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.