John's second release from 1972 is enjoyable from beginning to end... he opens with "Everybody", a catchy little tune where he offers to lend an ear to Jesus ("I said 'Jesus, you look tired.' He said 'Jesus! So do you!'").
"Souvenirs" is a brilliant Steve Goodman cover and "Sour Grapes" is a fabulous fable-turned-song that points out that we have every right to be upset when things don't go our way.
"Billy the Bum" is a dark tale, beautifully told, about finding joy in life's simple pleasures and not letting the jerks of the world get to you. "The Frying Pan" should be required listening for young men about to wed.
John shows that he's not through protesting Vietnam (yes, he served) with "Take the Star Out of the Window" and "The Great Compromise". The latter is slyly wrapped up as a love song with the good ole U.S. of A. playing the part of his "girl".
The CD ends with the title song, a Carter Family tune rendered a capella and if you listen closely at the end, you can hear producer Arif Mardin sum up the whole CD...
Avoids sophomore jinx
Tyler Smith | Denver, CO United States | 01/19/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Although not quite as powerful as his self-titled debut album, "Diamonds in the Rough" still manages to hold its own with its eclectic collection of tunes. Prine's voice sounds, to me, even more rough-hewn and whiskey-soaked, an extremely evocative instrument that conveys deep humor and sorrow in the same album.For me, the poignancy of Prine's writing and performing is best on display in "Souvenirs." The idea of the singer looking back wistfully on what he has lost has been much worked and can be ruined by sentimentality. But Prine conveys a sense of real loss. After cataloging the items, he sings, "It took me years/To get those souvenirs/And I don't know how they slipped away from me." It's a lament for the passage of time and friends and relatives gone, not for the material things themselves.There is finely crafted protest, as well, with "Take the Star Out of the Window," a comment on a soldier's innocence lost in war. While the unspoken reference is to Vietnam, with overtones of the My Lai massacre that stained America's misadventure there, Prine humanizes the tune and makes it universal ("Take the star out of the window/And let my conscience take a rest.")As I noted, there is plenty of humor in the record as well, particularly in "I Guess They Oughta Name a Drink After You," a great sendup of the tried-and-true singer-crying-in-his-beer tune.A couple of the songs don't work as well as others (the first album contained no weak songs, to my ears), but overall this is a strong effort, a release that grew on me with repeated listenings."
My Favorite Prine
T. Rock | Ashland, Oregon USA | 02/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was a kid working graveyard in a gas station working my way through my freshman year of college when the first self-titled John Prine album was released. I still remember the rush when I first heard "Illegal Smile" playing over the station radio one night about midnight. Shortly after that, he showed up in the studio of my favorite radio station - I think it was KPPC - you old LA'ers will remember that one, and played "the Late John Garfield Blues live over the radio. The DJ was so blown away by the song that he asked John if he would play it again, and he did. After running out and getting the album ($3.00 for vinyl those days), and hearing it all the way through, I knew he was another great one like my other singer/songwriter idols Lennon, Dylan and Ochs. The second album - "Diamonds In the Rough" - was somehow even better. Not as slick, or even as deep, but incredibly organic and heartfelt. Even though his biggest hits are on other albums, if I could only keep one of his, it would be "Diamonds." Even though I am an old fart now, that listens mostly to jazz, I still love it and consider it an essential."
Classic John Prine--from spiritual to the absurd.
T. Rock | 03/02/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rolling Stone ranked John Prine as one of the most influential songwriters of the 1970s, and this record is one of the reasons why. The more obvious antiwar songs are overshadowed by the simple faith that is constant theme throughout Prine's work. Diamonds in the Rough, the title song sung a capella, is the perfect vehicle for Prine's ragged voice. The his clever plays on words offer a humorous undertone to the bleak themes of Late John Garfield Blues and The Great Compromise. I have been listening to Prine since 1973 and never tire of this record."
The best John Prine album ever
Quazi | Sterling, VA | 09/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A very simple set of brilliant tunes. Mainly just John and his guitar - just the way it ought to be. Funny tunes ("yes I guess they ought to name a drink after you" & "The Frying Pan") and soulful tunes ("John Garfield blues" and "The Tourch Singer").
This is a must have for anyone that likes Prine!"
Loungepop | California | 05/08/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This album is very bare-bones but is strong throughout, and contains one of the greatest songs ever written - "Souvenirs" The most heartfelt song of rememberence ever penned will send shivers down your spine every time you hear it.
"I hate graveyards and old pawnshops, for they always bring me tears. I can't forgive the way they rob me, of my childhood souvenirs".
This album also contains "The Great Compromise" which would otherwise be the best song on this album (or any other album) if it weren't for Souvenirs."