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Picks and Pans Review: Sign O'the Times

updated 04/27/1987 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/27/1987 01:00AM

Prince

Whatever else he is—and that list could go on for eight or nine pages—nobody could ever say old Princey is predictable. On this panoply double album, he is all things to all people, two or three times over. In The Ballad of Dorothy Parker, he sings, "Earlier, I'd been talkin' stuff in a violent room/ Fighting with lovers past/ I needed someone with a quicker wit than mine/ Dorothy was fast." He turns out a rhythm-heavy prime bit of mindless funk on Hot Thing. On If I Was Your Girlfriend, he adds a rap, pointing out, "We don't have to make a baby to make love/ We don't have to make love to have an orgasm." On Adore, he takes a fluffy, de-souled pop tune and leads into a sharp, bluesy, overdubbed guitar exchange with himself, evoking thoughts of Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler. Then there is U Got the Look, born to be a dance hit. Most impressive is that, as disparate as the selections are, for the most part they seem to belong together. Even the title track fits in, despite being very sober in its reference to AIDS and the Challenger disaster (it also includes one of Prince's rare clichés, and an outdated one at that: "Sister killed her baby 'cause she couldn't afford to feed it and/ We're sending people to the moon"). The cohesive factor may be the detached tone of both the lyrics and music. Prince seems to be able—on his records, anyway—to avoid taking himself too seriously. Give the man credit: While all that posturing can be a royal pain, there is an accomplished musician behind the eye shadow. (Paisley Park)

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