Of Love, Jessie James, Elvis, America and God
Tim Brough | Springfield, PA United States | 08/26/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A stunningly ambitious album, Prefab Sprout's four part "Jordan: The Comeback" is an old fashioned double album with a concept per "side." The first looks at love and the wildness of youth, the second explores American mythology of the 50's via Elvis, Jessie James and the cold war, the third, love as an adult getting married, and lastly, an examination of God and the Devil. Sterling production from Thomas Dolby complimented Paddy McAloon's folkish lyrics, and all together, this was as flawless an album as the classics xtc's Skylarking or Talk Talk's Spirit of Eden.
In addition to the flawless flow of the songs, there is an array of classic songs to be found. The waltz-time heartbreaker "We Let The Stars Go" should have been a hit. "Carnival 2000" looked optimistically at the coming turn of the century with a Brazilian Beat and the Irish Prayer
"We ask for any wrong we've done
the years ahead forgive us.
We ask for any good we've done
that all of it outlive us."
Then comes the chapter of Elvis and Jessie, as Elvis watches his own funeral and complains about Albert Grossman's hack biography. Jessie James is a "dance upon the run," bemoaning that he's not portrayed as a culturally adept individual. Looking for class in his departure, he wonders "Don't goodbyes deserve some Bach, not Barbershop?" Meanwhile, Elvis plots his final comeback as the side closes with "Moondog."
But the best, and most ambitious, part of "Jordan" happens as God and The Devil square off in the fourth part. God wishes that his songs came to him as simple pleasures ("One of The Broken") as The Devil petitions to come back home ("Michael"). We're finally left with Paddy contemplating the afterlife, praying that he and his loved ones will meet again. After all, he sings, "If there ain't a Heaven that holds you tonight, then they never sang DooWop in Harlem."
"Jordan: The Comeback" is just as good as Steve McQueen (recently reissued in a deluxe version) and was easily one of 1990's best albums. It was also one of Thomas Dolby's finest hours as a producer, matching his love for Joni Mitchell sensitivity to McAloon's complex lyricism. McAloon also must have felt the strain of his own ambition: he didn't make another album for another six years. As such, "Jordan: The Comeback" is a terrific album to rest his legacy on."
Paddy McAloon's masterpiece
R. P. Spretnak | Las Vegas, Nevada USA | 08/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In a career that span three decades, Prefab Sprout has an extraordinary number of breathtaking beautiful songs. Even against the backdrop of so much great music, "Jordan: The Comeback" is very likely Paddy McAloon's masterpiece. 90 years of American pop music are condensed into 19 memorable tracks, reputedly inspired by McAloon's twin obsessions of Jesse James and Elvis Presley. At the same time, McAloon observes and comments upon the American obsession with the cult of celebrity. And it works because all (well, nearly all) of the 19 tracks are great stand-alone pop songs.
Thomas Dolby's production work provides just the right amount of polish. Given that this followed the overly-smoothed, too-cute "From Langley Park to Memphis" (the immediate predecessor in terms of when the records were recorded, not in order of release), that lighter touch was something that couldn't have been taken for granted.
The party-jazz of "Carnival 2000" is good fun. "Machine Gun Ibiza" employs a spare funk sound that is so effective that it could have come directly from Queen's "The Game." (Yes, Queen is not American band, but "The Game," with tracks showing disparate influences such as Chic and rockabilly, was far and away Queen's most "American" sounding record.) "Wedding March" is a clever bit of flapper-era pop. The cult of celebrity is best explored in the back-to-back "Jesse James Symphony"/"Jesse James Bolero." The two most obviously Elvis-inspired numbers, "Jordan: the Comeback" and "Moon Dog," also make for great listening.
However, I could have done without the maudlin hymn "One of the Broken," a schmaltzy appeal to help the less fortunate. One clunker in 19 tracks is a pretty good batting average, though."