This has been on my “To Find” list for some time and, low and behold, there it was at the Hamilton Record Fair two weeks ago.
A revelation upon its release in 1971, this album has now become a collection of standards: ‘Illegal Smile‘, ‘Hello in There‘, ‘Sam Stone‘, ‘Donald and Lydia‘, and, of course, the awesome ‘Angel from Montgomery’. Prine’s music, a mixture of folk, rock, and country, is deceptively simple, like his pointed lyrics, and his easy vocal style adds a humorous edge that makes otherwise funny jokes downright hilarious.
Prine was offered a recording contract by Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records after the record executive saw the singer perform several of his own songs at a Kris Kristofferson show at the Bitter End. The song ‘Paradise‘ was actually recorded at A&R Studios in New York (with Prine’s brother Dave and good friend Steve Goodman as sidemen) but the remaining cuts were recorded at American Sound Studios in Memphis. Produced by Arif Mardin, who had previously collaborated with the likes of Aretha Franklin and King Curtis, Prine found his new studio surroundings intimidating. In the ‘Great Days: The John Prine Anthology’ liner notes he admits:
“I was terrified. I went straight from playing by myself, still learning how to sing, to playing with Elvis Presley’s rhythm section.”
Discussing the meaning and symbolism in each of these tracks would be monumental and, truth be told, one hell of a High School English paper if you ask me (and just in case you’re looking for suggestions). You’re probably not, but don’t tell me I never offered you anything. Of course, I wish I knew this back then instead of doing my OAC English paper on Sting‘s ‘The Soul Cages‘.
What a square I was.
Anyway, as it is this evening, it’s a terrific mellow finish to an otherwise successful – and exhausting day.