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Prince's Sign O' the Times (Thirty Three and a Third series) Paperback – March 31, 2004

2.1 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A new entry in a series about famous LPs. Diminutive, purple-clad funkmeister Prince aimed for more than chart success and danceability in his work (though it had plenty of both), and Sign o' the Times, one of his finest works, still sounds bold, adventurous, and edgy in ways that even critics too old to rock and roll appreciate. If Matos admits to being somewhat nonplussed at Prince's shift in musical direction with Sign o' the Times, his reminiscence of the milieu that midwifed this classic if not definitive Prince album is entirely welcome.

Mike Tribby
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"Refreshingly, Michaelangelo Matos's gift is to confound his readers, forcing them to rethink '80s pop politics without getting overly political… Matos critiques from two standpoints-the 13-year old kid and the 29-year old Rolling Stone contributor and Seattle Weekly editor-with a pure love for Sign and pop music in general. Rather than becoming an energy-draining exegesis, his exploration breathes unexpected life into the record. It's inspired me to drop into Amoeba Music and retaste Sign, too." —San Francisco Bay Guardian, 5/19/04

“[M]y favorite bit of new Prince product isn’t the fine Musicology but Michaelangelo Matos’ 121-page treatment of Sign as part of Continuum’s new 33 1/3 series, in which various writers tackle individual albums in long form…Matos identifies the factors that make Sign of particular relevance…” –The Memphis Flyer, 6/12/2004

“I consider it among the three of four best records I’ve every heard, which is why my favorite bit of new Prince product isn’t the fine musicology but Michaelangelo Matos’ 121-page treatment of Sign as part of Continuum’s new 33 1/3 series, in which various writers tackle individual albums in long form. I know [Matos] well enough to know that he holds Sign O’ the Times in the same esteem as I, but I don’t know him well enough to have prepared me for the shock of recognition that came from the first of the four ‘sides’ his Sign book is divided into. The rest of Matos fine little book steps back for a more critical take on both the album and Prince’s career in toto. Matos identifies the factors that make Sign of particular relevance.” -The Memphis Flyer, 6/12/04

"Both a student and a fan of Prince, Matos integrates the particulars of Prince's rise to fame—including the release of the double LP Sign 'O' the Times—with an endearing and at times hilarious telling of his own coming of age in the suburbs of Prince's Minneapolis." —Mark Baumgarten, Willamette Week, 1/5/05

Extracts from the book featured in One Week To Live, 2007
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Product Details

  • Series: 33 1/3 (Book 10)
  • Paperback: 121 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (March 31, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826415474
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826415479
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.4 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #542,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By H. Domingue on December 25, 2008
Format: Paperback
There have been a lot of negative reviews of this book and, to be fair, they are not totally unfounded. If you bought this book and expected it to be a factual narrative with gooey bits of trivia concerning only the making of this album... well, then you'll be disappointed.

But that doesn't mean this book isn't worth your time. It's a delightful little read that not only covers the making of the album (including the various incarnations and playlists of the concepts that preceded the final release), but also tells a personal narrative that contextualizes its impact.

Yeah, there's a lot of personal narrative, but so what? This series of books takes an alternate approach to charting and cataloguing musical history. The editors encourage a varied approach to evaluating these albums. The one on Black Sabbath is an entirely fictionalized account of the action the album describes. The one on Celine Dion is a sort of social experiment in which the author (who is Canadian and hates the album) eventually comes to appreciate the work for what it is.

Though some are a little more straight-laced in their approach, most of these books are meant to be different. If you understand that notion before purchasing and reading this volume (that you'll be reading something closer to a blog or OpEd than a history book), then the book is fantastic and extremely fun.
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Format: Paperback
Let me say that I also read a couple of the other books in this series (the ones on the Kinks, Neil Young, and Joy Division), and being a big Prince fan I thought I would get a similarly interesting, well-written, well-researched examination of "Sign O' the Times." WRONG! This was more about the author, which is so typical for so much of what passes for "music journalism" -- the writer placing himself at the center of the story instead of his subject matter (maybe it's an ego or insecurity thing). I mean, it's great that the album affected Mr. Matos so much, but shouldn't we assume that's already the case since he's WRITING A BOOK ABOUT IT??? There's no reason that 25% of the book should be dedicated to his childhood and family and such. A brief introductory couple of pages would have sufficed for that. Anyhow, the rest of the "analysis" of the album, most of which isn't very illuminating to anyone with more than a passing knowledge of Prince, is written in the most joyless, hip-music-journo, almost condescending tone that is a real turn-off. After reading this I did a web search of this guy and found some articles he's written for some weekly newspapers, and it's more of the same. I would recommend staying away from this book and (hopefully) waiting for a better Prince book to come along.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Nice perspective on what I consider to be one of his best releases. It's not straight biography, just one person's impression and thoughts and reactions to the subject. Great quick read in the wake of his passing to remind one of that time.
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A disappointment on nearly every level. Bought this book immediately upon publication based on the subject; knew the author's work and trusted that the work would be good.

Instead, it's a flailing memoir of sorts that only vaguely addresses the album, the artist, the context, and other cultural impacts. Critical insights are fleeting and historical research is basically non-existent. Matos isn't empathetic or critical of his muse nor does he even come off as a fan. His shallow observations are comical and jarring.

Regrettably, I reread this book a few months ago and found it to be even worse than I'd remembered.
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Format: Paperback
I have read at least 20 books in the 33 1/3 series and this was definatley the worst one. I agree with the people who said its more about writer, Michelangelo, than about Prince. I think the Seth guy who wrote that other review got paid off by the writer to write what he did, because this book is not like a discussion about Prince with your best friend but about some guy I don't care about's life, and then a bunch of stuff about Prince that didn't make sense as if he didn't even listen to the album really. Dosen't matter though because I looked up the Seth guys writing and he's an even more horrible music writer than Michelangelo. Anyways, whatever, the point is there are lots of other better books in this series to spend your money on, this one was a waste of time and $$$.
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I'm actually sorry I read this book. I don't honestly believe the author loves the source material as much as he mentions repeatedly during the autobiographical first half of this publication. His actual song-by-song dissection of the album is a big, pompus 'MEH' and super bummed me out. I do, on the other hand, feel good about having properly recycled Michaelangelo Matos' self-indulgent pamphlet along with the Sunday paper and my small collection of empty toilet paper tubes.
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Format: Paperback
This is a self-indulgent meandering bunch of crap that is about lots of things - EXCEPT Prince's classic album. It's just a bunch of nostalgia about the author really liking Prince's music. Hey, most people reading this book really like Prince's music too, and we'd expect to learn something about it. Not to be found here.
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