The latest release from Chuck Prophet, Soap and Water, is full of good clean summer fun. The album opens with a thumping pop beat that plays well over the hum of the car's engine, and lyrics to sing out loud after a long day at the water's edge:
I like the way you freckle
I like the way you peel
I love to see your hair in a mess
After the "Freckle Song" the mood quiets into a song destined to be downloaded for mix tapes for years to come, "Would You Love Me?" (video)
Writing songs about love that never mention that very word is a high art. Placing the word "love" in every line of the chorus and then weaving in the crucifixion of Jesus and the adulation of Elvis in the verses? Different, but well-executed.
The whole album is different and well-executed. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to listen to an album straight through in this world of the shuffle. The songs are varied, with deceptively simple hooks and complex arrangements. A song with strong rock guitar riffs is followed by a gentle ballad with horns. The album is a series of short stories, but with a definite reasons for placing each one at the beginning, the middle, or the end as the underlying theme builds.
Each time I listen a new "favorite" emerges. The bluesy riffs of the title song "Soap and Water" pull me in one time through; another time "I Can Feel Your Heartbeat" has me turning up the volume and singing along. Overall, the songs are light-hearted, but not simple-minded. Although, as with many good summer time adventures, actions precede thinking things through: "Let's do something wrong / Let's do something stupid" is always a fun lyric to sing with a 9-year-old boy. (Someone else's 9-year-old. Parents might feel differently.)
On several songs, Nashville's Vine Street Christian Church Children's Choir provides background vocals. The 9-year-old likes the accompaniment. I find the sections with the children's choir are over-orchestrated. I prefer the sections (sometimes within the same song) which serve the pop-rock neat, with a guitar-bass-drums chaser.