This story originally appeared in Issue #1 of Paste Magazine in the summer of 2002, republished in celebration of Paste’s 20th Anniversary.
Nearly every song on No Other Love is about love in one way or another—the burst of infatuation, deepest affection, pure lust, the stagnant remains of love, unrequited love, and the contentment of being with the one you love. In places, Prophet sounds so lovelorn and dejected, I was a little surprised to find that the beautiful harmonies were coming from his wife, Stephanie Finch.
“Once you’ve been married,” Prophet says, “you can look back on the whole panaromic view of love from inside a marriage. I think I’m more qualified now than ever to write country songs.”
But this isn’t a country album—Prophet has progressed a long way from his days with cow-punk/alt-country pioneers Green on Red in the early 1980s. Hints of a country sensibility sneak through on No Other Love, but the trippy grooves throughout the record are more downtown than out yonder.
While Prophet has enjoyed the freedom and stability of his 12-year solo career (“Singer/songwriter records are kinda cool because you can just close your eyes and feel the song … and you can’t really break me up”), the songs wouldn’t be the same without the layers of organ, sax and strings. Coolness drips through Prophet’s easy voice and the variety of keyboards attended by Jason Borger.
In places, his latest offering feels like little more than pages torn from a little black book, but Prophet manages to use the shallowness and depravity of his narrators to reveal the flip sides of love.
“I’m just sort of wrestling in the dark with my own sicknesses and demons just like everybody else,” he says. “Some of them find their way in the songs, and some are still with me. Songs like ‘That’s How Much I Need Your Love’—I don’t know where they come from. Once I finished it and stood back and squinted and looked at it, it was kind of a predatorial thing. I don’t know if that’s a particularly healthy song.”
But when he comes out of the dark, the light shines brightly, as on the perfect pop song, “Summertime,” with its laid-back contentment: “Put the Beach Boys on/Wanna hear Help Me Rhonda/Roll down the sides/We’ll drive to the delta/Take off our clothes and jump into the river” No dredging the pits of the soul here, just simple pleasures put to a beautiful melody, and ain’t nothing wrong with that—especially among the deep layers that surround it.
“It’s much harder to come up with something like ‘Summertime,’ that’s just three chords and sort of a stream of consciousness that I wrote in the dead of winter without a guitar. It’s a miracle when those show up.”
The biggest gem on No Other Love, though, is the title track—a quiet, dreamlike glimpse of heaven that was recorded surreptitiously in one take while the band was learning the song in the studio. Prophet wraps his voice around a few simple words: “No other love/Mama I’m flyin’/No other love/Mama I’m flyin’/I can go anywhere/No other love can take me.”
No other love than what?
“Just something bigger than ourselves,” Prophet said. “That’s my elusive take on what some people might call spirituality.”
Amid the hopeless, corrupt and dejected characters populating the record, this song detaches from the gritty landscape that Prophet has created and rises like a prayer.
Listen to Paste Sampler #1 featuring Chuck Prophet’s ‘No Other Love’ on Spotify.