Protest Songs rivals 'Steve McQeen' as the sprouts finest work, tracks like pearly gates and talking scarlet are masterpieces that were never releasd as singles, protest songs was actually recorded in 1985 (right after steve McQ) but was not released for another 4 years, I wonder why. All 10 tracks are excellent(you can't that say very often) and show Paddy McAloon to be one of the truly great modern composers. If you appreciate intelligent tuneful music get this Album you will love it forever.
This was Prefab Sprout's forth album, although chronologically it was their third recorded album and really falls between their breakthrough album “Steve McQueen” and it's commercially successful follow-up “From Langley Park to Memphis”. It has the feel of an unfulfilled project with a different overall sound from the albums it was sandwiched between. However this is still an album with much to enjoy.
With ten tracks, all written by Paddy MacAloon, you get the familiar Sprout's mix of melody and clever lyrics. Best tracks are: “The World Awake”; “Life of Surprises” and “Dublin”. At the time of writing this review the media is marking the upcoming anniversary of the death in 1997 of Diana, Princess of Wales, with saturation coverage on television and newspapers. A track on the album simply called “Diana”, written in 1985, seems prophetic in it's study of Diana's relationship with the media and it's forewarnings of betrayal!
To correct / add to other reviews here - 1) this isn't a collection of B-sides etc, it's a full album project which was shelved in its entirety in favour of "From Langley Park to Memphis". And 2) of COURSE "Diana" is about Diana, Princess of Wales - the lyric "arms that hold sweet William to her breast" should give it away... it's also a fantastically prescient take on media images of the princess and especially interesting when you consider the mawkish cult of sentimental pseudo-worship that sprang up around her after she died.
Other than that - great album, was always well worth a release in its own right. "Dublin" probably the highlight for me. McAloon's chord structuring is every bit as fantastic as his oft-praised lyrical genius. There are apparently 3 more entire Sprout albums which never saw the light of day!
Ye gods. I consider myself a record collector, but here I sit, thoroughly ashamed of myself, because I missed this one ... I loved 'Steve McQueen' and 'From Langley Park to Memphis' to pieces. I played the vinyl until I wore it out. But I totally missed this one going by. 'Protest Songs' fits absolutely perfectly after 'Steve McQueen', but, despite being recorded in 1985, it was not released until 1989. They must have had their reasons. I don't find it difficult to transport myself back to 1985. It was a highly significant year in my life for all kinds of reasons. And this sounds to me like the album that's always been missing from my record collection. Five stars. Five stars. I love it!
Originally intended as the follow-up to the masterful 'Steve McQueen', 'Protest Songs' was eventually released in 1989 after the previous year's highly successful 'From Langley Park To Memphis' L.P. For me, this is a decent collection of material with the likes of 'Life Of Surprises', 'Horsechimes', 'Dublin', 'Diana', 'Talking Scarlet' and 'Pearly Gates' all worthy of mention here.
I was a huge Prefab Sprout fan after coming to the party through From Langley. I loved that album at the time, but now look back on it as rather over produced and over indulgent, though still with the wonderful lyrical and musical genius of Paddy McAloon. In terms of production, Protest Songs is the complete opposite. According to McAloon himself, this wasn't originally intended as a follow-up to Steve McQueen, but actually as a companion disc to it. The record company persuaded him to change his mind, citing that it would be a commercial compromise, so Protest Songs was put on ice. The idea was that Protest Songs would be a more 'stripped down' album, juxtaposed with the glossy production of Steve McQueen (No Thomas Dolby in sight on Protest Songs). Protest Songs is quite simply a beautiful album. From the catchy The World Awake through to the tear jerking masterpiece that is Pearly Gates (arguably my favourite Paddy McAloon song from his extensive body of work). Life's observations are covered : relationships (Life Of Surprises), infidelity (Talking Scarlett), social comment (Dublin), mortality (Pearly Gates) - all with the perfect lyrical panache that is expected. This album had no promotion at all, no lead single (until Life Of Surprises was issued as a single to promote the best of collection 3 years later). Did McAloon make the right decision to concede to his record company? Maybe, maybe not. It was more in CBS's interest than his, after all. I remember Hue and Cry re-releasing their album Remote in 1989 (a year after its original release), which was given away with their new album at the time, Bitter Suite (a live album). Maybe CBS (Kitchenware) should have tried that approach ;-)
this was suppose to be the follow up to "steve mcqueen" but was shelved in favour of "langley park" and only surfaced a few years later as an extra release with no singles and little publicity..still it reached no18 in the top twenty in the album charts....it is the missing link between the two albums..and surpasses "langley park" which although gave commercial success...a lot of the heart seemed to be missing! where the sprouts desperate for success or was it commercial pressure!
still the album is great...ten great tracks! "world awake" and "wicked things" have all the hit quality of "faron young" or "appetite"..."life of surprises" was released as a single as part of the greatest hits package and is one the strongest songs they recorded..full of love, hope and happiness!
"talking scarlett" is brill as is "tiffanys" and the acoustic "dublin"
"diana" could have been written as a song for the lovely princess...i dont know if it was..but is sounds more poignant in retrospect!
a wonderful collection of songs...not as amazing as "steve mcqueen" but one for your collection!