November 2004

Chuck Prophet - Age of Miracles
New West Records—NW6062
Released: 2004

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

Chuck Prophet’s No Other Love was my favorite disc in 2002 and one of the best discs of the past few years. Prophet has it all: heavy guitar chops, formidable songwriting skills, and a deep, expressive voice. Prophet always uses his guitar in the service of his songs and never flashes aimlessly. Only a guitarist of his skills could play the exquisite wah-wah slide in the title song of his new disc, Age of Miracles, but he never calls attention to it. It’s one element in a carefully crafted whole. It’s also an obvious lift from any number of George Harrison recordings, yet Prophet makes it his own. As he did in his other recordings, Prophet borrows here from pop-music history intelligently and to great effect.

Different sounds and styles sit alongside each other comfortably in Age of Miracles. "You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)" contains both a vocal sample and a Vox Continental organ, and the doo-wop lines Prophet recites sound absolutely up to date. "Just to See You Smile" is a classically constructed, radio-friendly pop tune, while both "Heavy Duty" (co-written with Dan Penn) and "Monkey in the Middle" are greasy funk. Prophet holds things together with his well-trained ear and his instinct for the right touch, such as the synth percussion that accompanies the live drum on "You Did (Bomp Shooby Dooby Bomp)." He also knows when to keep things basic, as he does on "Automatic Blues" and "Monkey in the Middle," where his gritty guitar carries the weight of the arrangement.

Age of Miracles has a slightly rootsier feel than No Other Love and it doesn’t have the air of sheer audaciousness that pervaded that disc. But it is another impressive work by a gifted, smart songwriter who also happens to be accessible ("Just to See You Smile" has hit written all over it). Chuck Prophet deserves a wide audience. Let’s see if he gets the airplay and support he needs.