Prince’s Sign Expands for the Times

Prince’s 1987 album Sign O’ the Times endured a convoluted path to fruition. The year prior, he initially had two albums in the works: a full collaboration with his band The Revolution titled Dream Factory, and a solo album called Camille, the latter intended to be promoted as being by a new singer named Camille, which was actually Prince singing in a sped-up voice as a female. Both albums were scrapped following Prince’s dismissal of The Revolution, but songs recorded for each were combined with new songs to make up the tracklisting for a planned triple album titled Crystal Ball, which was pared down for the eventual double album Sign O’ the Times. To make matters even more confusing, Prince released a box-set called Crystal Ball in 1998, but that mostly consisted of material recorded in the mid ‘90s.

Anyhoo, Sign O’ the Times is being reissued by Warner Records on Sept. 25 in an assortment of editions, most of which are padded with an array of rare and unreleased material. For instance, super-fans who’ve been saving up their extra PUA dollars can gleefully invest in the super-deluxe version: eight CDs or 13 vinyl LPs consisting of the original double album, plus single and extended mixes, B-sides, a wealth of unreleased material from the vaults (including most of the excess tracks intended for Crystal Ball that never ended up elsewhere), a live show recorded in The Netherlands in June 1987, and a DVD of a New Year’s Eve show recorded that year at Prince’s Paisley Park facility in Minneapolis, featuring Miles Davis guesting during the encore. Plus a 120-page hardcover book, complete with photocopies of handwritten lyrics and loads of previously unpublished photographs from the era.

Too much for you? There are truncated versions as well, in fact you can just do the original album and nothing more if that’s all you need. Too little for you? There’s a companion limited-edition box set of 7” singles from the album, also including one for the previously-unreleased funky-ass track “Witness 4 the Prosecution.”