Retro Spins: Prince - Sign 'O' The Times

It's often times considered to be his greatest work, and while I'm not necessarily inclined to agree, Prince's 1987 released, Sign 'O' The Times, is certainly solid. This album would eventually evolve from numerous concepts by the singer, going through several changes in the process.

The roots of the project can be traced back to relatively early in the 80's, 1983 to be exact, with the singer / songwriter working heavily with his band, The Revolution. It was the first time the members had been asked to collaborate so extensively on any of the material, but it wouldn't be the last over the next few years. Though a lot of music was written and recorded, the project, titled Dream Factory, would eventually be shelved.

Though he would go on to release Purple Rain (1984), which would be followed by Around The World In A Day (1985) and Parade (1986), there was a moment herein where the concept for Dream Factory would continue evolving. Unfortunately, tensions began to grow among members, specifically Wendy and Lisa, who voiced their opinions of non-musician members of The Revolution.

Things got to the point where the girls had to be convinced to remain in the band and also be part of the 1986 Parade tour. However, by the end of the excursion, Prince had apparently had enough and dissolved the group, firing most of the members in the process.

It was also in 1986 that Prince would begin working on a  pseudonymous album under the guise of Camille, a concept born from recording the track, Housequake. This work featured Prince assuming the role of this female character, altering the pitch of his vocals to sound different. Despite these efforts, it was clear to many immediately who the artist was behind the tracks. This solo project would also inevitably be abandoned, but not forgotten.

Many of these efforts from Dream Factory and Camille would come full circle when Prince commenced work on what would become his 1987 release. The album was original conceived as Crystal Ball, a six sided, three LP, covering a spectrum of musical styles. Seven songs would eventually be trimmed from the twenty-two track record, with The Look, a duet with Sheena Easton being added, to finalize the now sixteen track double sided album. It was also re-titled Sign 'O' The Times.

A little fun fact is that the seven songs omitted were eventually made available on various Prince studio or compilation albums, as well as, via the short lived Mp3 downloadable NPG Music Club subscription. Essentially, if you legitimately have all of these official releases, you could in fact put together your own copies of Dream Factory and Camille, such as I have. However, it is worth noting that with how Prince's music evolved over time, that these versions may not be the originals which would have ultimately ended up on their respective albums. Still, it's fun to listen to what could have been.

Dream Factory, on the other hand, is another story. There are several tracks from this album which were never officially released. Hopefully, and this may have happened already by the time this post goes live (written in June 2020), Prince's estate may release a legit version. Perhaps of all three of the above mentioned records. I'd buy them!

Anyway, I could sit here and really dig deep into my opinion of the album. However, it can really be wrapped up neatly with the very first paragraph I wrote. Obviously, I enjoy the album. It's not my favorite, I don't think it's his best, but it's solid and enjoyable. There are a lot of great songs on it. Some better than others. Some complete corkers, but overall very good.

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