Unprecedented success is often times a gift and a curse. As is the case with Prince's album/motion picture combos that followed 1984's critically acclaimed "Purple Rain." The film and soundtrack that ultimately launched him into superstardom set such a high precedent that his later projects were greatly overlooked. The 1986 movie/ album combination Under The Cherry Moon / Parade was nothing less than absolute genius! But the greatest travesty of all is the under-appreciation of Sign O' the Times. Hands down my personal favorite Prince record, both the movie and album were innovative and thought-provoking.
The true brilliance of the project was the idea to have an entire movie take place on stage. At first glance it seems as if the film is merely a concert, but it's actually so much more. One cohesive story of revolution, sex, love, God, politics, heartbreak, marriage, and infidelity told through each individual song.
"Boy vs. Girl in the World Series of Love" the ingenious opening line from the duet with Sheena Easton "U Got the Look" is the dominant premise of the film. The constant battle for supremacy between masculine and feminine in songs like "Hot Thing" "Slow Love" and "Never Take the Place of Your Man" are masterfully written, but reach new levels through the personification of these emotions by Prince's ridiculously sexy female co-star known simply as "Cat." Paired with the incomparable drumming of the legendary Sheila E., the sex appeal of this film is off the charts! So much so that when I discovered it as an eight year old I can vividly remember the "weird" feelings it gave me...I wanted to do things to Cat... things I didn't quite understand... but THINGS none the less! Before Lisa Raye in "Playaz Club", or Claudette Ortiz from City High, Cat set the precedent for the type of women I love! Sexy, sassy, voluptuous, curly haired brown girls have been my kryptonite ever since! To this day I still get a tad bit lusty thinking of her lime green bikini in "Hot Thing."
Prince's songs are already the best in he world, but the intricacies added to them in the film versions make them that much better. The organ solo at the beginning of "Hot Thing"! The guitar solo in the middle of "Never Take The Place Of Your Man"!! Sheila E's drum solo on the kit with like a thousands drums where she throws her sticks and starts playing with her hands!!!!! Absolutely incredible! The perfect purple cherry on top, if you will. But the best added nuance was the combination of two of my favorite songs on the album "Forever In My Life" and "It". Prince combines both songs to create one acoustic confession of why one special girl made him realize he's finally ready to settle down. With the assistance of the entire cast on background vocals methodically chanting "aaaaall-right... aaaaaall-right" Prince professes his love for not only her body but her mind, and soul. While the song resonated with me so deeply as a child, living through similar situations as an adult has given me a new found appreciation.
Overall both the eighteen track double album and motion picture are masterpieces! A true testament to the creative genius of the greatest entertainer in the universe. The one question I always had about the movie is why "Starfish & Coffee", "Ballad of Dorothy Parker", "Strange Relationship", and one of Prince's best love songs of all time "Adore" were left out? Were those performances edited out? Does the footage exist in some hidden archive somewhere? I feel like "Strange Relationship" and "Adore" could have greatly contributed to the plot, but who am I to question the artistic direction of The Purple One?
I implore you to experience both the musical and film adaptations of Sign O' The Times if you haven't already. Your life will be tragically deprived if you don't. The DVD seems to be extremely rare in the U.S. but can be purchased from Canada through sites like eBay. Please feel free to comment and let me know your opinion on my review, and of the project itself. I'm very interested to see what the world thinks of this hidden gem! Further proof that the '80s rule all!!!