If the last couple of releases saw Prince loosing his command of fans and critics, Sign of the Times was as much as a return to form as it was a new beginning. Having started the sessions with The Revolution for an project called Dream Factory, conflicts surrounding it’s release and Prince’s rearrangement of their touring band resulted in the album being cancelled and the group being disbanded; an act of creative destruction that paved the way for something entirely new.
With the death of Dream Factory came the birth of Camille, an alter-ego Prince created to tap into darker feelings and musical choices than he would allow himself unmasked. If some fans considered his follow ups to Purple Rain too bright and void of funk, Camille’s first effort, “Housequake”, was appropriately announced as an aftershock. While he initially intended to release the album under this pseudonym, Prince eventually decided to combine this new output with the Dream Factory sessions to create a triple album called Crystal Ball. Aware no artist had ever made a successful triple album, Warner Brother’s insisted that the music be confined to two discs, which would eventually be titled Sign of the Times.
The result was a collection of great songs, but like the Beatles’ White Album, Sign of the Times does sometimes feels more like a compilation more than it does a singular album. Keeping that in mind, I avoided the temptation to treat this version like a greatest hits of unreleased material, favoring the minimal funk and soul conceived at a moment when Prince once again seemed secure of his place in the world when left alone in the studio.
Housequake (Unreleased Camille Remix)
Hot Thing (Electric Adolescence Edit)
Baby Go Go (Guide Vocal)
Strange Relationship (Unreleased Alternate Version)
If I Was Your Girlfriend
Sign O the Times
Forever In My Life
The Ballad of Dorothy Parker
Starfish and Coffee
Joy In Repetition (Demo Version)
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