Among the English language's premier phrase-turners with music relevant to any age, the late great John Prinewas part of the Atlantic Records family for four albums - John Prine (1971), Diamonds in the Rough (1972), Sweet Revenge (1973) and Common Sense (1975) - before he jumped over to Asylum for another three records and eventually his own label Oh Boy.
Fittingly for a former mailman, Prine delivered songs that are both literate and personal. The skilled and compassionate storyteller enjoyed widespread critical acclaim in the wake of his groundbreaking debut and continued to write and perform songs that became central to our American musical heritage for nearly five decades. That debut featured a brace of songs that would make him a legend – tracks like "Angel from Montgomery," "Sam Stone," "Illegal Smile," "Paradise" and the immortal "Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore" heralded a brave and literate songwriting voice. So good were those songs and so striking was that album, that Prine's second record, Diamonds in the Rough, is sometimes overlooked, though its best songs are equal to his best. Prine's third album, Sweet Revenge, was much more rooted in rock 'n' roll than its predecessors and the master storyteller's signature cynicism took over for good.
However, the most successful of the bunch was Common Sense, which was Prine's only album between Atlantic and Asylum to make it into the upper half of the Billboard 200, topping out at No. 66. Helmed by Steve Cropper (Booker T. & the M.G.'s, Blues Brothers) it marked Prine's first Atlantic release sans producer Arif Mardin and includes contributions from Bonnie Raitt, Glenn Frey, Jackson Browne, Steve Goodman andDonald "Duck" Dunn. Stax vet Cropper incorporated a fuller sound courtesy of horns and backup singers with songs like "Come Back to Us Barbara Lewis Hare Krishna Beauregard" and "He Was in Heaven Before He Died" serving as the standouts. Prine noted that he, "didn't want to keep making the same album over and over...I was really reaching on Common Sense, trying to do some different things musically."