April 2001

Prefab Sprout - The Collection
Epic/Legacy CD E2K 85325 9672
Released: 2001

by John Crossett

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]Prefab Sprout (c. 1982-97) arrived from Northern England, the brainchild of one Paddy McAloon, and hit the ground running (so to speak) in 1982 with the release of their single "Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)." From there they took pop music in an entirely new direction. Writing songs such as "Couldn’t Bear To Be Special," "Cars And Girls," "Appetite," "Life’s A Miracle," "Hey Manhattan" or "The Sound Of Crying," Prefab Sprout always had a unique way of expressing our collective lives and desires. Once heard, their songs are impossible to ignore or ever forget. So the question is, why didn't Prefab Sprout ever make it big?

The Collection is a two-disc set, gathered together with the help of founder McAloon. Disc 1 is called "The Singles," while disc 2 is "The Album Tracks." However, I prefer to call them "up-tempo" and "ballad." Disc 1 is the more pop-song oriented. The second disc will probably have to grow on you (and it will, it will). Both are excellent, and can be listened to again and again.

There is much to like in the music of Prefab Sprout. Personally, I hear echoes of the TalkingHeads, Bruce Cockburn and, especially on disc 2, early Genesis. Now, I don’t know who may have influenced whom, but I have my suspicions. Be that as it may, Prefab Sprout tried to redefine the musical styles they recorded. Listen to "The Golden Calf" for an example of what a rock-n-roll song should be. Or catch "Faron Young" for a wonderful driving song. All of their music is full of quirky twists and turns that reward repeated plays.

One unfortunate thing about this set is the rather skimpy liner notes. While they are interesting (and even informative, to a degree), they don’t give as much information about the group as I would have liked, especially for a band as obscure as Prefab Sprout.

The sound of The Collection is better than you might expect. Perhaps this is a direct result of their cult-band status -- it’s doubtful any extra studio time was spent on these songs. Also, the small labels that they recorded for early on usually offered better sound than the major labels (as do most indies). Even after Prefab Sprout signed with Epic, their sound quality didn’t fall as much as might have been expected. Suffice it to say that this is fun and interesting music, and the sound quality is good enough that you won't be prevented from enjoying it.

Let me tell you how universal this music's appeal is. While I was listening to Prefab Sprout -- The Collection, my two-year old daughter -- the budding dancer in the family -- quit watching her favorite Barney video and toddled into my listening room to join me in boogieing to the music. I can’t think of a better compliment than that. I urge you to give Prefab Sprout a try, and who knows, serendipity may strike you too.