- Audio CD (June 5 1990)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Atlantic
- ASIN: B000002I79
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Audio Cassette | LP Record
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #8,309 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Prine started veering rock 'n' roll on this 1973 album, and the result was one of the toughest "folk" albums ever recorded.
For his third album, John Prine returned to the fuller sound of his landmark debut while venturing into increasingly cryptic lyrical terrain. Songs such as "Mexican Home," "Accident (Things Could Be Worse)," and "Blue Umbrella" are open-to-interpretation explorations that reveal the songsmith's intrepid reflections; they're also among the 12-song set's best numbers. "Dear Abby" is a comical novelty number while "Christmas in Prison" is a doleful in-the-clink carol. The openhearted "A Good Time" slipped into the shadows after Sweet Revenge (like Prine's other Atlantic albums) failed to hit commercial paydirt, but it's as touching as anything Prine has penned. This outing isn't as musically distinctive as Prine's other albums from his early period, but as collections of songs go, it's first-rate. --Steven Stolder
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First and foremost, John Prine is a poet. The words to many of his songs could stand very well on their own, without music; in fact, I'd love to see a book published of just the lyrics he has written over the years. Many of his songs are about the lives of everyday people, in some cases people forgotten by society, but he manages to find deep social truths in their lives. Therefore, John Prine's songs certainly do repay close attention to the words. And such humor! Lines such as "All of my friends are not dead or in jail" from the title track are even funnier to me now than they were back when I first heard the song.
However, even though the words to many of his songs are sufficient unto themselves as poetry, his unique voice certainly adds an extra welcome dimension to them. And don't be fooled; he may sound as though he is just tossing these songs off, but behind that facade (and that craggy voice) is a fantastic musician who knows exactly what he wants from each song in terms of shading, dynamics and the rest.
Certainly the funniest number on the album is "Dear Abby," which also gives us a glimpse of John's throwaway spoken humor. My first reaction to this song, many years ago, was "She's giving the same advice to each person," but when I finally stopped to think about it, I realized that John, through the imaginary words of Dear Abby, is saying that many of us are the cause of our own problems, and often for the very same reasons. For John Prine, even humor has its serious side.
On the other end of the spectrum is my favorite track on the album, "Christmas in Prison." This song, which reflects the thoughts and experiences of a man who is incarcerated, is about a topic that is obviously very dear to John: the love relationship that, because of circumstances, is forced to exist mainly in the mind of the lovers for the time being; he also explored this subject in "Donald and Lydia" from his first, self-titled album. While the words resemble some of those "Redneck-Valentine's-Day-card"-type jokes that have been circulating on the internet recently, and certainly the song has its humorous aspect, the sincerity of John's voice and delivery raise the song way above the level of a mere joke. And the final line of the chorus, "We're rolling, my sweetheart, we're flowing, by God," shows us the narrator's ability to still be one with his beloved despite the enforced separation between them.
But each song brings its own unique perspective to the mix. "The Accident" is an early and humorous statement of the current cliche, "Don't sweat the small stuff; everything is small stuff." "A Good Time" is a touching and very understated love song. And so forth.
But the neat thing is about John Prine's art is that the songs can be appreciated without reference to their deep meanings. I can appreciate just about all of them for their surface value alone: the words in themselves are clever as words, while at the same time not drawing attention to themselves merely for being clever, as, for example, some country songs do.
John Prine often ends his albums with a song that someone else has made famous; it is here that we get to see a little of what he considers to be his roots. The final track of "Sweet Revenge" is "Nine Pound Hammer" by Merle Travis. While I most enjoy hearing John Prine performing his own unique material, it's still great to hear what he can do with another's music. But hell, I'd probably even enjoy hearing him invading Pavarotti's territory and singing "La donna e mobile" from Rigoletto.
John Prine is an artist, poet and musician well worth your time. And I personally can't think of a better place to start investigating his work than with "Sweet Revenge." But then again, since this album is where I started, I'm a little bit prejudiced.
Blue Umbrella is a guy deciding whether to break it off with his girl, and he's doing the deciding while walking in the rain under a blue umbrella. It has great lines, typically great "Prine Lines." This song touches my heart.
A Good Time is also fine. The chorus is "But, I never understood what a good time could cost... Til last night, when I sat and talked with you." Talking with her made him understand.
Mexican home is a mood song. Its unusual rhythms and mellow delivery almost make you think of the influence of alcohol.
Dear Abby is Prine's humor at its most wry. If you can listen without smiling, I wouldn't want to spend time with you.
! This album is an absolute must for any Prine Fan.
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