Lonesome Onry and Mean

Lonesome Onry and Mean: Chuck Prophet's ¡Let Freedom Ring! Doesn't Disappoint

"American man in the laundry pile/ With the rain check claims and the skateboard child" - Chuck Prophet, "American Man"

We admit to being full-fledged, card-carrying members of the Chuck Prophet Party, but it still took Lonesome, Onry and Mean longer than usual to get the ears and head wrapped around Prophet's chaotic new Yep Roc Records album ¡Let Freedom Ring! The album may have the widest stylistic scope Prophet has ever laid down, although CP is known up front for going all over the rock and roll map in search artistic fuel.

But, as always happens with Prophet's records, the separate parts of the thing eventually come together, the wholeness of the disparate parts reveal themselves and, one day riding down the freeway with the stereo blasting, the brain says to the body, "What an album."

¡Let Freedom Ring! features some of Prophet's most introspective lyrical work to date. "You and Me Baby (Holding On)" finds Prophet dredging up the deepest parts of his conscience and finding something universal and timely there: "Marriage on the skids and the folks ain't doing well, we're holding on/ Seems like maybe half the people we know got the same sad story to tell, holding on."

Recorded in Mexico City during the flu epidemic and the world economic meltdown, ¡Let Freedom Ring! is a troublingly accurate musical painting of our confusing and uncertain times, and once again it finds Prophet on top of his game, mashing together sounds remembered from Donna Summer with those of Phil Spector, Beach Boys' sounds with Alex Chilton. It all comes swarming out like a swine flu leaving the hog farm, something strong, virulent and ferocious with no antidote but to listen your way through it and get well or die.

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William Michael Smith