Soap and Water

Recently I read an article in which a music critic referred to Chuck Prophet as a ‘smart-assed’ rocker. If that be the case, that ass matches the rest of him. Prophet comes by his education through the school of hard knocks and harder addictions. He’s survived those early years of ‘almost famous’ glory as a member of the band Green On Red. The group received critical acclaim but never reached financial success or stardom. Prophet stumbled along the way with addictions to heroin, crack cocaine and alcohol but fought his way back to sobriety, and has maintained that stability for more than a decade.

Through all his misadventures Prophet held onto his ability to create great music. He’s a much sought after producer and astute songwriter who continues to savor live performance. Anyone who has survived the odds is apt to produce some pretty interesting perspectives on human nature and Prophet proves adept at creating empathetic sketches of the struggling everyman/woman. Best of all, he infuses his tales of woe and lust (mostly lust on this disc) with a wicked sense of humor. And did I mention, he writes great rock melodies?

Soap & Water kicks of with “Freckle Song,” and immediately, I think, why isn’t this guy a star? The song is 3 minutes and 38 seconds of lusty power-pop that begs for radio airplay. Same goes for the title track with its plunking piano accents, girl-companion vocals, campy organ refrain and nasty association game lyrics. (Notice a hint of Alex Chilton?) Prophet is at his acerbic best on songs that challenge the limits of acceptability as on “Doubter Out Of Jesus.” I can’t think of too many writers who would judge a woman’s attractiveness factor in quite this fashion.

Prophet steps out a bit on this record with elements that are new to his music. “Let’s Do Something Wrong” features a children’s choir – but don’t scream – it works! Hearing alls those innocent voices rising up with “lets do something wrong, lets do something stupid” is strangely heartwarming. And I love the sweet la-la-la chorus as Prophet sings about women’s enduring sexual power over defenseless men on “A Woman’s Voice.” Despite all this wanton depravity there is are a couple of introspective and thoughtful songs to temper the orgy. “Small Town Girl” is a thumbnail sketch of innocence at the guillotine. But, wait, their’s a knight in shining armor at the ready to snatch the maiden from danger’s way. “Talkin’ New Kingdom” imagines life after life and “Happy Ending” is just that, a hopeful note on which to end this record.

Prophet ends his liner notes with a quote from the late film director John Cassavettes. “I have a one- track mind. That’s all I’m interested in: love – and the lack of it.” I think that’s an appropriate summation of Chuck Prophet’s musical interests as well.

Rosemary Welsch, WYEP Afternoon Mix host