Soundstage was a live concert series that aired on PBS from 1974 to 1985. This DVD, scheduled for release on March 27, 2007, serves as an important chronicle of the “singer/songwriter” era (late seventies and early eighties). John Prine is perhaps the most revered member of this phenomenon, having been dubbed “the new Dylan” (a fate that hung like an albatross around the necks of the likes of Loudon Wainwright (Rufus’ dad), Steve Forbert, and many more very capable artists. In Prine’s case, I’ll suggest that his canon matches or eclipses Dylan’s over the years as Prine remains a gifted songwriter to this day, through a 356 year career.
Prine’s debut album hit in 1971 and featured a slew of folkie/C&W masterpieces (Illegal Smile, Your Flag Decal Won’t get You into Heaven Anymore (disturbingly appropriate whether its Iraq or Vietnam), Paradise, Angel from Montgomery, and Sam Stone. To this day, I don’t think any debut album can match this one.
With the release of the “Soundstage” concert, we finally have a visual companion to many of Prine’s “hits”. In addition to the live performances, we are given a series of interviews with Pine as he tours the town he grew up in (Maywood, Illinois---is Sujfian Stevens listening?). For me, the highlight was a duet of “Paradise” played on the back porch of the house that Prine Grew up in (“Daddy won’t you take me back to Mulenberg County…”). The live footage includes staples like…”Spanish Pipedream” (“Blow up your TV”), “Angel Fro Montgomery”, “Ubangi Stomp”, “Hello in There (maybe my all-time favorite Prine piece), and “Bruised Orange”.
The Chicago folk scene at this time, featured John Prine, Steve Goodman (City of New Orleans), Michael Smith (The Dutchman), and Bonnie Raitt. The Soundstage DVD provides a much needed glimpse into that era. There’s some serious pedal steel playing and a couple of guest appearances by rockabilly singer Billy Lee Riley.
This DVD took me back a few years. I hope it starts to give John Prine the recognition he truly deserves.