Former Green On Red member Chuck Prophet has been making consistently high-quality solo albums over the past 25 years or so, most of which have been appreciated by a small group of dedicated fans. No doubt, this latest entry will meet a similar fate despite sounding, to these ears, better than 95% of most new recordings being released these days.
For those who may not be aware, Bobby Fuller was a 1960s rocker whose big hit was I Fought The Law (later covered by The Clash) and who died under suspicious circumstances in 1966, age 23. Fuller made glorious, basic rock & roll and Prophet is keeping that spirit alive.
The opening title track is a jangly rocker with just a hint of I Fought The Law heard in the chord changes as Prophet sings about the joys of rock & roll. “I hear the record crackling, the needle skips and jumps…I could be anywhere when I hear that sound”.
And the song could have been made anytime from 1965 to the present.
The next track, Your Skin, features a bit of fuzz guitar that harkens back to the Paisley Underground days of Green On Red, while Open Up Your Heart is a love song, a rock ballad, plain and simple.
Bobby Fuller isn’t the only dead rock star on Prophet’s mind. Bad Year For Rock & Roll pays tribute to David Bowie while musically recalling The Kinks and Dylan.
“We don’t have to die to reach a better place”, sings Prophet. For him, the alternative is to keep making great music.
Another late rocker, Suicide’s Alan Vega is honoured with In The Mausoleum, which begins as a spare, electronic workout and builds to a raging rocker.
While Chuck Prophet has referred to his music as “California Noir”, I hear quite a bit of New York City punk swagger in his vocals.
Jesus Was A Social Drinker sounds like a classic Lou Reed outtake while If I Was Connie Britton sports a T-Rex groove and more NYC attitude.
Meanwhile Post-War Cinematic Dead Man Blues manages to sounds like Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Satisfaction without directly stealing from The Stones.
Album closer, Alex Nieto, is an angry, blistering rocker inspired by the death of a San Francisco man killed by the local police under very questionable circumstances.
As I’m writing this, I’m processing the death of yet another rock & roll legend…Chuck Berry. Thanks to artists such as Chuck Prophet, who draw on the best of rock’s past and continue to make music that Berry, Bowie and Reed would be proud of, rock and roll still seems to have a place in this world. So, if you care, seek out the music of Chuck Prophet and his contemporaries (Alejandro Escovedo, Lucinda Williams, Jason Isbell, etc) and make the world a better place.