Prayer of a Common Man

Prayer of a Common Man

5.0 1
by Phil Vassar
     
 
Phil Vassar gives voice to a singular moment of American unrest, circa 2008 on his latest. The churchy piano and velvety background vocals rising up from the thunderous arrangement of "Prayers of a Common Man" only enhance the sense of things gone awry that's documented in Vassar's lyrics -- from diminishing paychecks to foreclosed homes -- before he cries out, "I'm

Overview

Phil Vassar gives voice to a singular moment of American unrest, circa 2008 on his latest. The churchy piano and velvety background vocals rising up from the thunderous arrangement of "Prayers of a Common Man" only enhance the sense of things gone awry that's documented in Vassar's lyrics -- from diminishing paychecks to foreclosed homes -- before he cries out, "I'm not looking for charity / I just want some clarity / I've got people counting on me / And I'm up against the wall..." But you don't have wait for this, the fifth song, to come around to feel the heat. A modest, tinkling piano kicks off the first tune, "This Is My Life," before a storm of screaming violins upends the calm and Vassar enters declaiming against "fat cats just getting fatter," inveighing against policies that "stick it to the middle class," and demanding a fair shake. Some Beatles-ish woodwinds in the background might divert attention from the next arresting lyric, when Vassar seems to suggest it's time to tear down the system completely and start over, "spread all that wealth around." Phil Vassar: Marxist or populist? Throughout, though, he leavens the dread with a Springsteen-like rocker about a youth gloriously misspent cruising, "My Chevrolet," and an unabashed homage to the "Honky Tonk Women"-era Rolling Stones in the searing, slightly salacious drive and shout outs in "Baby Rocks." "It's a crazy life / it keeps you on your toes," he observes philosophically at the end in "Crazy Life," a piano-based, surging ballad reflecting on the path he's traveled, the trials, the friendships, and the uncertainty of each new day that keeps things interesting. Hope floats.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It's hard to call Phil Vassar's Prayer of a Common Man a concept album, as it contains no narrative, but it sure is conceptual, built upon the trials and travails of the common man in 2008, which naturally means there are plenty of passing references to Republicans and Democrats and the high price of gas. Vassar pumps Prayer full of everyman melodrama and easy nostalgia, supporting his conversational clichés with music that is country in marketing only, as he chooses to support his tales of the common man with songs that deliberately evoke John Mellencamp and Bob Seger -- quite literally so with the latter, as Vassar builds in allusions to "Night Moves" and "Roll Me Away" on "My Chevrolet," which plays as if penned for a year-long television ad campaign. He may aspire to Mellencamp and Seger, but his reliance on grandiose piano runs makes large sections of Prayer of a Common Man feel like the work of a Midwestern Billy Joel, especially as the first half of the album is heavy on overheated songs, designed to fill arenas but almost feeling better suited for a theatrical production. Things get a little looser as the album rolls on, as Vassar eases into a great little zydeco rocker called "Why Don't Ya" and indulges in some surprisingly effective psychedelia lite on the chorus of "It's Only Love," which recalls the better moments of Big Kenny. These tunes prove that Vassar is at his best when he doesn't try quite so hard.

Product Details

Release Date:
04/22/2008
Label:
Universal South
UPC:
0602517329614
catalogNumber:
000890702

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Prayer of a Common Man 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago