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“...If I could sing like anyone, I’d like to sing like Chuck Prophet” – Kelly Willis

“Kelly Willis needs her ears checked...” - Chuck Prophet

Obwohl er Spaß macht, bekommt man vielleicht den richtigen Eindruck von Chuck Prophet, dass er es mit Komplimenten nicht ganz so ernst nimmt. “Sie könnten dir unangenehm sein”, sagt er zuhause in San Francisco. Dann, wie um 180° gedreht, meint er: “Allerdings muss ich zugeben, dass ich ein Experte bin von – mir selbst.” Natürlich auch hier nicht ernst gemeint, und dennoch: wenn über ihn Lobeshymnen gesungen werden, ist er doch etwas überrascht. Allerdings sollte er sich endlich daran gewöhnen, denn das neue Album No Other Love wird sowohl Kritiker als auch seine Fans begeistern.

Geboren im kalifornischen Whittier, haben seine ersten 4 Alben Brother Aldo (1990), Balinese Dancer (1992), Feast Of Hearts (1995) und Homemade Blood (1997) dem zuvor bei Green On Red maßgeblich beteiligten Gitarristen/Sänger den großen Status eingeräumt, der ihn unter Fachleuten sogar zum amerikanischen Richard Thompson wachsen ließ! All diese Platten waren kernig produziert, kompakt und knackig durcharrangiert und lebten von der zwingenden Gitarrenpower des Protagonisten bzw. von seinem erdig-tiefen Gesang und einfach konzipierten, süchtigmachenden Songs zwischen Gitarrenrock und Rootsbewusstsein. Die Kritiker überschlugen sich regelrecht: “Select” nannte ihn “the best of this whole wracked-out, country-rock genre since Gram Parsons – and that’s no hyperbole”, und für das englische Magazin “Q” ist er “the missing link between Paul Westerberg and Bob Dylan”. Doch dieses Feld befand Prophet dann Ende der 90er für erschlossen und abgearbeitet und brach mit dem Album The Hurting Business auf zu neuen Ufern mit Mut zum Experiment - das besonders in Sachen Sound & Produktion, programmierten Rhythmen und alternativem Dancefloor-Ambiente.

Wohin führt der Weg von No Other Love, das in Oakland aufgenommen und mit Jim Waters in Tucson, Arizona in den Waterworks Studios abgemischt wurde – zurück zum Rootsrock der früheren Alben oder noch weiter in Richtung Tanzfläche? Die Antwort heißt: weder noch. Prophet führt nämlich seinen persönlichen Weg in Richtung Roots Rock-Erneuerung konsequent und zielstrebig weiter, die Dance-Ingredientien und elektronischen Spielereien sind weitgehend absorbiert, eine musikalische Ausrichtung zum kulturellen Schmelztiegel New Orleans, zu flirrenden Südstaaten-Swamp-Szenarien stattdessen angesagt, und das durchaus unter Berücksichtigung einer modernen, an Pop und Soul (!) orientierten Produktion aus seiner Heimatstadt San Francisco - Westcoast meets Louisiana! Und in der die Gitarren übrigens nicht zu kurz kommen!! Als musikalisches Bindeglied und Erklärungshilfe mag da das letztjährige Studioprojekt der Raisins In The Sun dienen - ein hoffnungslos und unverzeihlich vernachlässigtes Stück American Music, das 7 hochinteressante Leute aus verschiedensten Rock-Kulturkreisen in Tucson, Arizona für eine Woche zusammenführte: neben Prophet waren das Jules Shear, Harvey Brooks, Jim Dickinson, Winston Watson sowie die Fort Apache Tonmeister Sean Slade/Paul Q Kolderie. Heraus kam dabei letztendlich ernsthaft betriebene Rockmusik mit allerdings hörbar hohem Wohlbefindlichkeitsfaktor.

Aus der Perspektive von No Other Love wird klar, daß Prophet eine markante Führungsrolle bei den Raisins In The Sun einnahm, denn das "overall Feeling" ist ähnlich: eine sehr relaxte Grundstimmung, leichtgängige Arrangements, ein geradezu lässiger, provokativer Gesang, eine innovative, flexible Instrumentierung und 11 hintergründige, komplizierte Songs, die erst nach mehreren Durchgängen im Ohr kleben, das dann aber extrem nachhaltig!

In der Literatur ist der Frühling bekannt für die Zeit der Erneuerung und der Änderungen, bei Chuck Prophet sind die wichtigsten Änderungen unaufdringlicher – seine Stimme wird von Album zu Album beständiger, und seine Kompositionen werden ergreifender. Nach Prophet allerdings sind die beiden größten Änderungen in seinem Leben der Wechsel der Zigarettenmarke (von den “roten” Marlboro zu den “lights”) und der Plattenfirma.

"In a perfect world, Chuck Prophet would be inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame tomorrow."
- Keith Cameron, The Guardian London

"...If I could sing like anyone, I'd like to sing like Chuck Prophet."
- Kelly Willis

"Kelly Willis needs her ears checked..."
- Chuck Prophet

Although he's kidding, to look at the above quotes might give one the impression that Chuck Prophet doesn't handle compliments so well. "They can make you uncomfortable," he says from his home in San Francisco. Then, as if he's had a sudden change of heart, he says, "I have to admit I am an expert on my favorite subject - myself." Prophet is kidding again, of course, and in spite of his noncommittal take on the subject of praise, he does act a bit surprised when told the glowing things people have said about his music. However, if Prophet is humble when it comes to praise, he'd better get used to it; the release of his new album, "No Other Love", is going to have critics and fans alike gushing with adoration.

Prophet was born in Whittier, a small California suburb. Right out of high school, he joined Green On Red, whose country-meets-folk-meets-too many drugs Americana was one of the early warning signs of the alt country scare to come. After one E.P. and eight albums with Green On Red, Prophet headed off on his own shortly before the band disintegrated. In 1990, he released "Brother Aldo", a soulful/homespun/lo-fi/country-fried folk affair that Melody Maker called "as close to the genuine article as a white boy can get." Since then, Prophet's solo career has never let up, with each successive album gathering more praise than the last. "Select" magazine called him, "the best of this whole wracked-out, country-rock genre since Gram Parsons - and that's no hyperbole." "Q" magazine described him as "the missing link between Paul Westerberg and Bob Dylan." "No Depression" cited the sample-driven country soul of his last CD, "The Hurting Business", as one of the best records of the year. In fact, Prophet has a rock and roll vitae that would make any musician blush with envy. He's worked with Cake, Kelly Willis, The Silos, The Mr. T.Experience, Bob Neuwirth, Calvin Russell, Roger Hawkins, David Hood and Warren Zevon, and is a member of the favorite unknown super group, Raisins In The Sun (Jim Dickinson, Jules Shear, Paul Kolderie, Sean Slade, Harvey Brooks). Not only that, he's had his songs covered by Kelly Willis, Kim Richey, Jim Dickinson, and even top 40 New Country pin-up Cyndi Thomson. Although one might think that after working with some of the most legendary names in the business, being around famous folks would lose its nerve-wracking charge, he admits that working with Warren Zevon "intimidated the dogshit out of me. It was the best paid internship I ever had."

"No Other Love" was recorded in Oakland and mixed in Tucson by Jim Waters (Jon Spencer, R.L. Burnside). For this, his sixth solo album, Prophet continues to mutate the singer/songwriter mold, delivering an 11-track song cycle about dancing monkeys, failed criminals, and the storms that come between seasons. From the innuendo-laden "That's How Much I Need Your Love," with its prowling swagger, to the pleading farfisa-fueled soul of "Elouise," to the wistful closer, "Old Friends," "No Other Love" is a startling blend of dusty country, twangy R&B and lilting folk served up fresh with inventive production, the use of an Omnichord, punchbowl, hip-hop samples and string sections. Throughout the album, whether it's the seasons, friendships, or just plain getting older, Prophet is able - in a single moment - to illustrate the emotions that come with change. "Summertime Thing," a burning urban sidewalk shuffle that name checks both The Beach Boys' "Help Me Rhonda" and the Bay Area's beloved Delta, captures all the lazy beauty of the end of a California summer day. "After The Rain" is a gorgeous acoustic meditation, replete with Prophet's wife, Stephanie Finch, stepping in to sing a beautiful harmony. The rest of the lyrical subjects on "No Other Love" are varied and unpredictable: there are models that look like Sissy Spacek at the homecoming dance in Carrie, endearing criminals that blow a score and a reference to Richard Gere even works its way in. Although Prophet's compositions are rife with pop culture, the bigger picture is always much more complex. In "I Bow Down And Pray To Every Woman I See," he tackles the artifice and pain that Los Angeles can afflict on a showbiz aspirant; and in "Run Primo, Run," two small-time hoods commandeer a heist that goes bad faster than they'd feared. The album is populated by small-time hustlers, weary romantics, and beautiful failures and although the narrators are all different people, they share the ability to observe the ephemeral world with the hope that despite the end of summer, a busted romance, and youth turning grayer, things will be okay. The songs form a dark and churning mosaic whose dusty country, rootsy shuffles and hazy blues come across as a soundtrack for the world when it's at its weariest, but most hopeful.

When asked about what changes have taken place in his life since the last album, Prophet obliges with two: he's switched brands of cigarettes (Marlboro Reds to Marlboro Lights) and he's found a new record label.

- Alex Green Spring, 2002

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