Cover artwork

New York Daily News

Chuck's new album for fun and Prophet

Every sound has a say in a Chuck Prophet song. The bass, percussion, rhythm and lead guitars each compete for attention in his tracks, all crying out to be seen as the key hook.

Take but one cut on the new CD: In "Doubter Out of Jesus," first we hear strings in the distance, setting the parameters of the sound. Then comes a whittled-down fiddle, sketching the particulars of the piece. It's followed by a bit of clicking, new wave rhythm, setting a pace that's mirrored in keyboards and a bass. If heard all together in a car, it would nearly force you to break the speed limit.

Prophet has always shown such attention to detail. His albums impress as much with their arrangements as their tidy rock tunes.

He has had time to get the style down.

Prophet first came to attention in the mid-`80s when he joined the band Green on Red. Though initially known as part of the "paisley underground," Green on Red expanded to become a solid roots-rock act - a template broadened, and perfected, by Prophet's solo career.

He has been putting out his own albums since 1990 (nine so far), in between session jobs with everyone from Warren Zevon to Cake.

The songs on "Soap and Water" suggest a more spare Heartbreakers crossed with a shrunken Stones. It's rock, but told with the intimacy of a ballad. Prophet's vocals help with the last bit. He's got a Tom Petty-like hipster drawl, but with more sexy insinuation. Prophet's new lyrics stress romantic rejection at the hands of an emasculating, or at least exasperating, woman. He's a tight writer, able to use "freckle" as a verb and to slice his meters into terse bursts.

But it's really the arrangements that make the songs move. In "Freckle Song," Prophet makes the rhythm guitar parts cluck and crunch, while a lead guitar keeps taking the melody to a new place. In "Would You Love Me?" the bass steals the show with it own warm tune, playing off a tart guitar arpeggio.

With so many bright ideas knocking around, Prophet should consider not just making records, but producing them for others, too.

by Jim Barber on November 11, 2007 COMMENTS • Filed under CD Reviews (Soap And Water)