Prince’s Sign ‘O’ The Times Super Deluxe Edition CD set: My First Reactions

Prince Sign ‘O’ The Times Super Deluxe Edition (8 CD + 1 DVD)

If you’re waiting for your copy of Prince’s Sign ‘O’ The Times Super Deluxe Edition box set to arrive, I am happy to tell you that you are truly in for a treat. You’re going to be tempted to listen to it on the day that you receive it, but unless you have that entire day off from work, I strongly suggest that you wait until the weekend or take the day off. You’re going to need at least 10 hours to marathon your way through this massive collection of music and video. 

The first two CDs consist of the remastered Sign ‘O’ The Times album. I’ll leave it up to the audiophiles to explain specifically how this remaster sounds compared to the original CD, but to my ears, this remaster by Bernie Grundman sounds significantly better than the original 1987 CD. I am pretty confident that no matter what device you listen on, you’ll prefer this new remaster. 

The third disc contains single edits, B-sides, and extended versions of the songs that were released as singles from Sign ‘O’ The Times. For me, this disc is all about the B-sides and extended versions. I’m not a fan of the single edits, but if you want them, you’ll have them. 

The real treasure here is found on discs 4-8. There are three entire discs (Discs 4-6) packed with previously unreleased tracks from the vault. The majority of these are from 1986 with a few exceptions. Quite a few of these tracks have circulated among fans in lesser sound quality for many years, but the sound quality in this set is far superior to any of the bootlegs that I have heard. In addition, there are still a significant number of tracks that I have never heard at all. Even some of the tracks that I had heard previously are significantly different versions than those that have circulated. In many cases, just as I thought, “Oh, I know this song,” I was stunned to hear additional music, additional instrumentation, or even different arrangements. 

Disc 7 and 8 comprise a complete concert from Utrecht on the Sign ‘O’ The Times tour. The sound quality far surpasses all of the live bootlegs that I have heard from that tour, so you’ll be thrilled with the performance and the sound. 

The DVD features the complete December 31, 1987 New Year’s Eve show shot live at Paisley Park and includes a guest appearance by Miles Davis. The audio and video quality is fantastic for a video from 1987 and the quality is consistent throughout. For much of the show, the camera mix is focused on Prince, which I love because I get to see close up what he’s playing on guitar. This show in my personal opinion is even more enjoyable than the theatrically released Sign ‘O’ The Times movie (which by the way, is not included in this set due to legal reasons). 

I strongly recommend that you listen to all 8 CDs and watch the DVD on the same day, as I did on Saturday. Binge it like you would a great Netflix series. I feel that binging it in one sitting will give you a deep understanding of just how hard Prince worked in the studio. After listening to and watching all of the material in this set, I felt exhausted in an exhilarating way, and fully satisfied. I think you will too. 

“Rain”: The Story Behind The Debut Song From Earling Kleven

On a rainy night in early 2020, right before the Covid-19 pandemic reached the United States, I was improvising on my guitar and came up with a chord progression that I really liked. It felt soulful, a little dark, introspective, and just a bit hopeful. I decided right then and there that I was onto something, and that I needed to finish this song. I then stepped into the shoes of a fictional character that I had in mind and I wrote down some lyrics about what this character was feeling looking out their window watching the rain. In less than a half hour, I had most of the lyrics completed. I then recorded a couple of takes in GarageBand and before the night was through I had a completed demo. I was happy with the instrumental parts, but the lyrics weren’t completely finished and I had only recorded a scratch vocal. I’m happy with my own vocals when used in the background behind a good lead vocalist, but I’m rarely happy with my own lead vocals on their own, and so I thought the song might never see the light of day. Besides, as it stood, the lyrics captured the feeling of isolation and sadness that I was going for, but I wanted the song to build as it progressed, eventually bringing forth a feeling of hopefulness and optimism about the future. I wasn’t happy with my vocal track. The lyrics weren’t finished. The sense of hope was missing. The song might just stay tucked away on my hard drive forever. 

Fast forward to July. With the country battling the pandemic, my family and I had been avoiding public places as often as possible and spending a lot more time at home, which gave me more time to be creative in my home studio. Scrolling through Facebook, I noticed that my cousin had shared a post about the debut album that his friend, Megan Kleven, had just released titled “I Am”. (For more information about “I Am” please visit www.meganklevenmusic.com). I previewed her songs, liked what I heard, and bought her CD. I was really impressed with Megan’s voice. On her album she effortlessly glided between soft, lower registers and powerful, soulful higher notes. Her songwriting also impressed me. The idea hit me immediately: This was the voice that could turn my demo into a finished song that I could be proud of. I reached out to Megan via Facebook Messenger to see if she had any interest in collaborating, and luckily she was ready for a new project and was up to the challenge. I sent her my GarageBand file of the song and she soon sent the file back to me with her lead vocal track added in place of my scratch vocal. I was absolutely blown away. When I sent the song to her, my vocals were just the skeleton of a melody. What she sent back to me was a breathtaking vocal performance filled with melody, nuances, and most importantly, the sense of hope that had eluded me when writing the song. She re-wrote some of the lyrics and added some new ones, and that, combined with her amazing vocal performance, elevated the song to a level that I had not dreamed possible when I started it.

Now that you know the story behind the song, I would be honored if you would take the time to listen to our debut song “Rain”. If we accomplish our goal and the song moves you, we would greatly appreciate it if you could take a minute to share the song with your friends on social media. The link below will take you to a page where you can listen to “Rain” on your favorite streaming service. Thanks for listening!

CLICK HERE FOR STREAMING LINKS:

BrownMark from The Revolution to Discuss His New Memoir September 28

BrownMark, bass player from The Revolution, will discuss his upcoming book My Life in the Purple Kingdom September 28, 2020 at 6:00 pm Central time at a virtual online launch event. Journalist Touré will moderate a Q&A with BrownMark. You can register for this free online event here: z.umn.edu/pkregister

You can read my review of the book here: https://chuckearling.wordpress.com/2020/05/30/book-review-my-life-in-the-purple-kingdom-by-brownmark-with-cynthia-m-uhrich/