http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/fc0b20852ad242071a2f0aaa9f9a8b5b92054dda.jpg Sweet Revenge

John Prine

Sweet Revenge

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 0 0
January 31, 1974

Sweet Revenge is another side of John Prine, a departure from the nearly unrelenting somberness of his earlier work, and an engaging picture of the social being beneath the social conscience. It's a more human work, more mature, and a step forward artistically and toward a wider audience.

Its folk humor ("Please Don't Bury Me") rivals any anonymous classic, while it is at the same time too distinctive to have been written by anyone but Prine. A pluggedin band provides a big-beat feel throughout, as well as the backbone for a few downright rockers, including the title song and "Mexican Home."

Prine hasn't gone so far as to cut himself off at his roots. "Christmas In Prison" is nearly as self-conscious and awkward as any ballad he's penned about the System's Victims. Rather it's that his familiar concerns are being seen to better advantage from a different perspective: They benefit from a lighter touch.

Situations that might have drowned us in dolorousness ("Grandpa Was a Carpenter") lose their maudlin quality through his uptempo delivery that slams the door on sentimentality. On "Dear Abbey" he takes a related tack. A chorus of the identical piece of practical advice frames stanzas of "comic" dilemmas until finally the message sinks in. Prine isn't poking fun at the platitudes, he's seeing the sense in common sense.

What might have been merely a joke ("The Accident") is slowed down so we can hear the groans behind the giggles. What could have been bleak ("A Good Time") is belied by a driving beat. He balances on edges: scolding without really insulting, stating his grievances without lapsing into self-pity. Prine is conjuring effects denied to simpler artists while putting to rest the rumor that he himself is simple. The result on Sweet Revenge is his best record yet.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Madame George”

    Van Morrison | 1968

    One of the first stream-of-consciousness epics to make it onto a Van Morrison record, his drawn-out farewell to the eccentric "Madame George" lasted nearly 10 minutes, combining ingredients from folk, jazz and classical music. The character that gave the song its title provoked speculation that it was about a drag queen, though Morrison denied this in Rolling Stone. "If you see it as a male or a female or whatever, it's your trip," he remarked. "I see it as a ... a Swiss cheese sandwich. Something like that."

    More Song Stories entries »