Gift Guide: Prince

Sign o’ the Times (Super Deluxe Edition) (Warner Bros.)


"Just trip," instructs Prince, live in studio on "Power Fantastic," one of 63 previously unreleased tracks on this 8-CD goliath. "There are no mistakes this time."

As a maelstrom of hi-hat crashes, flute-fluttered dissonance, and trumpet squawks simmer to near silence, cue the melancholic piano. Bottling the manic, magic synergy of Prince & the Revolution, the song's slow downcast also foretells the group's oncoming breakup. Even in their dissolution, Prince Rogers Nelson (1958-2016) walked on clouds in Sign o' the Times.

Ninth studio album and the most expansive release of his primetime, the 1987 double-length disc now becomes a new millennial X-ray into the Purple One's free-fall creative process. Like an oracle, the Minneapolis dynamo rips the shroud off Reagan disillusionment and nuclear terror in the opening title track to 16 asteroids of surrealist pop. Robo-synth "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker" teases a P-funked "Housequake" into the drum-machine zigzag of "It." The bandleader's six-string-saturated "U Got the Look" then blows hair back to Indian psychedelia "The Cross" and morning-sexed closer "Adore."

That only leaves new 45 studio grabs, a live recording from the album tour stop in the Netherlands, a DVD with an unreleased 1987 New Year's Eve benefit concert at Paisley Park featuring his only onstage collaboration with Davis, and a 120-page hardcover book.

Tale of the tape: "Can I Play With U?" showcases Prince's mastery over nearly every instrument under the sun, making Davis' inclusion seem more like an afterthought. On a 14-minute alternate take of "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night," its author hollers commands like "confusion" and "on the one" in total musical omnipresence. That maximalist range traverses 12-minute opus "Soul Psychodelicide," slinky bass strut "Crystal Ball," and free-form big-band jazz twofer "In a Large Room With No Light" and the James Brownian "Blanche."

As a posthumous, super deluxe deepest dive, Sign o' the Times spans the scope of Prince's transcendence.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Prince
My Little Red Book
Prince: The Man and His Music
First comprehensive Prince bio dropped domestically two months before he died

Neph Basedow, June 17, 2016

Playback: G.O.A.T. Goes Viral
Playback: G.O.A.T. Goes Viral
The God of All Texas might get your G.O.A.T.

Kevin Curtin, March 29, 2013

More by Alejandra Ramirez
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to

April 16, 2021

New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to

March 19, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Prince, Gift Guide 2020

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle