Thursday, April 17, 2008

No. 458: John Prine


Band: John Prine
Album: John Prine
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: John Prine's recounting of ant-war sentiments is played against a country sound. Wonderfully narrative and literate, the album is the great example of songwriting.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: The record's a little too country for me.
Best song: "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore" and "Paradise" are fantastic.
Worst song: "Angel from Montgomery" is popular, but I don't care for it.
Is it awesome?: It's pretty good.

Hey, John Prine is from Maywood, Illinois. That's on the other side of Chicago from where I grew up. That's kind of cool.

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John Prine's sound is decidedly more country than I can really handle. Nevertheless, I think his political statements on the record are right on and amazing-- "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore" is ridiculously awesome anti-Vietnam song that could easily be applicable today. "Sam Stone," while not as appropriate today, is much more of a well-formed song. It's stark and melancholy, thanks to a wonderful church-like organ. Prine's tale of a drug addict coming home from the war is striking largely because it told the complex tale long before the anti-war sentiment had reached anything other than catchphrase-style songs (Jefferson Airplane, for example).

"Paradise" is a wonderful song about development and the effects on the virgin countryside. Prine speaks of a farm and Kentucky backwoods that had been taken over by big business and lost the "green river where paradise lays." As AllMusic says, the song "became an environmental anthem without ever using the word 'environmental.'"

Prine also wrote about other topics. "Donald and Lydia" is an allusion to masturbation and "Six O'Clock News" deals with suicide. "Pretty Good" is strange song that sounds moderately rock-ish. Over a slight rock guitar, Prine sings of making love to an alien and a woman getting raped by a dog. It's pretty catchy, but, um, weird.

Maybe it's just my untrained-to-country ear, but the songs aren't terribly different-sounding. "Spanish Pipedream" and "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore" use, essentially, the same slide guitar and drum setup. "Paradise" is more of a simple country/bluegrass song, but one that sounds far too familiar.

How this all came out from a dude from Maywood, I'll never know. Still, a pretty good record. That the Eagles and Jackson Browne became popular and this record didn't bugs me.

4 comments:

kellydwyer said...

I lived in Maywood for a spell.

I didn't know this album made the list. It makes me feel a little better for the crap Madonna albums that have shown up over the last few weeks. Cool.

I love John Prine, and this album. My favorite John Prine album is a live disc from the late 80s he did for Oh Boy! Records. That got a lot of play in the Dwyer household growing up.

R.J. said...

I've driven through Maywood, but I've not had much experience with it. Honestly, for all I know, the south suburbs are a totally different world from the North Shore.

The Prine record is good. It's weird that I'd never even heard of it before I started this thing. It's not my bag, but it's a really gutsy record. Gotta like that.

Anonymous said...

I only learned about Prine after I saw an Austin City Limits a couple decades (or more, sheesh) back with Steve Goodman. Both of them are (were) great artists.

I second Dwyer's point. This sort of recognition almost makes up for all the crap on this list.

Jaded Seven said...
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