Prince-Sign 'o' the Times (Stomp Visual) (1987)

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Released 9-Aug-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Main Menu Audio & Animation
Teaser Trailer-1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (1:24)
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1987
Running Time 80:54 (Case: 85)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (39:46) Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Prince
Studio
Distributor
Inspire Music
Stomp Visual
Starring Prince
Sheila E.
Sheena Easton
Cat
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Prince


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Dutch
English Song Lyrics
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    In the rather wide-ranging career of the Artist formerly known as Prince, now known once again simply as Prince, the man has achieved the heights of mega-success and plumbed the depths of failure. His career started rather modestly with three very good albums - For You (1978), Prince (1979) and Dirty Mind (1980). It was the latter that finally gained Prince critical acclaim with the album being ranked by Rolling Stone at number 18 in the 100 Best Albums of the 1980's. His next album was the one that catapulted him into the mega-success bracket though - Controversy (1981), a success that continued with the highly successful 1999 (1982). That album, which was ranked by Rolling Stone at number 16 in the 100 Best Albums of the 1980's, signalled the end of the first portion of his career. His next album was the soundtrack of a film, and it introduced his band The Revolution to the billing. That album was of course arguably the high point of the man's career - Purple Rain (1984), which eventually was certified 13 times platinum in the United States alone (as well as making number 2 in The Best 100 Albums of the 1980's). After the success of Purple Rain things started to go downhill for Prince. The follow up Around The World In 80 Days (1985), despite being one of my favourite albums, did not achieve the success of the earlier album and barely scraped over two times platinum certification. The infatuation with films saw the next album - Parade (1986) - being the soundtrack for the disastrous film Under The Cherry Moon and then the end of the second phase of Prince's career saw what was perhaps his best album since Purple Rain was released - Sign O' The Times (1987). It was not a huge commercial success however (only gaining single platinum certification) and saw virtually the end of The Revolution if I remember correctly.

    Thereafter the man turned into some weird (and at times X-rated) directions that saw some very poor albums being released, with perhaps the exception of another soundtrack, this time to the film Batman. Things did not really improve until the advent of his "new" band The New Power Generation and the album Diamonds And Pearls (1991). Since then, the trend has not been that good to the man, barring the 1992 album Prince & The New Power Generation. Still, he has sold plenty of albums and has been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, so cannot ever be ignored.

    As a pivotal album in the changing career of Prince, it is interesting to go back and see what the fuss was about. It might not be the best album that he did but Sign O' The Times certainly signalled that changes were afoot in his career. Never one to shy away from risqué lyrics (and in some cases downright filthy lyrics), this was the album where perhaps he started to pass the bounds of acceptability for most. However, on the plus side was the fact that this was the best The Revolution ever sounded.

    Unfortunately hyped by some as the greatest concert ever - it's good but it certainly ain't that good - it is hard for the concert to live up to expectations as a result. But with the gorgeous Sheila E drumming away like there was no tomorrow (and she was a very capable percussionist and drummer), Cat doing things with dance that would garner X-ratings in some places and the stunning Sheena Easton dropping in for a song, there is more than enough eye candy to keep the interest up if the musical interest ever flags - which for most would not happen.

   Not the best concert ever despite the hype, but still very enjoyable - especially with Sheila E along for the ride. Fans of the man will lap this up and in broad terms there is probably enough here to interest others, but the whole thing is let down by age. It should be noted that the live concert action is often interspersed with filmed sequences at the start of songs. Some will object to the lack of a true concert experience but it does serve a purpose of sorts.

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Track Listing

1. Sign "O" The Times
2. Play In The Sunshine
3. Little Red Corvette
4. Housequake
5. Slow Love
6. I Could Never Take The Place Of....
7. Hot Thing
8. U Got The Look
9. If I Was Your Girlfriend
10. Forever In My Life
11. It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Night
12. The Cross

Transfer Quality

Video

    Okay - a concert video, seventeen years old? You can pretty well guess that this gets just a little ugly at times.

    The transfer is presented in a Full Frame ratio, so it is of course not 16x9 enhanced.

    This really is one woeful looking transfer and just about everything that could be wrong is wrong. Definition is very average, rarely approaching anything truly acceptable. Sharpness too is very average and the whole transfer has a rather soft feel and look to it that really does not aid proceedings at all. Shadow detail is poor and at times even worse than that, with sections that merge into a black mess. There is a graininess to the image at times that just adds another layer to the poor quality on offer. Actually, the rather ill-defined slick cover gives a good impression of how the transfer actually looks.

    Colours are generally poorly defined and at least two songs - I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man and Hot Thing - feature some rather atrocious oversaturation in the reds as well as some obvious colour bleed. Even by concert video standards, this is quite poor stuff indeed.

    There does not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer, but such is the overall quality here that just about anything could be hidden without too much trouble. Whilst I am not sure, and cannot locate any definitive information either way, I would suspect that this was shot on video. There certainly appears to be no obvious film-to-video artefacting in the transfer, and not really any indication of film artefacts. There was, however, some static interference in the image at times, reminiscent of VHS tape days. There was some banding across the image at 10:30 that is normally associated with video tape source material. Yet despite the impression that this was shot on video, there are some occurrences of what looks like reel change markings (such as at 15:34, 34:31, 50:07 and 69:02).

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 39:46. It comes during a black scene change, and is somewhat noticeable as of course you normally don't have black scene changes during concert videos.

    There are two subtitle options on the DVD, although one is really only a partial option. The full subtitle option is Dutch - not unreasonable given that this is a Dutch DVD. Obviously that is about as useless as mammaries on a male bovine for most of us. The partial option is English and is just for the lyrics. American is obviously the accepted standard for English in The Netherlands as the spellings are consistently American. The overall quality of the English subtitles is not great and feature some obvious spelling errors other than Americanisms.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are three soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 soundtrack, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English dts 5.1 soundtrack.

    The vocals come up well enough in the transfers. There does not appear to be any audio sync issues with the transfers.

    The English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 soundtrack is a pretty good effort indeed, with the bass in particular being handled well in what would seem to be a surround-encoded effort. It is quite clean, with little obvious blemishing to disturb the enjoyment. The surround encoding adds some reasonable presence to the sound.

    The English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is even better, naturally leaving the two channel effort for dead. The bass is extremely well handled in the overall mix, not overpowering at all. This ensures a very good balance to the sound and is especially supportive of the vocals. Overall, a very nice piece of engineering and a heck of a way to listen to the concert.

    The English dts 5.1 soundtrack is very much on a par with the Dolby Digital soundtrack in every way, with just the usual differences to be found: a little more presence in the overall sound, a smoother feel to the bass sound in particular and just a tad more focus in the positioning of the instruments.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Given the lack of quality elsewhere, it is hardly surprising that the extras package does not really amount to much.

Menu

    Okay with some reasonable audio and animation enhancement.

Teaser Trailer (1:24)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with reasonable Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Rather amusingly, it seems to be of better quality than the main feature!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    One thing we know for certain - the Region 2 (Dutch) DVD is what we have here. We know that since the copyright warning on the DVD is in Dutch and the slick cover is predominantly Dutch.

    As for other regions? Well, information is pretty sketchy but Amazon.ca have an import version available that seems to emanate from somewhere in South America. From my guess of the description given on their web site, it comes with an animated menu, a discography and a biography, along with a trailer. It does not seem to feature the dts 5.1 soundtrack however. It comes with English, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. From the basic contents, there seems little to hold it in greater favour than the Region 4 release. I have not been able to track down any information on any other available versions.

    It would seem therefore that if you want the concert, your choices are fairly limited to this disc or this disc.

Summary

    Whilst there is certainly nothing wrong with the concert, the overwhelming impression of the DVD is cheap. From the lack of a new, English slick cover in place of the Dutch original slick, and through the deplorable and nasty addition of the classification sticker across that slick (which on our review copy seems to have been removed and then reapplied, leaving an obvious rip across the slick), there is nothing here that smacks of quality at all. The video transfer is very dated and only a real fan would find this in any way satisfying. The audio transfers are by far the best things on this DVD. Really, this can only be recommended to real fans of the man.

    Interestingly Stomp Visual seem to be unable to make up their minds as to the rating of the DVD - my local JB Hi Fi has examples stickered as exempt from classification as well as examples stickered as MA.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Saturday, October 16, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
If u r a fan, get the R2 post haste... - capone (they're some fine antibiotics you got there..)