John Prine – John Prine (1972)

After the album’s release, Karin Berg of Rolling Stone wrote, “This is a very good first album by a very good songwriter. Good songwriters are on the rise, but John Prine is differently good. His work demands some time and thought from the listener — he’s not out to write pleasant tunes, he wants to arrest the cursory listener and get attention for some important things he has to say and, thankfully, he says them without falling into the common trap of writing with overtones of self-importance or smugness. His melodies are excellent.” Village Voice critic Robert Christgau wrote: “You suspect at first that these standard riffs and reliable rhythms are designed to support the lyrics rather than accompany them. But the homespun sarcasm of singing that comes on as tuneless as the tunes themselves soon reveals itself as an authentic, rather catchy extension of Nashville and Appalachia—and then so do the tunes, and the riffs, and the rhythms.” Writing for Allmusic, critic William Ruhlman says of the album: “A revelation upon its release, this album is now a collection of standards…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. In the original album’s liner notes, Kris Kristofferson marveled, “”Twenty-four years old and writes like he’s two-hundred and twenty.”

In 2009, Bob Dylan told The Huffington Post that Prine was one of his favorite writers, stating “Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs. I remember when Kris Kristofferson first brought him on the scene. All that stuff about “Sam Stone,” the soldier junkie daddy, and “Donald and Lydia,” where people make love from ten miles away. Nobody but Prine could write like that.” Prine biographer Eddie Huffman contends, “John Prine introduced its namesake to the world like few debut albums before or since. Everything his fans would come to love about him – drama, humor, memorable characters, great stories, a badass outsider stance offset by a reverence for tradition – could be found, fully developed, in its forty-four minutes and seven seconds.” Prine himself states in the Great Days anthology, “It’s not an easy album for me to listen to, because I can hear in my voice how uncomfortable I felt at the time. But I loved the sound of the record, and I can see how for a lot of people it’s their favourite record of mine.”

Many of the songs on John Prine have been recorded by other artists. “Paradise” is one of the singer’s most covered tunes, having been recorded by Johnny Cash, John Fogerty, the Everly Brothers and Lynn Anderson, among many others. “Angel from Montgomery” was recorded in 1972 by Carly Simon in her first session for the No Secrets album and has also been recorded by Bonnie Raitt, who told Performing Songwriter magazine in 2000, “I think ‘Angel from Montgomery’ probably meant more to my fans and my body of work than any other song.” “Hello In There” has appeared on albums by Joan Baez, Bette Midler, and David Allan Coe. John Denver covered “Spanish Pipedream” (retitled “Blow Up Your TV”, on his 1972 album Aerie ), “Paradise” (on Rocky Mountain High, later the same year), and “Angel from Montgomery” (retitled “Angels from Montgomery”, on his 1973 album Farewell Andromeda ). Prine’s friend and fellow songwriter Steve Goodman recorded “Donald & Lydia” on his 1971 self-titled LP. The album is the subject of a forthcoming book in Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 series, written by music journalist Erin Osmon.

Track Listing:

Side one

  1. “Illegal Smile” – 3:10
  2. “Spanish Pipedream” – 2:37
  3. “Hello in There” – 4:29
  4. “Sam Stone” – 4:14
  5. “Paradise” – 3:10
  6. “Pretty Good” – 3:36

Side two

  1. “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You into Heaven Anymore” – 2:51
  2. “Far from Me” – 3:38
  3. “Angel from Montgomery” – 3:43
  4. “Quiet Man” – 2:50
  5. “Donald and Lydia” – 4:27
  6. “Six O’Clock News” – 2:49
  7. “Flashback Blues” – 2:33

 

Schill Score:  5.5/10

 

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