I’ve been looking forward to this rerelease for a good couple of months now. It’s one of my favorite albums of 1987, and it’s a solid record from start to finish. It’s a soundtrack of my later teen years, in between the bouts of listening to college radio and the waning months of listening to pop radio.
Prince’s Sign o’ the Times intrigues me because it’s the end result of three different music projects. It’s the aborted next album with the Revolution, Dream Factory. It’s a solo project of androgynous sped-up vocals, Camille. and it’s a collection of both plus more, built into a three-disc behemoth called Crystal Ball. It features the best of all three, and decades later, the deluxe reissue (which drops tomorrow) features nearly everything else that was left off.
The three projects are quite different in their own ways… Dream Factory kind of picks up where Parade and Around the World in a Day left off, improving on his stellar mid-80s songwriting and the band’s tight and often improvisational sound. Camille on the other hand veers towards his uninhibited Sexy Prince character (which would surface less over the years but when it did, such as on The Black Album, it didn’t hold back). Crystal Ball ended up being sort of his White Album, a sprawling mass of past and present ideas and egos.
Some of what got left off of the final version of Sign o’ the Times eventually popped up on b-sides, soundtracks or future albums; the eventual official version of Crystal Ball, released in early 1998, would feature some of the outtakes as well. Prince being Prince, however, his recording regimen was so prolific that there was still so much left in his legendary vault. I’ve heard some of the rarities via bootlegs — a fantastic Revolution-backed version of “Strange Relationship” is a must-hear, for instance – and it’ll be great to hear them with a clear remastering.
I’ll do a recap of the reissue once I’ve given it a good listen! Stay tuned!