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2012 Reissue wish list / Day 7 / Prince: Sign O’ The Times

Prince / Sign O' The Times / 25th Anniversary EditionAlthough Prince might disagree, Warner Bros. actually did him a big favour by refusing to release his proposed three record set, Crystal Ball, as the follow-up to 1986’s Parade, and requesting that he limit himself to the double album format that would result in Sign O’ The Times.

Once free from his association with the label in the nineties, one of the first things Prince did (or ‘artist formerly know as’ at that point) was to release a 3CD set called Emancipation. Although this was ten years down the line, and the diminutive pop star’s commercial appeal had waned significantly, the album still only sold very moderately, compared to his past successes.

The truth is that not many people want a 3-disc Prince record (unless it’s a compilation of hits). In the case of Emancipation this felt more like Prince making a point to his former employers than anything else.

If it is an almost-truth that most good double albums could make a great single, then what to say about a sprawling triple like Emancipation? It had some great songs (Somebody’s Somebody, Right Back Here In My Arms, Joint 2 Joint) hidden amongst plenty of covers and lots of dross (Courtin’ Time, We Gets Up).

Anyway, back to 1986/7, and the 22-track Crystal Ball was edited and trimmed down to the double album we know as Sign O’ The Times. Seven tracks got the chop, but all would end up seeing the light of day in the years to come in some form or another, either as b-sides or reworked album tracks (on the Black Album and Graffiti Bridge to name two).

Even with Warner Bros. putting their foot down over Crystal Ball, a double album would still have been viewed as a risky venture. Parade had not sold particularly well in the US, despite Kiss reaching the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

The running order of the new double album was improved, and Sign O’ The Times (the song) became track one and the title track (having been hidden away halfway through disc three of Crystal Ball).

The rest, as they say, is history.

The Sign O’ The Times album went on to become both a big commercial success, and an almost universally critically acclaimed record. Most rank it as his best.

The minimalist social commentary of the Sign O’ The Times single struck a chord with the public, and became a massive transatlantic hit. The rest of the album was mostly performed and produced by Prince alone (The Revolution having been disbanded after the abortive Dream Factory project) and was a scintillating mix of rock, pop, funk and soul with a distinctive edge thanks to Prince at his creative best, in terms of arrangements. A few tracks would include vocals by Prince’s alter ego Camille, such as the single If I Was Your Girlfriend.

The now peach and black-attired star went on to tour the record across Europe, where he felt most appreciated at that time. To make up for not touring the US, Prince agreed to film some shows for the concert film Sign O’ The Times.  This got a limited cinematic release at the time.

Sign O’ The Times is 25 years old this year and a deluxe edition would be a most welcome celebration of this fine record. There is plenty of bonus material available for an expanded set, and what follows is  a suggestion as to how a deluxe expanded set might look

CD1 – Original album, remastered.

CD2 – Original album, remastered.

CD 3 – B-sides and Remixes

B-sides

  • La La La, He He Hee (10:32)
  • Shockadelica (6:12)

Remixes/Edits

  • Sign O’ The Times 7″ Edit 3:42
  • Housequake Edit 3:24
  • Housequake (7 minute MoQuake) 7:15
  • You Got The Look (Long Look) 6:45
  • If I Was Your Girlfriend 7” Edit 3:46
  • Shockadelica Edit 3:30
  • La La La, He He Hee Edit 3:21
  • I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man (Fade) 3:39
  • Hot Thing (Edit) 3:40
  • Hot Thing (Extended Remix) 8:32
  • Hot Thing (Dub Version) 6:53

DVD – Sign O’ The Times concert film, promo videos

I see a four-disc edition as above been the most likely and commercial prospect. However at the same time a 5 or 6 disc Super Deluxe Edition could include the tracks removed from the original Crystal Ball 3 LP set, plus related works including the early versions of Strange Relationship and I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man (from 1982) and other tracks from the Camille/Dream Factory projects.

Any of these proposed expanded editions are likely to need some degree of cooperation from Prince himself, and there is currently no any sign of this happening.

ALBUM: Sign O’ The Times by Prince
ANNIVERSARY: 25th
WHY REISSUE?: B-sides (unedited) and remixes largely unreleased in CD, early versions of album offer many interesting bonus tracks.

Tomorrow> Day 8> Bruce Springsteen: Tunnel Of Love

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20 responses to 2012 Reissue wish list / Day 7 / Prince: Sign O’ The Times

  1. Pingback:2012 Reissue wish list / Day 6 / Madonna: Erotica | superdeluxeedition

  2. Lennymogwai says:

    There’s some stunning live work from that era, too, not to mention the work he did around that time with Miles Davis. Last thing I heard was that Warners wanted to put it on another Miles box set but Price blocked it. That was a while ago.

  3. dvdmccrmck says:

    Waiting for the day when Prince’s entire 80s discography is reissued. It is criminal that so many quality songs and live footage hasn’t been given the deluxe treatment.

  4. Steve Marine says:

    Ditto what dvdmccrmck said…

  5. Paul Sinclair says:

    I *think* Warners could probably do some reissues without him, but would probably rather work with him. They do still own all his stuff from this period, right?

  6. Kauf says:

    It would be really great to see Prince albums reissued.
    But, as a fan and having most of his albums (and many singles), I think that a reissue including remixes would be rather pointless, as these are generally the work of another person and not the artist himself.
    I for one would not buy a reissue of this kind.
    In my opinion, there would not be any “added value” to the set by including remixes (and let’s face it, some b-sides from the era were not that relevant either, especially La-la-la-he-he-hee…).

    I would really wish to see a whole CD dedicated to live sets from the bands he used at the time of the album (as was done with the Bob Marley deluxe reissues).
    I mean, he’s always been known to play with incredible musicians, and his live shows have always been a great experience. AND the band he used in the Sign O’ The Times Tour was UN-BE-LIE-VA-BLE (Sheila E, Miko Weaver, Levi Seacer Jr, Dr. Fink, Boni Boyer…).

    I would dream, as a fan, of the following structure for a potential reissue:

    CD1 – Original album, remastered
    CD2 – Original album, remastered
    CD3 – Sign O’ The Times (Live set)
    DVD – Sign O’ The Times Remastered concert film + promo videos

    I would DEFINITELY buy THIS reissue!

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      I do agree with you re live sets, but disagree about the remixes. The extended versions of singles were part of the offering at the time, and further down the line (with Gett Off and Cream), those US CD singles which ran for 40 minutes or so felt like quite a bit of thought had gone into them and I’m sure Prince was fairly involved in one way or another. I don’t think you can exclude remixes from a super deluxe type set just because the artist themselves didn’t carry out the remix – ultimately they sign off on everything and it’s their vision in the end…

      • Kauf says:

        Yeah, you might have a point there in respect of the remixes. Especially the Gett Off I remember the 12″ was amazing.

        I still believe that, in the case of Sign O’ The Times, the live sets are more “essential” than the remixes and b-sides, because they show how Prince reworked the songs for a live band (rather than playing most of the instruments himself). In fact, the SOTT rehearsals that have been floating around the net are astounding in this respect…

      • Kevin says:

        To further illustrate that point: the 12-inch of “Let’s Go Crazy” was the version featured in Purple Rain…

    • Matthew McKinnon says:

      Although I’m not mad about single edits, Prince’s 12″ and extended versions were very often his own work, and are often excellent and essential. The ‘Long Look’ version of ‘U Got The Look’ here, and his long versions of ‘Mountains’, ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, ‘I Would Die 4 U’ etc are exceptional.

  7. Julie Skaggs says:

    I’d love to hear a remaster which wasn’t squashed (like Ultimate was) and which included lots of goodies, but given his ambivalent relationship to his past, I’m not very optimistic. It’s too bad that his relationship with Warner Bros changed so much, but on the other hand he was right to be angry that they asserted the rights to his actual name (which, legally, they could and hence the whole “Artist Formally Known As”) which just goes to show how draconian the corporate structure can be.

    • Kauf says:

      I agree with Julie on the “squash” dept.
      Dear Remasterers (?), please don’t kill the dynamic range of the albums…

    • Kevin says:

      Amen! Although his last few albums have been kind of squashed anyway, so I don’t think Prince’s involvement in any Warner Bros. remasters will change anything there…

  8. Pingback:Prince and Madonna original album box sets due | superdeluxeedition

  9. Cody says:

    I’m still waiting for a decent release of ‘Purple Rain’. Maybe something with some of the 12″ remixes, or the recordings done for the film. The extended version of ‘Darling Nikki’ is amazing.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Unfortunately until Prince and Warners sort out their relationship, nothing ‘deluxe’ looks like coming any time soon…

  10. Eric says:

    I feel like such a bad Prince fan for not knowing (or perhaps just not remembering!), but which songs were left off the final double album which had been on the 3-disc Crystall Ball? I’m curious now!

  11. Justin says:

    Prince is apparently reluctant to remaster anything. Shame. If the remasterer did a good job, I’d buy them all again, no hesitation. Make them all 2 CD expanded editions too, b-sides, remixes etc.
    I like the 4 disc inc. ‘remix/edit’ version listed as well, even though I just bought the S’O’TT concert movie on Blu-ray.

    Another thing about Princes 12″ mixes….the album/single versions were often edited down from the long versions or ‘jams’ that Prince recorded originally, with or without band. For evidence of this, check out “Lets Go Crazy”, “Kiss”, “America” and many others. So in this case the uncut extended mixes were the original versions.

  12. Pingback:Japanese CD of the Day / Prince: Sign ‘O’ The Times / SHM mini-LP CD | superdeluxeedition

  13. Pingback:Prince: Sign ‘O’ the Times mini-LP CD | superdeluxeedition

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