Taking hints from modern R&B, funk, soul and psychedelia, Prince’s five-year project – Sign “O” the Times – proved to be one of the enduring albums of 1987.
His first long-player since his split from The Revolution, Sing “O” the Times sees Prince reflect on numerous political and spiritual themes.
However unsurprisingly, he also found time to pen several songs geared toward the ideologies of dynamic sexual matters.
Work on the project had begun as far back as 1982 during the sessions for 1999, with this long player originally due to represent a 3-disc collection.
Horrified at the idea of such a mammoth collection – Prince’s previous two projects had not sold that well – Warner Brothers demanded the singer trim then album down a “reasonable size.”
The original six-side collection, Crystal Ball, was never officially released, but has been available as a bootleg for many years.
Upon delivery, the now retitled Sign “O” the Times was recognised as an instant classic – a status it still holds 25 years following its release, thanks not just to the themes addressed, but also due to its artistic prowess and influence.
The album would be led by a single of the same name – an apparently simple arrangement based around a syn-snare beat, a quaint bobbing keyboard line and defiant synth bass riff.
Amidst the somewhat rigid samples of the Fairlight synthesiser, Prince elected to feed touches of blues guitar, giving what could have been a static song some fluidity and breath.
The single possess a rather thick vocal track, as Prince – in political mode with a small “p” – broached a number of issues, including gang warfare, drugs, the spread of AIDS, the environment, poverty and space travel. Yet despite all the elements involved, the song still manages to be quite minimalist in its approach – an impressive feat and one that worked impeccably.
By modern day standards, the video may looks rather quite outdated. The use of animation and text – while innovative in its day – now merely looks like a poor Microsoft Powerpoint presentation. That’s not to say it’s poor, but rather time has moved on – as have visual effects.