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Album Review: “Prayer Of A Common Man” by Phil Vassar

April 24, 2008

Prayer of a Common Man

Phil Vassar, country music’s piano man, releases his fourth studio album and his first project off of Universal Records. Despite its promise, Phil’s latest album comes off as a duel concept album, love and the condition of the world for the middle class. It’s far from his best work and contains several errors that take away much of it’s glory. Here’s the breakdown.

The album begins, as it should, with Phil’s minor first single from the album, “This Is My Life”, which is, in my opinion, the best track on the whole project. Phil makes an immediate attempt at relating to the middle class of the nation by pointing out all the struggles and misfortunes they are forced to endure and standing up for their lifestyles and showing support for producing more livable conditions in the nation to take off some of the weight. He pulls it off quite nicely with a sense of force and sincerity in every word that starts the album off nicely and gets the listener all pumped up. However, the fun doesn’t last very long.

Following the first track are two very weird ones. The toe tapping “Around Here Somewhere” shows off a strange production quality with an echo ion the background and competitive volume between Phil and the background music. A decently respectable message is mixed in, looking for love that seems to have faded away, but it lacks the lasting effect that Phil obviously tried to bring out. It sounds more like a plain performance, lacking much of the emotion that could have given it a tiny bit more respect and quality. Following this is “My Chevrolet”. I was looking forward to this, being a Chevy man myself, but it’s not much of an anthem at all. In fact it contains the same poor quality production as the track before it and lacks the enjoyable feel of reminiscing on the events that occurred in Phil’s first car that you’d expect.

“Love Is A Beautiful Thing” is another great song on the album, one of few, and the second single. The song surrounds the concept of a wedding as Phil throws a narrative viewpoint into the mix and tells the events and people attending it. Returning to proper production quality, Phil relives the sound that should have influenced the remainder of the album, but didn’t. Although he has recently suffered a divorce, Phil still finds it appropriate to spread the message about what love can do for not only two people, but everyone around them as well.

The title track, “Prayer Of A Common Man”, starts off decent, but doesn’t really catch me as well as I’d hoped. Phil uses powerful lyrics to once again visit the concept of everyday American lives and how “normal Americans” live. He shifts from visiting his dad’s grave and remembering how his dad worked so much in a factory to provide, to facing financial issues that cause personal setbacks in his life and finally he concludes by asking straight out for help by whoever might be listening. In some ways the song is a little questionable and it’s a little underdone for what it’s supposed to be. it doesn’t stick out very much.

The likely third single, “I Would”, matches the decent entertainment value of the first two singles, but loses the hook. The man in the song blindly tries to woo a girl from his past by revealing that he would do anything to get her back and to make her his again forever. It adds in the toe tapping and fun beat that has made Phil such a great artist. Despite how decent, not great, but decent this song may be it doesn’t really make the album shine that brightly either.

Now we get to the real downers on the project. “Why Don’t Ya” is probably the best of the worst songs on this album. It pairs Phil with the Los Lonely Boys in his plea to a girl to understand why she fails to love him like she once did. It’s kind of a weird plea for attention that doesn’t go over very well. It is catchy and the LLBs add to it quite a bit, but the concept is out there for this one.

“It’s Only Love” was actually co-written by Phil’s ex, Julie, as well as Phil himself. No idea what that means. Anyways the track begins with an awkward, 80s style barber shop quartet of the title. Once again Phil introduces us to the concept of lost love and getting over it. His character compares love to water, oxygen and sunlight yet, in a tint of sarcasm, says it’s nothing he can’s live without. The irony is beautiful, but once again i feel no amazement from the track. It’s a decent album filler, but so are most of the other tracks.

The only real slow track is “Let Me Love You Tonight”, which leaves a little bit more to be desired, but is a nice breath of fresh air from an album that has been all over the place with small mistakes. Once again on the issue of troubled relationships, Phil tries to get his girl to let him love her tonight and maybe that will help them get over it. He believes that this is hsi only option remaining and that it may help him get her to stay. Far from as dry as the rest of the projects power songs, this one’s actually not that bad. I can actually feel the lyrics for a change.

“Baby Rocks” is a dumbed down attempt at “I’ll Take That As A Yes”. What is destined to be a crowd favorite is one of the more impressive performance songs Phil has ever had. However it’s nothing special. The production sounds strangely old fashioned and once again the hard core rock/country background clashes with Phil’s vocal performance.

The two concepts that seem to make up this entire album are pulled into the awkward “The World Is A Mess”. Phil complains about everyday life and when he returns home he decides to forget the issues of life and dance around the place with his girl. Considering his other tracks on the album, it seems contradictory that he would want to forget the issues of the world when multiple tracks earlier were all about solving these issues. The final finishes where the album began. “Crazy Life” is pure and simple about the twists and terns that life can throw at you any time. This track is much more effective than most of the other mediocre sounding tracks on this album, but still nothing really special.

Well, this album obviously is far from greatness. It is a respectable duel concept album of love struggles and the condition of American life, but only a few tracks really work well enough to pull this off. This is not a down right horrible album, but there are very few tracks that are attractive enough to listen through the whole thing over and over again. It won’t be hard to find yourself skipping several tracks trying to find one of those good 4 or 5 songs that actually make this album worth the while.

 

2.5 Stars

 

Produced by: Mark Wright and Phil Vassar

Tracks:

  1. This Is My Life
  2. Around Here Somewhere
  3. My Chevrolet
  4. Love Is A Beautiful Thing
  5. Prayer Of A Common Man
  6. I Would
  7. Why Don’t Ya (featuring Los Lonely Boys)
  8. It’s Only Love
  9. Let Me Love You Tonight
  10. Baby Rocks
  11. The World Is A Mess
  12. Crazy life
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