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Prince's Sign O' the Times (33 1/3)
 
 

Prince's Sign O' the Times (33 1/3) [Kindle Edition]

Michaelangelo Matos
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Review

"Both a student and a fan of Prince, Matos integrates the particulars of Prince's rise to fame including the release of the double LP Sign 'O' the Times with an endearing and at times hilarious telling of his own coming of age in the suburbs of Prince's Minneapolis." Mark Baumgarten, Willamette Week, 1/5/05

Product Description

One of the greatest double albums of the vinyl era, Sign 'O' the Times shows Prince at his peak. Here, Michaelangelo Matos tells the story of how it emerged from an extraordinary period of creativity to become one of the landmark recordings of the 1980s. He 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.EXCERPTThe most immediately striking thing about Sign 'O' the Times is the jazzy sensibility running through it. Prince's father was a jazz musician, his mother a vocalist; he'd been a fan of chops-heavy jazz-fusion as well as rock and R&B growing up. But when Prince began recording for Warner Bros., he abjured the brass sections that dominated groups like Earth, Wind & Fire and Parliament-Funkadelic, opting instead for stacked synthesizer patterns and a spare, cold feel that markedly contrasted with lush, overarranged disco and the wild, thick underbrush of the era's giant funk ensembles; Rickey Vincent, author of Funk: The Music, the People, and the Rhythm of the One, dubbed it "naked funk." Getting away from traditional R&B instrumentation is an underappreciated aspect of Prince's crossover success; Prince is also said to have actively disliked the sound of horns early in his career.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1724 KB
  • Print Length: 132 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0826415474
  • Publisher: Continuum International Publishing (31 Mar 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006OMM588
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #732,465 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sadly undersells Prince's tour de force 4 Dec 2004
By Siriam TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book starts so well with a great explanation of the context as to why Prince and his music mean so much to the writer and then a joyful tirade against the way 1960s music dominates peoples, especially critics and reviewers, views (a fact confirmed by the preponderance of such titles in this 33 1/3 Series to date!) given this artiste and this recording is clearly rooted in the 1980s.
There then follows a concise history of Prince's life and his recording career and its development up to "Sign 'O' the Times" (including his films and how his mercurial personality was already showing through with adverse effects including alienating original band members and black fans). Thus the scene is set beautifully halfway through the book to provide a critique of the title under scrutiny but the author seems to lose it (though he does make a good effort especially at conveying what a workhorse Prince was at this time and the sheer volume of creative output he was producing), which is a pity as with retrospect this was clearly Prince's tour de force release.
The reasons for this unfortunate outcome are:
1. his infatuation with Prince's sex mystique to the detriment of seeing the recording within little of its social context and the ills of society at that time but more as one long screw;
2. he makes a bad move in starting with the triple LP that Prince originally wanted released until his record company refused rather than the final recording that surfaced and everybody knows. Given the many variations later released piecemeal you get lost in the "sea of titles" and by ending his overview with extensive links being made to hip-hop recordings, most of which one suspects will mean nothing to most readers, adds to the confusion;and,
3.
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Amazon.com: 1.8 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, if you accept its premise. 25 Dec 2008
By H. Domingue - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
There have been a lot of negative reviews of this book and, to be fair, they are not totally unfounded. If you bought this book and expected it to be a factual narrative with gooey bits of trivia concerning only the making of this album... well, then you'll be disappointed.

But that doesn't mean this book isn't worth your time. It's a delightful little read that not only covers the making of the album (including the various incarnations and playlists of the concepts that preceded the final release), but also tells a personal narrative that contextualizes its impact.

Yeah, there's a lot of personal narrative, but so what? This series of books takes an alternate approach to charting and cataloguing musical history. The editors encourage a varied approach to evaluating these albums. The one on Black Sabbath is an entirely fictionalized account of the action the album describes. The one on Celine Dion is a sort of social experiment in which the author (who is Canadian and hates the album) eventually comes to appreciate the work for what it is.

Though some are a little more straight-laced in their approach, most of these books are meant to be different. If you understand that notion before purchasing and reading this volume (that you'll be reading something closer to a blog or OpEd than a history book), then the book is fantastic and extremely fun.
24 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars AWFUL 2 Aug 2004
By Eric Firebird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Let me say that I also read a couple of the other books in this series (the ones on the Kinks, Neil Young, and Joy Division), and being a big Prince fan I thought I would get a similarly interesting, well-written, well-researched examination of "Sign O' the Times." WRONG! This was more about the author, which is so typical for so much of what passes for "music journalism" -- the writer placing himself at the center of the story instead of his subject matter (maybe it's an ego or insecurity thing). I mean, it's great that the album affected Mr. Matos so much, but shouldn't we assume that's already the case since he's WRITING A BOOK ABOUT IT??? There's no reason that 25% of the book should be dedicated to his childhood and family and such. A brief introductory couple of pages would have sufficed for that. Anyhow, the rest of the "analysis" of the album, most of which isn't very illuminating to anyone with more than a passing knowledge of Prince, is written in the most joyless, hip-music-journo, almost condescending tone that is a real turn-off. After reading this I did a web search of this guy and found some articles he's written for some weekly newspapers, and it's more of the same. I would recommend staying away from this book and (hopefully) waiting for a better Prince book to come along.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why So Much Hating? This series never disappoints--this volume included! 30 Jan 2014
By Jesse B Correll - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
To start: I have always appreciated Prince, if from a distance. I'm not a rabid fan. So maybe this book is more for folks like me, than the Prince completist.

I have assigned myself the task of listening to all of the greatest 100 albums of all time (as enumerated by Rolling Stone)--each week tackling 2 albums and listening through at least 3 times each. This week, Sign O The Times (and 40 Greatest Hits by Hank Williams).

I got several books from the 33 1/3 Series for Christmas. So far, I've devoured 4 of them: Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark; Stevie Wonder's Songs In The Key of Life; Sly & The Family Stone's There's A Riot Going On; and now Prince's Sign O' The Times. I love each one that I've read so far, in totally different ways. Each week that an album is covered in this series, I'm also trying to read it--to gain further insight into the album.

Yes--some of the reviewers are correct, in that this book (and some of the others that I've read and enjoyed) contains a lot of personal narrative from the author. Some people, I gather, were turned off by that. For me, it really helps create context that I wouldn't have otherwise. For me, I wasn't into the album at all before this--so I need to know why this author was so moved, to the point where they would devote 100+ pages to it.

I enjoyed Mr. Matos' narrative and style (if sometimes a little overly jokey). I found it to be a perfect blend of this narrative and historical info about the creation of this album, and the larger context of Prince's body of work. I would definitely recommend.
8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read- 22 Jan 2006
By Seth Combs-Henry - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I Want My Money Back 6 Aug 2006
By Arch Beaux - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I have read at least 20 books in the 33 1/3 series and this was definatley the worst one. I agree with the people who said its more about writer, Michelangelo, than about Prince. I think the Seth guy who wrote that other review got paid off by the writer to write what he did, because this book is not like a discussion about Prince with your best friend but about some guy I don't care about's life, and then a bunch of stuff about Prince that didn't make sense as if he didn't even listen to the album really. Dosen't matter though because I looked up the Seth guys writing and he's an even more horrible music writer than Michelangelo. Anyways, whatever, the point is there are lots of other better books in this series to spend your money on, this one was a waste of time and $$$.
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