Acoustic Sounds

John Prine

John Prine



Label: Analog Productions/Atlantic Records

Produced By: Arif Mardin

Engineered By: Stan Kesler

Mixed By: Arif Mardin

Lacquers Cut By: Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound, Nashville

By: Michael Fremer

December 12th, 2023



John Prine's Remarkable 1971 Debut Album Has Never Sounded This Good

even the dated tunes retain their charms

We are all products of the times in which we live, to one degree or another, though some people transcend time. Listening to John Prine's 1971 debut album makes clear that he was at that time a product of it. If you want to understand the "zeitgeist of that time using music as your guide, this album is a good a place to start.

Prine opens with an obvious song about weed but younger listeners might not get the Hoffman reference. "Spanish Pipedream" is the quintessential "get back to the country" sentiment so popular at that time but sung by a draft dodger. "Hello In There" is the albums first outright classic—one of at least four on the record—that points to midwestern disaffectedness that drives much of today's politics. It was then and remains now a very sad song.

"Sam Stone", the one about the PTSD afflicted Vietnam vet who commits suicide with the memorable refrain " (there's a) hole in daddy's arm where all the money goes", digs into the futility of war with mordant humor. "Paradise", a song about coal miner displacement is another song of that time and of this time.

"Pretty Good" is a Dylanesque fantasy dream that's yet another look at the futility of "it all". As for "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore", it's of that time too, and sadly of this time too, but again because Prine did pound it with a heavy hammer, it still works.

If you had to pick one song as the album's classic it would of course be "Angel From Montgomery", owned by Bonnie Raitt until Susan Tedeschi grabbed a big piece of it. Fortunately there's enough there for both of them and of course John Prine too.

1971 was a year of disaffection and ennui. The Beatles had broken up, the hippie dream was over, four kids were shot in Ohio by National Guardsmen and you had CSN&Y singing a protest song that was powerful at the time but who wants to listen now? Prine's eyeglass was focused on all of the same things but his was an ironic, detached P.O.V. that remains vital and relevant.

The record is of that time but it is somehow of this time too, though Prine's delivery and from where in his throat he's singing obviously owes a great deal to Dylan. But that's really all he owed to Dylan; just a launching pad to his own destiny.

Some artists are one hit wonders and one album wonders. Not Prine. He kept doing it and gathering up new fans right until the end even when sickness made a physical mess of him. His final album Tree of Forgiveness on his own Oh Boy Records released in 2018 debuted at #5 on the Billboard 200. His highest charted record. He died of complications of "the Covid hoax" at age 73.

Almost all of this simply but tastefully arranged production was recorded at Chip Moman's original American Recording Studios, Memphis Tennessee out of which came so many hits and great sounding recordings. One track was put to tape at Phil Ramone's A&R Studios, but somehow until this reissue the recording's true sonic excellence was well hidden. This reissue cut by Ryan Smith using the original master tapes puts you in the studio with Prine and much Southern instrumental talent, or Prine in your room, or however you wish your head to arrange it.

Definitely a fitting title for the Atlantic 75th Anniversary celebration, musically and sonically. Like the label, it's a record that stands the test of time.

Music Specifications

Catalog No: APA 004-45

Pressing Plant: QRP


Speed/RPM: 45

Weight: 180 grams

Size: 12"

Channels: Stereo

Source: original master tapes

Presentation: Multi LP


  • 2023-12-12 10:14:51 PM

    Nathan Ogan wrote:

    Thanks for reviewing. Love these early Prine records. I have the 2021 VMP reissue also cut by Ryan Smith. I’m sure this 45 RPM is better though.

    • 2023-12-13 07:12:48 PM

      Anton wrote:

      I had a cassette tape I recorded with "Diamonds in the Rough" on one side, and "Sweet Revenge" on the other.

      It got stuck in my car player and now way I could find to pry it out.

      So, it was there an entire year and I didn't mind. It stayed until I parted with the car. For all I know, it's still there - that is how I imagine it.

      John Prine was superlative, for sure.

  • 2023-12-12 10:24:09 PM

    Michael Kaye wrote:

    Thank you for singling this album out for praise. It's a beautiful record. Loved the picture you painted of 1971. If I was an actor, I would think of the song Hello in There to cry on cue. A great great song. Can't wait to order it for my Christmas gift to myself.

  • 2023-12-13 07:02:05 AM

    James Ellis wrote:

    Sorry to pick up on a typo, but it's Chips Moman.

    • 2023-12-13 11:37:03 AM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      a name I know that offing "auto spell correct doesn't". The worst part is that it sometimes makes the 'correction' well after it's been correctly spelled. Of course I'll ficks.

  • 2023-12-13 08:37:15 AM

    chet wrote:

    Mr.Prine was/is one of the finest writers of true American music. Simple,direct, nonsentimental and real. I find that music lovers from other countries don't get him. Saw John the summer of 1980 with unfortunately,JJ Walker. John's show was one of the top five shows I ever heard,that includes The Stones,Who,Band,Jefferson Airplane,you get it. At least wedidn't have to sit through Walker's long live dixie trash. Cheers,Chet

    • 2023-12-13 02:42:40 PM

      Max Bisgrove wrote:

      This music loving sound engineer from the UK got to mix his set at the Cambridge Folk Festival 2002 and "got him" instantly. I life long devotee ever since. I can't wait to recieve my copy of this pressing.

  • 2023-12-16 03:42:46 PM

    Seamus MacGleannain wrote:

    He died of complications of "the Covid hoax" at age 73.

    Michael, that is a shocking statement you have put in the middle of a music review. You have no idea of his circumstances and the hurt it might cause his family.

    • 2023-12-16 07:16:07 PM

      Tim Ware wrote:

      Shocking only if your ear is not attuned to irony/sarcasm, telegraphed loudly by those winking quotation marks.

      • 2023-12-17 02:16:19 PM

        Seamus MacGleannain wrote:

        The comment is neither ironic or sarcastic, it is just plain crass! It's a music review and it was uncalled for.

        • 2023-12-19 01:07:18 PM

          Mike Vordo wrote:

          It's well documented that he did die of COVID complications. Why is this out of line?

          • 2023-12-19 02:48:16 PM

            Seamus MacGleannain wrote:

            it is not what you say, it is the way that you say it... ''the Covid hoax''.

            • 2023-12-24 04:18:02 PM

              Fsonicsmith wrote:

              A certain family refused to wear masks-despite orders to the contrary- while on stage at a debate and you don't get the political reference.

  • 2024-01-05 07:45:09 PM

    David Driscoll wrote:

    This is a must have to replace my aging copy. Every song is a keeper. And, unfortunately his lyrics remain timeless, and relevant.

  • 2024-01-05 07:45:16 PM

    David Driscoll wrote:

    This is a must have to replace my aging copy. Every song is a keeper. And, unfortunately his lyrics remain timeless, and relevant.