Chuck Prophet’s “Temple Beautiful” Takes Early Lead In 2012 Best Album Sweeps

 Okay, it’s way early even to be thinking this way, but you know how sometimes in the downhill, one of the early skiers gets a line that is so fast, they serve notice on everyone up the mountain that they’re going to have to go all out to beat them, or else just vie for second place?  Chuck Prophet’s finest release yet, Temple Beautiful, lays down a gauntlet, and come November, we’ll replay it for the whole gang at Tulip Frenzy World HQ, and remind them how much excitement it created in the winter months.  We doubt too many other artists this year are going to take such risks, and such a clean line, as this ‘un does.

The songwriting bears such a resemblance to what Prophet did with Alejandro Escovedo on Real Animal that whether via Pandora’s algorithms or Songza’s human curation, songs from these two albums are going to be like Noah’s matched pairs.  Temple Beautiful is Prophet’s homage to his adopted San Francisco, while Real Animal was a tour through Al’s rock’n’roll career, both thick with memory and myth without tipping into nostalgia.  Okay, maybe a song about Willie Mays is tipping into nostalgia.  But Prophet’s band is so tight, the guitar work by both Prophet and his ace sidekick James Deprato so razor sharp, and the songs so strong, it’s easy to forgive the occasional self-indulgent dip.

Like Real Animal,  Temple Beautiful is as much an homage to earlier bands and the music Prophet loves — from the same Mott the Hoople antecedents to the Plimsouls, from “Hey Joe” to the Flamin’ Groovies (Roy Loney guests!) — as it is to his city.  Over a long career, whether with Green On Red or on his own, Prophet has always played real rock’n’roll, but his spoken-word singing has never quite grabbed us as it does here. Add taking the bus Prophet’s hired to haul fans around San Francisco on March 30th as just one more reason you’d want to live in the Bay Area.  For us, we’re just glad that Alejandro’s close collaborator of the last few years has released an album that is every bit as good as anything Al’s put out on his remarkable recent run.

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