It’s been a long time coming, the release date delayed by that pesky virus which also robbed us here in the UK of experiencing one of the best bands around as Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express’s tour was cancelled, but here at last is The Land That Time Forgot. It’s certainly a more nuanced affair than the rockin’ assault that was Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins as Prophet dials it back somewhat. There’s whacks of sumptuous retro rock harking back to classic sixties sounds, Brill building brilliance, along with a healthy dose of San Francisco beat cool and some creamy pedal steel infused country rock. A true rock’n’roll romantic, Prophet inhales music much as we inhale air and it shows on this superlative set of songs.
The album kicks off with the expansive thrash of jangled guitars, baritone sax and female harmonies which is Best Shirt On, a great mix of sixties pop and Stax riffs. The harmonies are by Prophet’s partner, Stephanie Finch, and it’s gratifying to find her featured prominently on several of the songs here including Marathon. This has a similar robotic beat to In The Mausoleum (on the Fuller album) but it adds funky Farfisa organ and the guitar melody from Mrs. Robinson to the mix adding up to a heady dose of what, for want of a better word, we’ll call freakbeat. Fast Kid meanwhile muscles in with a Warren Zevon like swagger while Love Doesn’t Come From The Barrel Of A Gun, aside from name checking some classic songs, comes across as a yacht rock song if the yacht was crewed by pirates.
High As Johnny Thunders, aside from being a nod to the late rock’n’roll icon, is Prophet at his laconic best as he lays down this tale riddled with inversions (“If Bukowski was good looking and Napoleon was tall”). It’s Prophet as a Lou Reed like narrator and he revisits this on Willi And Nilli, a tale of star crossed lovers who like to play Metallica loud. Meet Me At The Roundabout is another song about young lovers but here Prophet envelopes the song in an incredibly sweet arrangement with delicate washes of guitar and keyboards. It sets the scene for Prophet’s moving portrait of a teenage runaway on Waving Goodbye which, despite its LA canyon like creaminess, is ultimately somewhat despairing.
Three songs here feature three presidents (two dead, one alive). Paying My Respects To The Train, a wonderfully country stained lament, alludes to Lincoln’s last journey from Washington to Illinois for his burial but Prophet concentrates on the bystanders for whom it’s just a fleeting moment as they get on with their lives. Nixonland looms large as Prophet climbs into a time machine to recall his early days when Nixon was the Prez. It’s a pretty scathing portrait of tricky Dickie, worthy of good old Hunter S Thompson with Prophet picking up on Nixon’s pathological illeism, a grandiose manner of speaking about oneself in the third person. Speaking of which, Prophet closes the album with a direct assault on the current incumbent of the White House. Get Off The Stage is as close to an old-fashioned protest song that Prophet has delivered so far but he does it with some style over a quasi Dylan folk rock style. He casually dismisses Trump with some barbed lyrics and a healthy sense that sometime America will come to its senses.
All in all, The Land That Time Forgot is another stellar album from Prophet, a man who has been on a roll for at least the past decade. So please dig in and listen.