Prince Album #9: Sign o’ the Times [The Movie]

Disclaimer: this is part of a 13,000+ word post about the album and I decided 11 days later to split it into multiple entries.
This is on the movie itself. [and it may spoil some things about songs on Disc II, but others, it might not… it’s been an interesting week…

Starring [in no real order]:
Prince
Cat Glover
Sheila E
Greg Brooks
Wally Stafford
Miko Weaver
Levi Seacer Jr.
Eric Leeds
Atlanta Bliss
Dr. Fink
Boni Boyer

Sign o’ The Times- The Movie

this is where you typically say: I hope the movie isn’t a disappointment after the book.
But this time, it’s spending time with the album. And with most of the songs between the two platforms, I’m sure they won’t be identical.
Ok, enough stalling…

After some technical difficulties, got the movie started.
Prince looks like he’s in a town where moral decay has taken hold. Lots of places where obscene sounding names. Cat is talking to this guy, demanding love, trust and sex and he’s not willing to give it to her so she runs off and Prince follows.
By pure coincidence, they wind up on the same stage for the first song [wild guess which one…]

The backing beat is the Fairlight, so I thought maybe it was the original version but recorded from the record, which is why the bass guitar is so funky and alive. But Prince is singing live and his guitar is definitely live. Cat is dancing in the background, occasionally getting the spotlight (while in shadow) to mime the lyrics- personally, I find it a tad distracting, but it’s meant to tell the story.
In this way, with Prince singing and performing and doing the live guitar solos… it gives the song a lot more gravitas and it feels more genuine and the lyrics a bit more frightening. The album version wishes it was this good- let’s put it that way.
To cap it all off, Sheila E and the rest of the band come on like they’re members of the Rhythm Nation- all holding drums like they were in a high school marching band. That made the final beats of the song even cooler.

I’ll pause the movie to describe the songs as they happen because there’s no way I’ll remember by the end of it.

Play in the Sunshine.. phew… the only part I didn’t like about it was the keyboard line. It’s the core melody that reminds you of the album version- maybe I just don’t like the melody of it or I felt it didn’t match up with the energy of all the other instruments. Sheila E was KILLER on the drums- Prince introduced her and then said “not bad- for a girl”… I said “hey, that’s not bad for anybody!” πŸ˜› I’m sure I’d heard that somewhere else, but still true. He also asked Cat (who was wearing glasses- was that for show or does she normally wear contacts) if she wanted to go out and she told him to eff off. He gave up kinda easy and just kept the performance going.
I don’t remember if I really had seen this before- but that would explain why the album version just doesn’t do it for me. I mean, it’s not one of my favorites anyway, but I like it this way better.
He slowed it down to a nice little groove- a few moments went by and I started to have a gut feeling another song was coming- gut feeling was right- “Little Red Corvette” but Prince was on piano and there was a loud Linn-drum beat that came in every now and then. That was cool 😎

Then he brings in the Housequake… I miss the Camille vocal, but everything else was… DAMN… seeing everyone jump on a certain beat (I think on beat 3)- it really brings the song to life. Cat’s dancing had some amazing moments. Prince’s performance, meanwhile, bits and pieces of it reminded me of how Morris Day performs. Maybe it’s that pumped commanding persona he’s got going here.

Slow Love is next… I don’t like this song because it’s just so boring to me. But hearing it live- the problem is that the album version is too paint-by-numbers. There’s nothing extraordinary about it- none of that Prince energy. And for a ballad like this, it needs to be a little steamier.
Him performing it love with a little falsetto and some screams- one point, he was on his back, cradling the mic stand with his foot and singing the final verse… DANG!
And “let me show you what I’m made off”- he rips his shirt open and it was on!
In the background, Cat and the guy she was with before (I’m not sure if it’s Greg Brooks or Wally Stafford wearing that big furry hat) were going at it. He was trying to woo her and she was caught in Prince’s performance, but at the end, he gives the side eye and sees the two of them together.
Slow Love could be as good as Satisfied if he gave this kind of vocal performance on the recording.

The guy is at the stage bar talking to this other guy, saying in disbelief how his girl wants him to talk to her (why the hell is that so hard, geesh…) and he leaves.
It was hard to know which song it’d lead too… but slowly, my gut was telling me something and it wound up being right. “I could never take the place of your man”… in this case, I don’t know if Prince is serious or not. Cat’s giving him the eyes and he’s rolling her eyes playfully at her and singing the song to her. I remember how she was dressed- short black top with a black party skirt with white polka dots.
I think Greg is the guy in the hat cuz she called the guy at the bar Wally.
This song sounds a lot better with the full band behind it.
The breakdown kinda works here where they’re using it as a breather. But on the album, to me, it still doesn’t make sense. Those extra 2-3 minutes could’ve gone to another song. Although I have no idea what I’d put here.

Again- it took a while, me trying to figure out what the song was. We see Cat dancing, almost grinding, at a wall and Prince and the guys in his band are checking her out.
The beat reminded me of Housequake, but slowly I recognized it and I was both excited and terrified.
Hot Thing is the first song on the album on the ones so far that are among my favorites, so I was hoping, again, it wouldn’t make the album version feel obsolete.
It didn’t- both versions are great, but for different reasons. The beat really came to life and the synth riff I love so much was still there. But by comparison, the saxophone didn’t sound as great as it did on the album. Maybe because it’s such a stark contrast to the rest of the music.
I think I remember the Peach and Black guys mentioning Prince flying under Cat and ripping off her skirt. That happened so fast, I was like “damn!”… she was dressed in yellow, skimmy top with a yellow tutu and yellow underwear underneath. For a second, I was thinking about the song “Sister” [except she don’t wear no underwear… and so on…]. She and Prince were getting into it on stage. Underneath, they were on either side of a support and they were grinding almost like they were having stage sex without touching.
It was kinda hot…
But yeah, my favorite performance so far- but that’s also a little biased πŸ˜‰

Whew- that was high energy.
So the band was jamming (might have been a Madhouse number- I have no idea), Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss and Sheila E got a killer solo.
Then we got into “U Got the Look”-which is basically the music video. But in the context of this “movie,” it has an interesting part to play. Sheena Easton comes in as this other girl that catches his attention. I think there’s at least three of her- three different outfits. And she’s freaking bad-ass. But at the end, Cat drags him away and there’s an epic guitar solo.
I’m not sure, but the beat feels like it’s a little slower than on the album.
But this was good fun- such a fun song.

I’d been pausing so often to write notes on the different songs- I’m only halfway through and I began at 9:45… it’s now 11 πŸ˜›

Cat is lying in bed (in lingerie obviously), just finishing up a call with a girlfriend- I assume because that’s the song it leads into.
Prince is still dressed in the fur he wore to the previous number.
“If eye was your girlfriend”… I mean, I still prefer the Camille vocal and I love the sparse arranging. This doesn’t completely beat it, but it comes close with its own flavor. I had no idea how Motown this song was- the way the band was playing and how Prince was singing with those of that falsetto flair- there is a song that it reminds me so much of, but I have no idea what it’s called or who even sang it. That’s how out of my field of expertise I am. [The song I’m thinking of has a similar feel to “La La La means I love you”- whoever sings it, it’s a guy singing in falsetto. Smokey Robinson or someone very similar].

It took me by surprise when suddenly Prince broke the 4th wall- I’m like “whoa, he’s talking to me” πŸ˜› and he invites us over to look at a ring in a jewelry store window.
“Forever in my Life” was just as good as the original. Prince’s lead vocal has more gravitas and honesty to it and just felt stronger and more emotional. But I didn’t care as much for everyone else singing back-up vocals. (I’m sure Captain would balk at the fact that they didn’t correct the alignment of the backing vocals for this version). After a while, the whole band came on stage and it felt like a good finish to a concert. That sense of unity. Then Boni Boyer had the greatest moment of her night so far with a lot of good soul. No wonder Prince continued in that direction and brought Rosie Gaines into the band a little while after that. [I’m not a fan of what she brought to these performances- particularly the ICNTPYM vocals, but this is great].
Then they did a mash-up with the backing beat of the first song, the band chanted “all right” and Prince added some lyrics from “IT”… and here, it worked. Didn’t sound borderline insane or sleazy. Although I didn’t like the harsh screaming later on- it’s not the typical Prince scream or screaming- it kinda grated. But that’s just me.
Then there’s the fact this just went 2-3 minutes too long for me.

Then the pause button inexplicitly disappeared so I had to sit through [haha- that makes it sound like a bad thing] the last two numbers before I could come back here.
“It’s Gonna be a Beautiful Night”- yesterday when I heard this was in the movie, I was so excited about it. It wound up being kinda disappointing. The vocals on the lead line sound a lot better live because they’re hard to hear on the album. But the rest of the music, it sounds better on the album. The horn section sounds amazing on the album, but here, there isn’t that same oomph.
Cat shimmying and knocking everyone out- that was cool. Prince got behind the drums when Sheila E did her wrap. He didn’t knock it out of the park the way I’d seen him, I think either in the America video or the Lovesexy tour in Dortmund.

Then we went into “The Cross” where they showed clips from the rest of the movie.
I have no idea why he ended with this- it’s not as if something tragic happened and that was the way of answering it.
The relationship problems Cat had with Greg Brooks didn’t feel like it warranted this great moment of clarity. Live, this song is great. But it carries more weight, for me, when Prince did it alone in the studio for the album.

and they ran the credits with the beat of Sign o’ the times playing in the background. Aside from the “oh yeah!” at the beginning, no vocals… and it sounded cool that way.
I thought maybe “Adore” would come here- but maybe I’m thinking of some other credits for some other Prince product.

Every song on the album got played except:
The Ballad of Dorothy Parker
Starfish & Coffee
Strange Relationship
Adore

I know they didn’t fit into the storyline of this so-called movie (it’s a concert film if anything) but c’mon, those are three of my favorite songs from this album!
I’m not the biggest fan of Adore- but it kinda felt incomplete without it.

Also- a fun tidbit to connect it to the next project- the opening verse from Superfunkycalifragisexy- yeah, the one about the squirrel meat.
It’s mentioned on stage and also in the credits right before “May U Live 2 C The Dawn.”

Stay tuned later tonight for Disc II, how I rate the songs and, the kicker, how I rate the album as a whole.
…and as great as it wound up being, I already can’t wait to get into the next couple albums… the message of Lovesexy in particular…

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