Chuck Prophet / Temple Beautiful (YepRoc)

 Temple Beautiful (YepRoc, release date 2/7/12) is a rock and roll concept album that delivers a twelve track homage to San Francisco as seen through the eyes of adopted son and singer/songwriter Chuck Prophet. Chuck describes his latest recording as  "made in San Francisco by San Franciscans about San Francisco" but he's not serving up Rice-A-Roni or riding cable cars and you won't find most of Temple Beautiful in your California history books. Yeah, pre-steroid era hero Willie Mays, martyr for gay rights Mayor Harvey Milk and the devastation of AIDS on the city appear in song but more often than not Chuck  honors the quirky fringe even as he sings of the "heart of the heart of the city."

The colorful cast of characters includes San Francisco eccentrics Emperor Norton and the Red Man to the porn producing Mitchell Brothers of Behind The Green Door fame and the silicone enhanced exotic dancer Carol Doda who shocked San Francisco in the 1960's when she "showed us everything she had and then she showed us all a little more" as America's first topless and then first bottomless dancer. With a tip of the hat to Jimmy Reed's "Bright Lights, Big City", "White Night, Big City" is Prophet's tribute to Harvey Milk who was assassinated by "a little man in a fit of rage." Prophet adds a call and response and doo wops to "White Night" that makes you wonder if Chuck's considered transforming Temple Beautiful into musical theatre for his beloved city. "The Hand Left Hand and the Right Hand" begins with the Mitchell Brothers and then references one or more pairs of feuding musical brothers who have not (yet) committed fratricide as Jim Mitchell did when he shot and killed brother Artie.

On the upbeat vaguely Wrong 'Em Boy0-ish  "Little Girl, Little Boy" Stephanie Finch sings a duet with Chuck on the most playful track on the disc. You'd expect Chuck might have spent some time in bars during his time in the city and two of his former favorite hangouts are highlighted.  The Albion Bar and  Temple Beautiful (the bar was previously the Peoples Temple of Jim Jones infamy which is both cool and creepy) are paid tribute as Chuck recalls the clubs and concerts of his youth.  No history of San Francisco would be complete without a mention of Castro Street: a street that symbolized both liberation and excess with its annual Halloween party. Little Steven named "Temple Beautiful" his "Coolest Song in the World" on an Underground Garage broadcast. Enough said. What can I add to that?

In this age of MP3 files, Spotify and nonexistent or unread liner notes casual fans may be unaware that Chuck co-wrote and played guitar on all of Alejandro Escovedo's Real Animal (2008) as well as co-writing  half the songs on  Street Songs of Love (2010).  Add his political solo disc Let Freedom Ring (2009) and this year's more personal Temple Beautiful and I can't think of a more productive songwriter of quality tunes over the past three years. If you're a fan of complete albums, big guitar and great lyrics you need a copy of Temple Beautiful.  The only thing I don't like about Temple Beautiful is that I won't be in San Francisco on February 7th to take Chuck's Temple Beautiful San Francisco Bus Tour!

 

Thank you to Guy Williams Neal who took offense at my description of him in a previous Chuck Prophet review on No Depression but still introduced me to Chuck.

And in case you missed it..


 

Views: 2103

Comment by Guy Neal Williams on February 1, 2012 at 1:12pm

Anybody who fell hook, line and sinker for The Hurting Business has ears that work. Brother Aldo is superb, glowing, luminous.  The Waylon record is twelve kinds of nuts, but really, really good. He calls Feast of Love a "disaster" but I adore it.  That son of a bitch has about 97 aces up his sleeve best as I can tell.

Comment by Rudyjeep on February 1, 2012 at 2:12pm

There's only a handful of artists who grabbed me at first listen and foremost among them are Chuck and 16 Horsepower. 

Comment by Guy Neal Williams on February 1, 2012 at 4:05pm

16 Horse! I'm impressed. You're from upstate NY, right? I'd bet heavy we know folks in common.

Comment by Rudyjeep on February 2, 2012 at 7:16am

I've been in Rochester for almost 10 years now, but I actually first caught 16 Horsepower on a radio station in Florida in 1996, Guy.  It was "Black Soul Choir" and it blew me away.  I had to run out and get "Sackcloth 'n' Ashes". 

Comment by Guy Neal Williams on February 2, 2012 at 7:28am

Do you know a guy named Tony? Fixture on the Rochester music scene, woiks at the college? Or the Dewey brothers?

Comment by Rudyjeep on February 2, 2012 at 9:47am

There's a lot of Italians in Rochester and a lot of Tony's!  There is a DJ in town named Tony Infantino that has played in a few of the traveling bands (The Skycoasters, Nik and the Nice Guys) but by his own admission, he's the worst one in the band so I doubt if that's who your referring to.  I've never heard of the Dewey Brothers. 

Nationally, Rochester is know for Lou Gramm, Chuck Mangione, Steve Gadd, Mitch Miller and Cab Calloway.  The Campbell Brothers also hail from south of Rochester and Son House lived here for several years as well.  Also, a lot of musicians stop by to shop at the Great House of Guitars.  It is a unique experience and unlike any music store in the country.    

Comment by Hal Bogerd on February 2, 2012 at 6:18pm

Comment by Jack on February 3, 2012 at 4:58pm

Sometimes the chips just fall right...Chuck was just booked at Fitzgerald's for 3/23.  Am seeing Dave Alvin there 3/9, Joe Ely 2/17-18 and Jon Dee Graham 2/16.  Sure heats up the dead of winter.  Looking forward to hearing Temple Beautiful.

Comment by Hal Bogerd on February 3, 2012 at 5:18pm

Jack, You have an extra room where I can crash for a month? I can't complain since I saw Chuck, Dave, Joe and John Dee (with Sam Baker) over the last year.

Enjoy!

Hal

Comment by Allan Hoving on February 5, 2012 at 5:22am

I'd follow him anywhere

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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.