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Prine’s album remains relevant – Swift covers Earth, Wind & Fire in ‘September’

John Prine, “Tree of Forgiveness” (Oh Boy Records)

John Prine thinks about things. And when John Prine thinks about things, people want to hear what he has to say.

That’s why Prine will never join some past-their-prime legends who flounder as they try to recapture old magic. The way his brain works is just too interesting.

On “Tree of Forgiveness,” the 71-year-old folk singer’s first album of original material in 13 years, Prine rekindles the straight-ahead, earthbound spirit that made him a songwriting icon in the first place.

With the gut-level honesty that dazzled Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson, among others, Prine shows once again why he belongs up there with them on the legend shelf. Contributions from Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile, producer Dave Cobb and other stars further testify to the respect Prine still commands.

Sure, some of the things he contemplates here are heavy. Depression, for example, on “No Ordinary Blue.” His own mortality on “When I Get to Heaven.”

But Prine’s takes are hopeful, even cathartic. He comes off as healthy, well-adjusted, and unafraid of what lies ahead.

“When I Get to Heaven,” the album’s raucous closer, imagines the afterlife as a place where he can order a cocktail and forgive everyone who’s ever done him wrong. It’s so joyous that listeners will think less about death than about Prine’s fun-loving take on what lies ahead.

It’s the kind of song that makes people wonder what he’ll be thinking about next. It’s why he’s still worth listening to.

Taylor Swift recorded acoustic versions of her song “Delicate” and Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” for a Spotify Singles session that were released Friday morning. By early afternoon, an uproar had broken out on two fronts.

First, her hushed, banjo-driven take on EWF’s most popular song (head here for an excellent history of the original version) received such a torrent of less-than-enthusiastic attention on social media that Hollywood Life published a story with the headline “Twitter Needs to Seriously Chill About Taylor Swift’s ‘September’ Cover.” Swift’s version is calmer and dramatically different from EWF’s euphoric original.


At around the same time, according to reports, the press release announcing the songs was revised to eliminate the second two sentences in this paragraph: “Taylor says that she chose ‘September’ for sentimental reasons. She’s always loved the classic tune by Earth, Wind & Fire, and notes that the month of September is especially meaningful to one of her relationships. An added layer of sentiment came from being able to record the song in a Nashville studio, the city Taylor moved at age 14 to pursue country music.” Spin has done some speculative analysis on the edit, as well as Swift’s alteration of the date in the song’s opening line, which she changes from Sept 21 to Sept 28.

Unaltered in the press release were Swift’s comments about the other track: “‘Delicate’ is a song about the vulnerability that immediately surfaces in all of us the minute we meet someone we want to like us,” it reads. “We think about everything they might’ve heard about us, every reason they wouldn’t want us. Every step forward toward that other person scares us, but it thrills us too. ‘Delicate’ is about the balancing act of the rush and the fear and hoping it’s really worth it to take that chance.”

The singles session was Swift’s second Spotify exclusive in recent weeks, along with the “Delicate” vertical video. Swift had harshly criticized the service in 2014 and removed her music from all streaming services over what she said were unfair royalty payments; a few months later she relented with Apple, and ultimately returned all of her albums to the major services in June of last year. Her latest album, “Reputation,” was withheld from all streaming services until three weeks after its release last November.

Swift launches her “Reputation” stadium tour on May 8 in Arizona.

Former One Direction singer Zayn Malik returns to the action-movie mode of his 2017 “Dusk Til Dawn” video with the latest from his forthcoming second album, “Let Me.”

According to a press release, the video for the track was creatively developed by Malik himself, working closely with director and producer Jose Padilha (“Narcos,” “Robocop”) and co-starring with actor Steven Bauer (“Scarface,” “Breaking Bad”). The clip is the official sequel to “Dusk Til Dawn,” which won ‘Best Video’ at the 2017 MT VMAs.

In it, we see Malik consorting with shady-looking underworld figures in an unspecified nefarious activity involving aggressively exchanged briefcases, opulent Miami hotels and nightclubs, suits, yachts, a fight and and of course a beautiful young woman, with whom Malik sails off in a speedboat at the end as the song ends and a “To be continued” rolls across the screen.

The song was produced by Malik with Mykl, the British production duo with whom he worked on “Pillowtalk.” ) the track is an upbeat, pop track written and recorded in Jimi Hendrix’s’ legendary Electric Lady Studios in New York City.

“Dusk Til Dawn,” a collaboration with Sia, was released last September, less than 18 months after the March 2016 release of Malik’s debut, “Mind of Mine.” The release says his forthcoming second album is “a culmination of his experiences and inspirations from the past two years since the release of his critically acclaimed debut,” which topped the albums charts in both the US and UK. (Agencies)

By Scott Stroud

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