"Sign O The Times" is Prince's ninth album. This album features a range of styles, mixing the live and acoustic sounds from Parade with the electronic sounds from earlier albums.
Prince plays most of the instruments, with the Revolution appearing on "It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Night". Other guests include Eric Leeds, Atlanta Bliss, Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin and Sheila E. There are some accounts of the recording sessions, including details from engineer Susan Rogers.
Prince recorded the Black Album around the same time as Sign O The Times. The two albums probably share similar instruments, except When 2 R In Love which was recorded closer to the Lovesexy album.
Prince toured Sign O The Times from May to June 1987 with a new, unnamed band. Prince also filmed a concert movie with this band in Europe and Paisley Park. Details from this period are taken from photographs and videos from the tour and this article from Soundcheck magazine.
In the studio
Prince played a Hohner Madcat, Dave Rusan Cloud Guitar and the Roland G-707/GR-700 guitar synth. It has been reported that Prince also used the Auerswald Model C on this album. There is an acoustic guitar on the album, possibly a Sigma SE-19.
Effects included a Colorsound Wah, a Boss SD-1 Super Overdrive, Boss DD-3 Digital Delay, Boss BF-2 Flanger, Boss VB-2 Vibrato and a Boss OC-2 Octave. He may have also used a Boss DS-1 Distortion and a HM-2 Heavy Metal in the studio. There are reports of him using a Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus in the studio, although this may have been a Bag End D-12M.
The bass parts were probably recorded with an Alembic Spoiler.
The main keyboards on this album are the Yamaha DX7, the Oberheim OB-8, the Fairlight CMI and the Ensoniq Mirage. The Fairlight was used prominently on several songs, with some like Sign O The Times and IT almost entirely recorded on the Fairlight. A Hammond B3 appears on the song Adore and is also featured on the album cover.
The Linn LM-1 appears on many songs. It was also used for bass parts on Hot Thing and Forever In My Life by running a tuned tom through Boss effects pedals. Live drums also appear on several songs, with reports of Prince using an acoustic Yamaha kit.
For details of the instruments used by the Revolution on "It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Night", see the Parade tour section.