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

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Overview

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.

EXCERPT
The most immediately ...

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Overview

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.

EXCERPT
The 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Music fans love to trumpet their favorite recordings to a sympathetic audience. Continuum has given fans that chance with its quaintly titled "331/3" series, in which the authors wax poetic on the greatness of their favorite LPs from the past 40 years. Though it's unclear how Continuum selected the authors, the musicians and music writers chosen do their subjects proud. Their articulate, well-researched, and passionate cases are a welcome change from the capsule reviews found in most music magazines, which seem intended to show off the reviewers' pithy witticisms rather than to illuminate the merits of the work in question. Interestingly, the authors here take on the qualities one would expect of fans for each artist. For instance, Perry, former guitarist for the Only Ones, gamely tries to explain the technical details of Jimi Hendrix's brilliant playing; Ott, a regular contributor to Pitchforkmedia.com, is serious and dramatic in telling Joy Division's tragic tale; and Vincentelli (music editor, Time Out New York) is a bit defensive in her self-conscious apology of Abba, resorting to tearing down other artists to make her faves look better. While the series is refreshing in its decision to sidestep the usual suspects (e.g., the Beatles' Revolver, the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds), its focus on lesser-known, more cultish albums limits the series' appeal to larger public libraries. Also potentially problematic: the artists' names are not always included in the book titles. Though written for lay readers, "331/3" may get better use, as a whole, in academic libraries.-Lloyd Jansen, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826415479
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 3/31/2004
  • Series: 33 1/3 Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 136
  • Sales rank: 1,433,763
  • Product dimensions: 4.78 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 0.36 (d)

Meet the Author

MICHAELANGELO MATOS was born and raised in Minneapolis. A former staff writer at Seattle Weekly, he has written extensively for Minneapolis/St. Paul's City Pages, Village Voice, Spin, Nerve.com, Time Out New York, Urb, Stereo-Type, Chicago Reader, Baltimore City Paper, and Creative Loafing Atlanta. He currently lives in Seattle.

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Table of Contents

1. Sign 1
2. Times 33
3. Play 57
4. Strained Relationship 111
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2006

    Good stuff.

    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. 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 disappointed. 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.

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