As a music journalist myself, and someone who has read eight of the other 33 1/3 books, I found Matos' book to be both refreshing, enlivening, and if not completely meticulous, one of the best in the series. The book offers a fluidic, highly personal account of the author's discovery of the album while at the same time discussing Prince's history and the album's development. While some of the books in the series offer either historical analysis (see, Neil Young's Harvest) or the author's autobiographical reflections of the album discussed (see, The Smiths' Meat Is Murder), Matos finds the middle ground, doing a lovely balancing act between introversion and vulnerability.
It seems to me that the major complaints offered in the reviews on this page are, if not intensely emotional, all polemic and illogical. Some seem dubious at best. One reviewer complains that he couldn't help but wish that Matos was older than 13 when he first discovered Sign 'O' The Times. To me, it's the most appropriate age of all, seeing that it is in our adolescence when we find our musical templates and are most susceptible and accepting of new music. It is only as we get older that we become such snobs.
Another complaint is of "imprecise wording," which I find silly as I am yet to find a book (nonfiction or otherwise) that isn't a bit imprecise at times. That doesn't wholly excuse Matos' literary shortcomings, but when the imprecise wording in question concerns the author's use of the adjective "Camille," the complaint loses validity as Matos uses the word "Camille" to describe a particular sped-up singing style Prince was using at the time.In any case, it's not that hard to figure out what Matos is discussing when he uses the word, even if you did doze off on page 62 where it is clearly defined.
The complaint that anyone reading the book might be daunted by the descriptions of the plethora of material Prince was recording at the time, and the subsequent incarnations of Sign, has some merit. I'll admit that for anyone not immediately familiar with Prince could find all the material overwhelming. But I also believe that when writing the book Matos, consciously or not, suspected that this material might be a little superfluous. I imagine he left it intact not to bewilder people, but simply because he knew who he was addressing. He knew that he was writing about an artist (no pun intended) whose hard-core fans are, if not more so, as meticulous and anal-retentive as Prince himself.
As for the other reviews, or more accurately, the other vengeful complaints. They all share one common outlook in that Matos was too personal. That the book was "self-indulgent," that it was Matos' "life story," that he "writes more about himself in the book then Prince," and that Matos himself is the "center of the story." In truth, only about a third of the book is actually written from the personal point of view. While that may be a considerable amount for someone who wants to read solely about the album, I find the complaint hollow considering that right on the back of the book (and in the above Amazon description) it says, "He [Matos] also illustrates beautifully how-if a record is great enough and lucky enough to hit you at the right time-it can change your way of looking at the world." Buyer beware I guess, but I suspect that most of these people never made it past the first 31 pages where the bulk of the autobiographical material is at.
Two of the reviews also come from a "REALLY Big Prince fan" and a "big Prince fan." I think that any huge fan of Prince's would probably know would probably already know the bulk of the material in the book. It leads me to conclude that what these two readers really wanted was an encyclopedic re-hash of the information they were already semi-experts at. They seem to want uncreativity; music criticism without being critical, musical analysis without the author being analytical. It's also quite hilarious that one of these fans uses the majority of his review to tell a personal story about stumbling upon the book by accident while he and his wife were at the bookstore. It is completely illogical to complain about something while you yourself are doing it at the same time. His whole review reads like an ethics speech on corruption coming from Tom DeLay.
The truth is that Matos' book is a lot like his subject's musical output. It's a gamble certainly, but if you're open to it, you'll discover things you may have missed the first time around. And it is only when an author is personal and vulnerable with his readers that you can discover these things. Matos does this superbly, but only if you let him. If you come in with an agenda, then ultimately you'll be disapointed. If you want a straight biography of Prince, there are plenty to be had. But if you want a highly readable and heartfelt book that has the feel of a great musical discussion with a friend then I would highly recommend Matos' book.