PRESS

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The river's rising, stores disappear and dreams don't extend beyond Saturday night.

AP Wire Service

Best of 2009 Overlooked CD's

" Let Freedom Ring!"

Chuck Prophet (Yep Roc)

Chuck Prophet chose a studio in Mexico City to record his ninth studio album, and even from a distance, the situation on the home front looked grim.

" Let Freedom Ring!" portrays a land of orange alerts and car alarms with blood on the sheets and asbestos in the Kool-Aid. The river's rising, stores disappear and dreams don't extend beyond Saturday night. "Who's going to miss you when you're gone?" Prophet asks.

Depressing stuff. As an antidote, Prophet offers stabs of guitars to propel a defiant Stones-style strut, and gradually the mood improves.

Past the halfway mark, Prophet turns his attention to a nightclub dialogue and pairs it with a dance beat on "Hot Talk." Two songs later, the backing vocalists are singing "Shoo-be-doo-wah" on "Good Time Crowd." The final song is "Leave the Window Open," which finds Prophet engaged in pillow talk, with no mention of car alarms.

-Steven Wine, AP

by Steven Wine on January 6, 2010 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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In his own good-humored, ramshackle way, Prophet earns his last name

Bob Edwards Show

Best of 2009 by Anthony DeCurtis

Chuck Prophet has been making terrific records since he started out with the raw-and-ready L.A. band Green on Red nearly a quarter century ago. Let Freedom Ring is the latest in that long line, and it takes a place of pride. The title tells you that, once again, this album centers on Prophet's favorite subject: America. He recorded the album amid the quotidian chaos of Mexico City, but guess what: One side of the border turns out to be not that much different from the other. If it's chaos you're after, Prophet understands that you need look no further than the local news. In his own good-humored, ramshackle way, Prophet earns his last name.

[ LINK ]

by Anthony DeCurtis on December 25, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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redemption is no further than friends, family, love, and good times.
**********

East Bay Express

¡Let Freedom Ring!

As America continues to pillage itself, simply holding on now qualifies as hoping for the best. With his richest album in a long career, Chuck Prophet manages to capture that cruel truth while avoiding traps on both sides, steering clear of falsely dressed-up, teeth-whitened optimism and the simmering anger of knee-jerk cynicism. By looking at the stagnating disillusion from the outside, Prophet's ¡Let Freedom Ring! is the album for our times, weaving together the failures of this American dream with its fraying cords of hope — what Bruce Springsteen captured so well during the dismal Reagan years (and failed so miserably at repeating on this year's Working On A Dream).

Recorded in the spring amid swine-flu panic and an earthquake in Mexico City, on equipment Prophet describes as "state-of-the-art, for 1958," the record is no-frills, timeless rock `n' roll, urgent and sharp, but also soothing like an after-work beer. The title track is a barroom rocker, with Prophet singing, Let there be darkness, let there be light, as the hawk cripples the dove over a joyous slide-guitar riff. "American Man" is garage-rock-infused with a little Tom Petty drawl, catchy "ooh-wee-ooh" backup vocals and more excellent licks from the former Green on Red guitarist.

In recording what he calls "a political album for nonpolitical people," Prophet bypasses slogans and battle cries for the simpler truths: that even staring down the gun barrels of Wall Street's robber barons and Washington's warmongers, redemption is no further than friends, family, love, and good times. Life is only so long, Prophet sings on the album closer. Don't let it rub you raw. (Yep Roc)

[ LINK ]

by Eric Swedlund on December 17, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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little in his past prepares the listener for this powerhouse song cycle.

Sonicboomers

ALBUM OF THE WEEK

Chuck Prophet has been releasing solo albums for two decades, but little in his past prepares the listener for this powerhouse song cycle. Particularly since that past has often relegated Prophet to the role of catalyst, midwife or sidekick, submerging his artistic identity within someone else's.

Recently he served as most valuable player on Alejandro Escovedo's Real Animal, co-writing all the songs on an album that served as Escovedo's musical memoir. Before that, he collaborated with Kelly Willis on Translated from Love, where he produced and played guitar as well as sharing writing credit with her on half the material. Even in Green on Red, the 1980s band that first earned Prophet some attention, he was overshadowed by founding frontman Dan Stuart.

At the point in a veteran journeyman's career where one doesn't expect surprises, he has delivered a knockout, a "State of the Union" album that combines self-assured swagger and bittersweet vulnerability in equal measure. It's a musical meditation on a particular time, and a particular country. And that country is this one, though, as the punctuation of the title suggests, Prophet and band (including former Springsteen drummer Ernest "Boom" Carter) recorded the project in Mexico City, during a time of drug wars, swine flu and even an earthquake.

With co-producer Greg Leisz (the guitarist who has so often played the MVP role that Prophet has for others), the band entered what that songwriter describes as "a state of the art studio (for 1958 or so)." There's an immediacy to the interplay that transcends technological limitations and a perspective on the American condition reflected from the vantage of another culture. Not only does distance lend perspective, but sometimes you need to shake things up to see things straight.

The flurry of guitar jabs that open the album with "Sonny Liston's Blues" shows the music coming out swinging from the outset, though the song's tender interlude suggests the emotional extremes the music will continue to encompass. It's a love song of sorts, sung "in ways I just cannot express," to a woman who has fingered the fallen champ in a lineup—mistakenly he claims. Such a jumble of emotion, such an ellipsis of detail, such a storytelling richness from the perspective of a narrator who describes himself as "a man of few words." Such brute force. Such open heart.

The title cut and "American Man" suggest the album's all-American anthemic sweep, yet this America sounds most like Los Angeles, where the gap between the fantasy and the reality runs particularly deep. You can hear echoes of Tom Petty, Joe Henry and particularly Randy Newman in Prophet's phrasing—three artists who came to L.A. from somewhere else, yet have come to musically embody the city in distinct but interrelated ways.

Like theirs, Prophet's music has both a hard-edged irony and a soulful empathy, a way of inhabiting characters from the inside out. Take the title track, where the Stonesish riffing and rhythmic propulsion suggest a patriotic fist pumper, but the social Darwinism of the lyrics deflates such jingoism: "Let there be markets, let `em run wild, as the sisters of mercy just laugh. All the lost brothers can drink themselves blind, while good fortune breaks hard work in half."

These are songs of lost brothers and sisters, of lives lived in the margins, in the shadows. Where the uptempo songs that sound heroic on the surface often mask a darker thematic underbelly, the warmth of the album's balladry frequently carries a sucker punch. "What Can a Mother Do" has the sweetness of a country melody, punctuated by fiddle and vocal harmony from Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek), yet the turn of a phrase about a young girl "unwanted in seventeen states" belies the music's carefree spirit.

Similarly, the waltz of sad perseverance in "You and Me Baby (Holding On)" and the unflinching tenderness of "Barely Exist" (which would have fit just fine on Escovedo's album) hit even harder than the uptempo fare, while more raucous rockers such as "Where the Hell is Henry," "Hot Talk" and the retro/New Wave "Good Time Crowd" have a jittery urgency, a brittleness beneath the power riffing. There's a tension throughout between the literary command of the lyrics and the electric crackle of the arrangements, as if the album took a lifetime to write and a couple hours to record.

Ultimately, it's a work that demands to be heard as a whole rather than a selection of cuts to download. And it ends on the perfect note of grace with "Leave the Window Open," a nighttime benediction after a long day's journey. "Life is only so long," sings Prophet. "Don't let it rub you raw." Words to live by.

[ LINK ]

by Don McLeese on December 14, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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raw in spirit but refined in presentatio
****

Winnipeg Free Press

°Let Freedom Ring! (Yep Roc Records)

CHUCK PROPHET

°Let Freedom Ring! (Yep Roc Records)

Chuck Prophet has been banging out a living in the music industry since he was a teenager, when he toured the world with cult roots act Green on Red. He's released eight previous solo albums, all filled with songs that should have seen him mentioned in the same breath as Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen.

On his ninth album, the crack guitarist (and former crack junkie) might just accomplish that. °Let Freedom Ring! is a study of the failed American dream, an indictment of misplaced patriotism and a fantastic rock `n' roll record. It's raw in spirit but refined in presentation: it combines the feeling of being thrashed out in a garage with attention to detail—touches of fiddle, shoop-shoop backup vocals, harmonica and piano—that belies its tossed-off attitude.

The ironically anthemic title track looks at a time where "the hawk cripples the dove," while Barely Exist is a moving, eloquent to Mexican immigrant workers, and the scorching guitar on the dirty boogie Where the Hell Is Henry? is balanced with the measured, Stonesy strut of the sultry come-on Hot Talk. Bombastic and tender, this might be Prophet's best work yet. `Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö1/2

—Jill Wilson

[ LINK ]

by Staff writer on December 5, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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It's one of the year's best rock'n'roll albums

End Of the World Blues:

Chuck Prophet at the 8X10,

End Of the World Blues: Chuck Prophet at the 8X10, Nov. 30

By Geoffrey Himes | Posted 12/3/2009

If Randy Newman had grown up not as the heir of Hollywood composers but as a scruffy garage rocker and had recorded an album about the United States in 2009, that record might have sounded like Chuck Prophet's Let Freedom Ring. It would have had the same untrustworthy third-person narrators and bitterly comic commentators; it would have had the same perky melodies arranged in the same passed-by styles of the past; it would have had the same sharp powers of description and the same barely constrained outrage.

Whether he's singing through the persona of a barely articulate boxer, the mother of a foolhardy child, an unemployed husband, the ominously quiet kid at school, or the couple on one last credit-card spree, Prophet inhabits each character with just the right diction, just the right guitar riff, just the right mix of anger and hope.

It's one of the year's best rock'n'roll albums, and it brought out a good-sized crowd to the 8X10 to see Prophet on a Monday night. The tall singer-guitarist, with his scarecrow hair, baby-cheek face, and black blazer over a black vest, began the night banging out garage-rock chord changes on his cream-colored Telecaster. He took his time getting to the vocals; assuming the voice of Sonny Liston, he finally mumbled, "I'm a man of few words, baby," allowing his strangled guitar to say what the boxer couldn't. Then suddenly all the noise fell away and the mumble landed on a lovely melody as Prophet/Liston sang, "What I'm trying to tell you is how much I loved you in that dress." This moment of grace was soon swallowed up in amplifier distortion again, but its memory lingered.

So it went all night, moments of unguarded feeling and melody would surface amid the roiling waves like strange deep-sea creatures, only to submerge again. His choice of cover songs included Iggy Pop's sardonic "I'm Bored" but also Bruce Springsteen's valentine, "For You." His choice of his old songs included both an anthem of alienation, "Automatic Blues," and an anthem of possibility, "Age of Miracles."

The selections from the new album included the dystopian title track, a vision of capitalism run amok: "Let there be markets," he snarled over a knotty guitar riff, "let `em run wild/ all the lost brothers can drink themselves blind." But he also sang the new album's best song, "You and Me Baby (Holding On)," named after a Newman number and borrowing Newman's curdled Tin Pan Alley delivery. Prophet began bleakly, "Marriage on the skids and the folks ain't doing well," but rallied for the chorus, singing, "We can still dream like it's Saturday night/ we're holding on," to a major-chord glimpse of sunshine.

The evening was marred by Prophet's constant bickering with the soundman about the monitors, but his backing band (guitarist James DePrato, bassist Kevin White, drummer Todd Roper and keyboardist/singer/wife Stephanie Finch) sounded terrific in the house speakers whenever a song finally started. The highlight of the evening came early: a rampaging, hook-laden version of "Always a Friend," the tune Prophet co-wrote for Alejandro Escovedo's album last year—the best Rolling Stones song of the decade.

[ LINK ]

by Geoffrey Himes on December 5, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under Live Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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unrestrained, uninhibited, alive
****

Mojo

Made in Mexico; Bringing it all Back Home

Prophet's ninth solo album shares its title with a conservative think tank, a Barry Manilow song, a jazz album and a civil rights box set. If this were a tick the box personality test, the last one's closest: its 11 tracks were written swiftly in the fretful run-up to the US Presidential election. But though lyrically it touches on the socio-political, the freedom here is about being unrestrained, uninhibited, alive. Prophet's not sounded this loose and immediate on a studio record in a long while (it helps to have recorded it swiftly in an archaic, digital-free studio in Mexico City). But though he's focused on rocking out with his fine band, which includes guest backing singer Kelly Stoltz, the songs are excellent - among them You and Me Baby (Holding on), Barely Exist and American Man, channelling Tom Petty, Mink DeVille and early Stones. Greg Leisz co-produced.—Sylvie Simmons

by Sylvie Simmons on December 3, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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the sound of an artist at the top of his game
****

BLURT

****

"Help me" yelps Chuck Prophet, midway through the opening song, And while the strutting, stomping, tremolo-strafed "Sonny Liston's Blues" is ostensibly about the fallen boxer, it's images of a man on the ropes and possibly at the end of his rope, too ("What I'm trying to tell you is how much I love you"), are universal. A sense of unease and uncertainty leavened by a self-styled pugilists natural defiance, courses through these tunes. In particular, on the anthemic, glammy "American Man" the narrator has "blood on his lips and milk in my eyes" as he watches The Dream slip away; while on "Leave the Window Open" a luminous slice of jangle `n' twang, Prophet tries to hold on to a different sort of dream as he begs his woman, on both literal and figurative level, to "leave the window open, I want o take in this view and live this life before it's gone". Part narrative, part confessional, "¡Let Freedom Ring! is the sound of an artist at the top of his game.

by Fred Mills on November 23, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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the instincts of a svelte cheetah

The Vinyl Princess

¡Let Freedom Ring!

Chuck Prophet rarely disappoints and ¡Let Freedom Ring! is no exception. Once again, Chuck proves he's got singing chops, goo-gobs of guitar playing skills, charm to spare, fashion sense, and the instincts of a svelte cheetah when it comes to producing. Prophet and his crew recorded his ninth solo CD at a studio in Mexico City (yeah, all the cool kids are recording there now) during a swine flu outbreak. More burritos for them, I guess—"them" being guitarist Tom Ayres, bassist Rusty Miller and drummer Ernest "Boom" Carter. Chuck's phrasing has always reminded me of Lou Reed's, sort of half talking, half singing, always meaning it. He also seems to favor the ladies in the background singing the la-las and the yeah-yeahs. I like the way he exhibits a What's the god damn hurry? attitude in the way he delivers a song. I really love "American Man"—Chuck sounds a bit like Tom Petty on this one but with a lot more edge. "What Can A Mother Do?" is hilarious lyrically ("She was unwanted in seventeen states with the engine light on and Alaskan plates") and really tuneful. I also love the rhythmic "Good Time Crowd," which features really cool vintage instrumentation and vocals. Wrapping up the album, "Leave The Window Open" is plaintive and gorgeous. "I don't want this day to end, I don't care if it rains," he sings.

Yeah, like that. Go, Chuck.

[ LINK ]

November 23, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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sharp, unsparing music

Philadelphia Inquirer

Concert Preview

"As the rivers run over their banks . . . there's nowhere for a poor boy to hide," Chuck Prophet sings over the Stonesy riffage of the title song of his new album. This poor boy's answer to tough times is to keep rocking, which Prophet has done with distinction since the `80s, first as guitarist for the great Green on Red and now on his own. ¡Let Freedom Ring! is Prophet's personalized take on the state of the nation, mixing bracing guitar-rockers and soulful, contemplative ballads. With numbers like the wrenching immigrant's tale "Barely Exist," it's not always a pretty picture. Prophet, however, still manages to end on a hopeful note with "Leave the Window Open," his unabashed appreciation for life matched by the meaning he gives it with his sharp, unsparing music.

[ LINK ]

by Nick Cristiano on November 20, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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fresh, vibrant, and essential.
********

Americana UK

You can’t keep a good man down

Holed up in a studio in a Mexico City ravaged by earthquakes and firmly in the grip of a swine flu epidemic, Chuck Prophet could be forgiven for playing it safe, keeping his head down and taking it a tad easy. Yet, this is the same Prophet who let loose for eight years with Green On Red when barely a fresh-faced kid out of high school, the same Prophet whose incendiary guitar playing leaves jaws dropped wherever he plays, and the same Prophet whose whole career thus far has been a journey down the B-roads of the American dream. No, `Let Freedom Ring,' far from being safe is hard hitting and dangerous.

Eleven tracks knocked out as live in just over eight days this is an album that is a fresh, vibrant, and essential. From the opening `Sonny Liston's Blues,' a loose, lithe boogie channelling into the mind of one of America's troubled mythical sporting giants. A man on the fringes of the accepted, misinterpreted and mythologized by the mainstream, Liston was a man from the other side of the tracks unable to be truly appreciated, resorting instead to drugs and drink. It's a sad indictment that the `dream' only ever seemingly works for the chosen few. It's an air of unjust resignation that blows through the album like a freak gale. The title track kicks along like a Stones cover, and Prophet lets loose some blistering guitar work alongside the equally fluid band of Ernest `Boom' Carter, Tom Ayres, and Rusty Miller. At the controls Greg Leisz just lets them get on with it -- plug it in, play, record. Simple.

Whilst `American Man' -- "folded like a page / from the book of the damned/ I'm your American Man" -- is ballsy and unforgiving, there is little respite for the immigrant father (`Barely Exist') whose escape from "dying on a cattle farm, a face without a name, no two ways about it" comes at the expense of his son. A side swipe at the lunacy of Wall St (`Hot Talk') -- "Were gonna see how Wall Street takes the news / when Wall St finds New York City's gone" -- is prime-time Prophet, a social observer who judgments are subtle yet brutal.

Nine albums in and this is the best yet. Here's to the next nine.

[ LINK ]

by Del Day on November 11, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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Springsteen has better hair

Village Voice

On the Haunting Songs of Chuck Prophet

Chuck Prophet's ¡Let Freedom Ring! is a Born in the U.S.A. for our time. Not that the Californian troubadour and self-described "hustler" behind this 25th-anniversary update of Bruce Springsteen's ode to the irony of the American Dream deliberately set out to cop the Boss's monumental mojo, but the similarities between the two records are uncanny. Both are concept albums of sorts that manifest patriotism through disenchantment, and both rely heavily on marginalized characters to expose socioeconomic woe.

"I've been saying they're political songs for non-political people," Prophet explains over the phone from his San Francisco home. "But what I really mean is that I'm not a particularly political person, but the characters in these songs are all living in a kind of anxious time."

¡LFR!`s title track—a nod not to the Liberty Bell but to the NYSE—exemplifies that anxiety through retirement-plan decimation. The buoyant, power-pop music deceptively suggests a feel-good anthem, but once the lyrics unfold, a Social Darwinistic tale is told, of Bernie Madoffs leeching off Average Joes—"The hawk cripples the dove," as Prophet puts it—who reduce their victims to blind-drunk poor boys. Elsewhere, "Barely Exist" continues the Springsteen parallel, with Prophet replacing the Boss's struggling blue-collar worker with a struggling Mexican immigrant. Over a fragile beat and sparse guitar notes, he sums up the day laborer's plight: "You gotta be strong/But when you got asbestos in your Kool-Aid for breakfast/There's no good way to look alive."

"I think we go too far out of our way to define ourselves by our borders," Prophet says. "Hundreds of people die every year trying to get into this country, just for the opportunity to clean our toilets and change our babies' diapers, and if it's somebody who's just trying to provide for their family, how can you criminalize that? And, really, isn't that the least of our problems right about now?"

The beauty of ¡LFR! lies in its raw, no-frills approach. Lightning-rod guitars spark a combustible rhythm section. Songs of radio-friendly length emerge from only a couple of live takes. Down-tempo and uptempo numbers play well in the same sandbox. Witty lyrics with rich imagery—it's hard to shake "By the time her shoes wore out/She was giving blood" from "What Can a Mother Do"—demonstrate a mastery of language, like the rock `n' roll equivalent of folkie Todd Snider as delivered through Tom Petty's voice were it even more reliant on stoner/surfer cadences. Other gems include "Sonny Liston's Blues," a riff on the monstrous former boxing champ's loss to Muhammad Ali as symbolic of good over evil (replete with air-guitar-inspiring passages on a Gretsch that Prophet says was "strung up heavy"), and "Where the Hell Is Henry?," a 2'17" identity-theft gut punch about a con artist masquerading as a Kennedy.

Prophet recorded ¡LFR!—his ninth solo album in a career better known for its songwriting and producing contributions to the oeuvres of Alejandro Escovedo, Kelly Willis, and Warren Zevon, among others—in Mexico City, in a state-of-the-art (circa 1957) studio. The conditions were less than ideal (swine-flu mania, earthquakes, drug wars on the periphery), but Prophet says the duress made a band out of the ragtag crew. "One thing I could never have predicted is that in Mexico City, the power goes out, like, five times a day," he says. "And, of course, every time it would go out, it would be in the middle of a completely magical sort of Marquee Moon moment. And so every take you hear on the record, there's, like, triumph at the end of it."

Chuck Prophet plays the 92Y Tribeca November 27

[ LINK ]

by Michael Hoinski on November 10, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under Interviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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There's actually drool running down the front of my shirt

SF Gate

S.F. songwriter Chuck Prophet looks back

Chuck Prophet isn't in a reflective mood today. It's early Wednesday morning and the San Francisco singer-songwriter has just returned from a hectic European tour in support of his latest album, "Let Freedom Ring." In just a few days, he'll launch the American leg.

"I don't know why you want to talk to me, I'm totally brain dead," he says by way of greeting. "I've gotten about three hours of sleep in the past 72 hours. There's actually drool running down the front of my shirt."

The former Green on Red front man, who plays at the Great American Music Hall next Sunday, is nearly two decades into his celebrated solo career and still taking huge risks. "Let Freedom Ring" was recorded in Mexico City with co-producer Greg Leisz this year just as the swine flu pandemic hit.

"Our timing couldn't have been worse," Prophet says. "Within three days of arriving, the city shut down. So we put on our blue masks and got to work."

The musician and the members of his band - including his wife, Stephanie Finch; guitarist Tom Ayres; bassist Rusty Miller; and drummer Ernest "Boom" Carter - were able to avoid the H1N1 virus but not the ensuing paranoia, giving his roots and rock tunes added edge.

"It was definitely an adventure," he says. "But it was recorded under such duress, it made a band out of us."

We asked Prophet, who has released more than a dozen full-length albums on his own and with his former outfit, to reminisce about his recording sessions.

Green on Red, "Gas Food Lodging" (1985)

"I just got my first passport and all we wanted to do was make a record and go out and play our songs. We met our producer Paul Cutler through a mutual friend, who was a pot dealer and worked five days and nights. It was totally effortless. We had a van and the label gave us a gas card. Those were good times."

Green on Red, "The Killer Inside Me" (1987)

"That was the record that split the band. It was bombastic and humorless. I remember on that tour we played in Athens, Greece, and Dan Stuart attacked somebody in the audience with his guitar and broke it. So we got a note from a doctor and canceled our final gig at the Astoria in London. It was something I never felt good about, so three years ago, when we had our reunion tour, we rescheduled that gig, and anybody who was supposed to be at that original gig could get in for free."

Chuck Prophet, "Brother Aldo" (1990)

"I just had my kite up, and the wind changed direction at the right time. It just kind of happened that myself and Stephanie and a bunch of other local songwriters were all sort of in bands that had gone out of business or collapsed or folded. We started a poker night at the Albion, and there was a healthy competition among us. We would play a gig one weekend and come back the next week and do the songs differently. But people ended up stealing each other's girlfriends and guitars, so it was scene that didn't last long."

Chuck Prophet, "Feast of Hearts" (1995)

"It's the record that cost the most and made the least. If I stand back and squint, it's got some pretty good songs. But it's where I just hit a wall. It was probably the first record where I worked with an outside producer (Steve Berlin), and we never really got in a groove. He just worked out of one side of his brain - I'm not sure what side, but it was the opposite of mine."

Chuck Prophet, "No Other Love" (2002)

"That was when we seriously started to think more about the States. Stephanie said I needed to dumb it down a little bit, so I wrote `Summertime Thing' using the first three chords everybody learns on guitar. We were on tour with Lucinda Williams, and I was at a salad bar and heard it coming out of a speaker. It was a very strange feeling. From there it started getting some airplay and climbing past people like Sheryl Crow, the Wallflowers and Springsteen on the adult alternative charts. Heart later recorded `No Other Love.' That record has more than paid the utility bills."

Chuck Prophet, "Age of Miracles" (2004)

"It was a fun record to make. I recorded it in a lot of different places. That song `You Did' has been in `True Blood.' It's just got a bunch of weird stuff on it - songs about marriage, miscarriages of justice and midgets. And that's just the M's."

Chuck Prophet, "Dreaming Waylon's Dreams" (2007)

"It's not an official record. One weekend. we got locked in the studio, and I was bragging how I could recite Waylon Jennings' `Dreaming My Dreams' record by memory. So we started with one song, and by the end of the weekend we recorded the whole album. My friend, who was on tour with a bunch of new country acts, told me he bought it and put it on the tour bus and a fight broke out."

Chuck Prophet, "Let Freedom Ring" (2009)

"I found a studio in Mexico that was state of the art for 1958. In today's economy, that had it's appeal. In terms of perspective, I was writing that album just as the bottom was falling out of the wet sack of the American dream. We didn't really go for mariachi horns, but we were hoping to feed off the energy there. It's a city that hustles and bustles and vibrates beneath your feet. I thought, `With these songs, why not?' " {sbox}

Chuck Prophet: 8 p.m. next Sun. Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell St., San Francisco. $15. (415) 885-0750, http://www.gamh.com.

To hear Chuck Prophet's music, go to

chuckprophet.com.

Follow Aidin Vaziri at twitter.com/MusicSF. E-mail Aidin Vaziri at .

[ LINK ]

by Aidin Vaziri on November 3, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under Interviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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full of passion and conviction, living only in the moment

No Depression

¡Let Freedom Ring!

The title's punctuation pays tribute to this album's exotic recording-locale of Mexico City—right when a major earthquake struck, no less. Though the geography is an intriguing side-story, it doesn't necessarily reveal itself the music; this isn't Chuck's mariachi record, in case you were worried. Musically, ¡Let Freedom Ring! is pretty much vintage Prophet songwriterly rock `n' roll, very much in keeping with his body of work, even as he gets a little bit older and wiser each time out. There's a lot of juxtaposition between rough `n' tumble and sweet `n' soulful, sometimes in the same song: On "Sonny Liston's Blues" and "Barely Exist" especially, the verses contrast vastly with the choruses, but in a manner that's exquisitely complementary. The latter tune in particular is deeply affecting, its hard-bitten half-spoken stanzas melting away into a minimalist wave of heartbreak: "When you barely exist, who's gonna miss you when you're gone?"There is, probably, a stronger touch of the political, particularly on the title track, a new American anthem for the post-9/11 world, toasting the triumphs of freedom even while the country is crumbling all around us—"As the rivers rise up over the banks, and there's nowhere a poor boy can hide." Such sentiment pairs pointedly with "Hot Talk" and its apocalyptic inquisition: "We're gonna see how Wall Street takes the news when Wall Street finds New York City's gone." Still, this record is ultimately more personal than political. "Love Won't Keep Us Apart" is as elusive as its title, swooning over a romance turned inside-out and upside-down, but ultimately unavoidable. And the final track, "Leave The Window Open", revels in the world's little mystical beauties as Prophet delivers one of his finest-ever vocal performances, full of passion and conviction, living only in the moment.

[ LINK ]

by Peter Blackstock on November 3, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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Is this the best Chuck Prophet album ever? Sure, why not? They all get to wear that medal for a while.

Cleveland Scene

so far ahead of sonic trends that he can barely see them in his rearview mirror

Chuck Prophet has always been so far ahead of sonic trends that he can barely see them in his rearview mirror. From the visionary country-rock architecture of Green on Red in the `80s to his wide-ranging solo career, Prophet has been creatively restless, reinventing himself like a rootsy David Bowie and applying his own stamp to whatever direction he pursues. His last album, 2007's Soap and Water, was yet another demonstration of his ability to find new inspiration within Stonesian parameters while wearing all of the hats he's sported since 2000's roots-and-turntables marvel, The Hurting Business. His latest, ¡Let Freedom Ring!, broadens the focus even more while honing in on the specifics of each individual song, perhaps influenced by his work on Alejandro Escovedo's Real Animal last year.

"You and Me Baby (Holding On)" is the sound of Bob Dylan guided by the Velvet Underground rather than Woody Guthrie, while "American Man" is the Stones posing as SoCal rockers at their swaggering, staggering best and featuring some of Prophet's most incisively political, Dylanesque lyrics ("American Man, up on the mound/With an orange alert and a new wave sound"). Recorded in Mexico City at the height of the swine flu epidemic and in the middle of an earthquake and brownouts in a studio that hasn't been upgraded since the Eisenhower administration, Prophet poured the negative energy into this amazing set of songs written in and about the economic, political and emotional maelstrom we find ourselves in at the moment. Is this the best Chuck Prophet album ever? Sure, why not? They all get to wear that medal for a while. — Brian Baker

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by Brian Baker on October 30, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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Let Freedom Ring is the album Green Day wish they could have recorded
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Pop Matters

Let Freedom Ring

Thinking inside the box has never been Chuck Prophet's strongest point, and that's a good thing. The last few years have found Prophet hipping the traditional-leaning Kelly Willis on tunes by Adam Green and Iggy Pop, and adding some razor sharp bite to Alejandro Escovedo's latter-day career revival. Prophet's latest release, Let Freedom Ring, is a bit of a mixture of Willis' Translated from Love and Escovedo's Real Animal. It's got the surprising element of hearing a well-established artist take on some surprising new textures of the former, and the reignited spark of snarling punk energy of the latter. What Let Freedom Ring has in spades—and perhaps what was missing from the two previously mentioned releases—is a real thematic coherence, in both the narrative of the album and in the overall production.

The title of the album should be enough to give away the material on the record, but that's a bit misleading. Prophet's latest release isn't a finger to the American government (that wouldn't make sense for Prophet, now that Bush is gone), nor is it a call to arms for bi-partisanship or a hymnal to President Obama (looking at you, Mr. Springsteen). The fact that Prophet holed up in Mexico City for the recording of the album should lend some subtext, and Prophet himself said the record was a collection of "political songs for non-political people". In other words, it's the album that Green Day probably wanted to make with their 21st Century Breakdown. That is, an album that speaks to the masses of disenfranchised people who felt the Bush Administration let them down, even if they couldn't exactly articulate that emotion in anything other than rage and questions that remained unanswered.

Of course, Prophet isn't a populist, per se. He's not going for John Mellencamp territory, though Freedom's highest points rival Mellencamp's populism at its zenith. And Prophet isn't trying to be a political spokesperson—he's a musician and he knows it, but he always knows that real music has the power to move masses, and he grabs that idea and heads to the hills with it on Freedom. Themes of depression, hope, faith and determination pop up all over Freedom and give the album a real scope of focus. There's not an obvious narrative to follow (not in the American Idiot or Allison Moorer's The Duel way), but the repeating imagery and ideas lend Prophet a thematic heft.

"Sonny Liston's Blues" kicks off the album with a riff lifted from Keith Richards's songbook, while Prophet weaves his tale of a middle-class man facing his last few hours before the supposed justice system ends his life. The opening track recalls Esccovedo's tune "Paradise", in both the sad, fleeting-but-daring vocal performance and the spot-on lyrics, detailing the simplicity of a relationship the narrator can't seem to give up ("What I'm trying to tell you / Is how much I loved you / How much I loved you in that dress / And the way the light bounced off your hair"). A similar theme of lost loved ones follows in "What Can a Mother Do", which features a lovely harmony vocal and stellar fiddle part from former Nickel Creek member Sara Watkins. The song is a country shuffle that compliments the way Prophet closes his syllables during the verses. "What Can a Mother Do" is sentimental and well written, without ever coming off as saccharine or trying to milk out a certain emotion from the audience. In that sense, it makes a nice partner to Bruce Robison's "Traveling Soldier".

It speaks to the breadth of Prophet's talent that he can so easily move from a traditional-leaning number like "What Can a Mother Do" to a more punk-leaning up-tempo number like the ferocious "Where the Hell Is Henry", which features the terrific couplet "Henry worked the room like a Kennedy, son / He'll make you feel like family before he's done" that manages to be both sarcastic and genuinely respectful with its backhanded compliment. Prophet's most overtly political moment comes from the title track, which opens up with "Let there be darkness, let there be light as the hawk cripples the dove" and rips apart the idea of the free market: "Let there be markets, let `em run wild as the sisters of mercy just laugh".

Prophet is able to successfully channel the fear, anger, and worry many citizens faced and continue to face during the turmoil American is currently in without ever sounding like he's trying to do so. The difference between Prophet's album and Green Day's album is that Prophet doesn't try to be the voice of a movement; he's just a guy writing songs that reflect the emotion of a large group of people, making him the less-apparent heir to the likes of Dylan and Guthrie.

It also speaks to the talents of Prophet as a songwriter and producer that not one song is wasted or mishandled. From the soulful "You and Me Baby (Holding On)" to the slow burning "Barely Exists", not a single note is misplaced. Prophet and co-producer Greg Leisz have found ways to take individual elements—like Watkins's first-rate fiddle work or James DePrato's smoldering guitar lines—and add them to the coherence of the album's overall sound without calling too much attention to them or taking focus away from Prophet's phenomenal batch of songs. And what a batch of songs; Prophet has used his keen eye for detail to incorporate a swipe at corporate America ("American Man / With a gun in his brain / On a blood-stained sheet / In the Macy's parade") on "American Man" and then turn around and use the imagery produced by the American media ("Now that kid might grow up to play symphony or be the next LeBron James") on "Barely Exists" to further broaden his message. He also manages to use a childish rhyme like "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack he got his candlestick" without sounding immature on "Good Time Crowd".

Between his top-notch previous albums and his work with other artists, Chuck Prophet had already developed a superior artistic cache before Let Freedom Ring, but this is hands down his best work. Freedom is the album Green Day wish they could have recorded, and is a contender for one of 2009's best albums.

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by Cody Miller on October 30, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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Prophet has told the ugly truth about our imperial ills and made it impossible for us not to sing along.

New Times Miami

heyday of the Stones, but also vintage Cheap Trick.

Chuck Prophet

Let Freedom Ring (Yep Roc)

You've got to hand it to Chuck Prophet. While the rest of the world was panicking about the swine flu outbreak, the San Francisco-based songwriter was holed up in a sound studio in Mexico City, recording what ranks as the most staggering rock record of 2009. From the blistering opening chords of "Sonny Liston's Blues" to the plaintive refrain of "Leave the Window Open," Prophet has produced a suite of songs whose exuberance will call to mind not just the mid-`70s heyday of the Stones, but also vintage Cheap Trick.

Prophet's voice is pure Southern California drawl, and his Stratocaster seems never to have met a lick it couldn't shred. But what stands out here is Prophet's ability to survey the moral landscape of America, as the nation faces up to the brutal economic hangover of the go-go Bush years. "Let there be markets, let them run wild," he sings, on the rousing title track, "as the sisters of mercy just laugh/All the lost brothers can drink themselves blind/While good fortune breaks hard work in half." Not even the shimmering chorus can blunt the sting of that sort of truth. What's most remarkable about this album is that Prophet has told the ugly truth about our imperial ills and made it impossible for us not to sing along.—Steve Almond

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by Steve Almond on October 28, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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Ray Davies quality to both Prophet’s voice and delive

Lime Wire

Let Freedom Ring

After some 25 years of Americana-soaked sonic adventures, first with his band Green on Red and then as a solo singer-songwriter, Chuck Prophet should get a dollar every time anyone anywhere uses the term "roots rock." On Let Freedom Ring, Prophet proves that it's possible to work up a piston-pumping batch of tunes that incorporate touches of blues, soul, country, and rock while still maintaining a sharp lyrical pen. Many of the songs here walk the line between detail-oriented narrative and imagistic musing, while Prophet's deadpan delivery drives the whole thing home. The title track finds him taking on a tone (both vocally and lyrically) somewhere between Dave Alvin and James McMurtry, but often there's a vague Ray Davies quality to both Prophet's voice and delivery, suggesting that perhaps his storytelling abilities come from somewhere outside the usual Americana toolkit. If you're in the market for an unpretentious, organic-sounding album of roots-rocking tracks that completely avoid the genre's usual tropes, you might be inclined to Let Freedom Ring.

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by Jim Allen on October 27, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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Prophet's stories ring true
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Hartford Courant

Storyteller with a sharp eye for detail and a deft sense of character

It sounds like a collection of disasters that could befall a character from one of his songs: When Chuck Prophet went to Mexico City to make this record, he encountered a pandemic, an earthquake, and an antiquated studio. But with the grit and resilience that have typified his work since his days in Green on Red, Prophet soldiered through. The result is "Let Freedom Ring!,"another solid collection of his sturdy, rootsy rock `n' roll.

Prophet is a storyteller with a sharp eye for detail and a deft sense of character. His ninth solo album nods to Bob Dylan ("Hot Talk," "You and Me Baby"), Randy Newman ("Barely Exist"), and John Mellencamp ("American Man"), with a bit of Texas roadhouse blues thrown in ("Where the Hell Is Henry?"). It doesn't delve quite as deeply as "The Hurting Business" or "Soap & Water," but as always, Prophet's stories ring true.

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by Steve Klinge on October 27, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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get well or die.

Lonesome Onry and Mean:

Chuck Prophet's ¡Let Freedom Ring! Doesn't Disappoint

Lonesome Onry and Mean: Chuck Prophet's ¡Let Freedom Ring! Doesn't Disappoint

By William Michael Smith in Lonesome Onry and MeanTue., Oct. 13 2009 @ 12:30PM

"American man in the laundry pile/ With the rain check claims and the skateboard child" - Chuck Prophet, "American Man"

We admit to being full-fledged, card-carrying members of the Chuck Prophet Party, but it still took Lonesome, Onry and Mean longer than usual to get the ears and head wrapped around Prophet's chaotic new Yep Roc Records album ¡Let Freedom Ring! The album may have the widest stylistic scope Prophet has ever laid down, although CP is known up front for going all over the rock and roll map in search artistic fuel.

But, as always happens with Prophet's records, the separate parts of the thing eventually come together, the wholeness of the disparate parts reveal themselves and, one day riding down the freeway with the stereo blasting, the brain says to the body, "What an album."

¡Let Freedom Ring! features some of Prophet's most introspective lyrical work to date. "You and Me Baby (Holding On)" finds Prophet dredging up the deepest parts of his conscience and finding something universal and timely there: "Marriage on the skids and the folks ain't doing well, we're holding on/ Seems like maybe half the people we know got the same sad story to tell, holding on."

Recorded in Mexico City during the flu epidemic and the world economic meltdown, ¡Let Freedom Ring! is a troublingly accurate musical painting of our confusing and uncertain times, and once again it finds Prophet on top of his game, mashing together sounds remembered from Donna Summer with those of Phil Spector, Beach Boys' sounds with Alex Chilton. It all comes swarming out like a swine flu leaving the hog farm, something strong, virulent and ferocious with no antidote but to listen your way through it and get well or die.

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by William Michael Smith on October 14, 2009 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (¡Let Freedom Ring!)

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