Stephen Chapman

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Rolling Stone top 100 albums: #93 Prince – Sign ‘o’ the times

Based on the top 100 albums in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500, I have set myself the challenge of hearing and appraising each album. I hope to be surprised and educated along the way.

At number 93 is Prince with Sign ‘o’ the times and I admit that I haven’t been looking forward to this review.  For many years, I’ve found his music to be mostly overrated, though I can appreciate the flashes of brilliance and his work ethic. My friend Sonny talked me into seeing Prince live a few years ago and it was such a dull show. Even Sonny was a bit embarrassed for the little one, after years of telling me how great he was.

So… with an open mind (well as much as possible), I approached Sign ‘o’ the times with caution.  Another double album on the list, it was released in 1987 and was his ninth studio album. It was actually an amalgam of 3 different projects and at the time was highly acclaimed by critics.

We start with the title track, which is definitely a good song that tells an interesting story and is a good example when less production works well.

The next four tracks sound incredibly dated, with an overuse of the Fairlight synthesizer and a feeling that the songs were thrown together in the studio.  It’s not until Starfish and coffee that you get a proper song with a structure that works and it’s followed by a nice soul ballad Slow love.  But just I was starting to warm to some songs, we’re back into 80’s blandness.  Even the single that starts disc two, U got the look sounds awfully dated and I always wonder why Sheena Easton was ever famous when I hear this.

The banality and weedy production of this supposedly classic album really surprised me. I was bored with the drum sound used throughout and the album sounds so 80’s that it’s hard to listen to. But of course, it would have sounded great when released I’m sure. The best track for me is I could never take the place of your man, which ironically has the real instruments that are lacking from too many of the other songs.

I wont be revisiting this one.

My rating: 3/10

Listen to the album via Spotify here.

See the Top 100 here.

2 comments on “Rolling Stone top 100 albums: #93 Prince – Sign ‘o’ the times

  1. Pingback: This week I have been… | Stephen Chapman

  2. Raybeard
    December 3, 2013

    I listened to this before I read your comments above, and it’s uncanny how we’re of one mind.
    I was going to say (and now I shall) that there’s at least one stand-out track (“I Could Never…..”) and maybe three or four not-TOO-bad ones, among which I was going to cite ‘Starfish’ and ‘Slow Love’ to which I’d maybe add ‘Cross’. Overall, though, I too shan’t rush to listen to it again. I think I’d be slightly kinder than you by giving it a 4 – partly because, having awarded the ‘Sly’ entry a 3, there’s no doubt that between that one and this I’d be less reluctant to re-play the Prince.

    Btw: Your comment re Ms Easton made me smile – and not without a degree of agreement.

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This entry was posted on October 18, 2013 by in music and tagged , , .

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