Chuck Prophet

Age of Miracles

For years, the Bay Area's Chuck Prophet has been "utility guitarist" to the alternastars: Aside from membership in Green on Red in the '80s, his credits include Penelope Houston, Cake, and Warren Zevon. His solo career began in 1990, and with luck his latest, Age of Miracles, will garner him greater acclaim, as it's as fine a roots rock album as you'll hear all year. Prophet draws upon American sounds beyond country and blues, never endeavors to sound "authentic," and augments his earthiness with ambition. "Just to See You Smile" is a great devotional -- or parody of a devotional -- love song, presented with a neat-o Phil Spector-via-Springsteen wall of sound, complete with chiming guitar riffs. Throughout, there are strains of '70s R&B/soul (wah-wah'd guitar, funky grooves) and '60s orchestrated pop (sultry, far-off-sounding strings); "You Did" even mixes languid trip-hop beats with '60s garage-band organ and Rickenbacker. Prophet sings with a cynical (but heartfelt) Tom Petty-meets-Iggy Pop drawl, and his hearty six-string sound has a coiled-kingsnake bite.

 
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