Who put the bomp in the bomp shooby dooby bomp? / Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?
Listening to Chuck Prophet sing these lyrics, it's not hard to believe that maybe Chuck himself did. Age of Miracles is the latest in a string of four incredibly strong albums since 1997's Homemade Blood. But as satisfied as he is with the work, Prophet is in no mood for playing the artiste. "This one was tough, very tough," he says. "I need to stop making a record every 18 months." Even so, for all the stress and strain of a creative process that involves producing, writing and playing an orchestra's worth of instruments, Prophet has managed another minor masterpiece, something purely American but entirely genre-blurring, something derivative yet far, far beyond simple derivation. The album is a huge vat of pop-music influences that may appear at any moment in tracks that are instantly catchy and always vaguely familiar, in a primordial-soup way. Besides his wicked Fender Squire fretwork and the nasty elasticity of his suggestive voice, Prophet lays on an array of sounds that range from garage-rock Farfisa organ to torrid night-of-sin horns.
The album is full of tunes co-written with some of the biggest names in the business, and nowhere is the collaborative effort more successful than on the dark, surly "Pin a Rose on Me" (Kim Richey), the Neil Sedaka-meets-the Ronnettes bouncy Brill Building love song "Just to See You Smile (Angelo, Kim Carnes) and the funk-laden "Heavy Duty" (Dan Penn). But the ultimate highlights are purely Prophet's, like the rip-your-brain-out licks of "Automatic Blues," the straight-from-the-Tenderloin lyrical slyness of "You Did" or the sinfully fun "Monkee in the Middle." Fifteen years beyond his tour of duty in pioneering insurgent country outfit Green On Red, Chuck Prophet continues to put the hip in the hippie hippie shake.