anyone), Parade (for “Kiss” and “Mountains” and “Sometimes It Snows in April”), Lovesexy, and of course my favorite and in my opinion the most consistantly brilliant album he’s ever done Sign “O” the Times.
And I say this damn well knowing how unbelievably tight and perfect Pruple Rain is. And believe me choosing Sign “O” the Times over Pruple Rain wasn’t easy but but I think when it comes down to it it’s a slightly better album however both are beyond classic and have some of his best tracks he’s ever done. And while Pruple Rain successfully took mainstream pop music to even more catchy, funky, rocking and thought provoking places, Sign “O” the Times is such a culmination of everything that Prince is great at what what we all love about him, its impossible to deny it. For me it’s truly his masterpiece.
Topics, musical styles, and overall mood change throughout this album so seamlessly and so often that it truly is amazing, but it never really loses its momentum and always feels like a whole. The album gets off to a much more realistic and world aware start than we are normally used to from prince albums. One of his most powerful songs on the album, “Sign “O” the Times” is a very current state of the world concious track over a funky groove where prince rattles off a few examples of the state of things today which is not only relateable in 1987 but today as well. At first I dimissed it as some of his cheesiest lyrics but more recently I’ve changed my tune about it. Say what you want but its a great opening track and a departure from a lot of Prince’s more sexually charged and previous work. From there we have the much loved “The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker”, a very engaging and groovy tale of seduction, lust, and adultury.
My next favorite track from there is the love letter to being unique and different, “Starfish and Coffee”. Which has in recent times become one of my favorite Prince tracks. A nice little song about not being afraid to be odd and unique, a sort of fuck you to conformity. Embrace your differences. Something that Prince is no stranger to. A really lovely and happy song, one of my favorite moments on here and it also adds to the diversity of themes and styles which is one of the coolest and more charming aspects of this album. From there we have the very sexy and dancy “Hot Thing”, and “U Got the Look” where we hear a lot from “Camille” Prince’s alter ego around that time.
Next up for songs from this album that I really love is “If I was Your Girlfriend”. A very moody and chilly almost gothy vibe of a song about a obsession and love. The narrator wants to become more than just a boyfriend, wants the closeness of being a girlfriend instead of just a boyfriend. Wants to help her pick out her clothes, wash her hair, and cry togehter. And from there the track brilliantly heightens into uncomfortable territories. Its truly a fantastically written and layerd track. A fine example of Prince’s genius.
"Strange Relationship" is pretty straight forward but excellent nonetheless. "I could Never Take the Place of Your Man" is probably my favorite Prince track of all time. Its a fun, soulful and rocking but also very realistic song about replacing someone who has wronged you in your life. "The Cross" is a very pretty guitar driven and ever building soulful sidestep about spirituality, again adding to the many different directions and places that this album is willing to go.
And last but not least, the album leaves us with the very beautiful and excellent soulful album ender of “Adore”. And after an hour and 20 minutes of this pop/rock/soul/etc rollercoaster, if you arn’t completely in love and won over by Prince, I really don’t know what to tell you. This album really is everything that is great and that I love about music. Great writing, inventive and forward thinking production and arrangement, its not afraid to travel outside the realm of convention, and you can just tell that prince loves people, storytelling, and of course music. So many different, themes, characters, storys, topics, and influences. A truly great album and deserves all of the praise and love it’s gotten over the years. Its certainly not the end all and be all of his catelog but for me this is his greatest album. Absolutely brilliant.