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Pure Prairie League - Profile

  by Carl Bookstein

published: 3 / 5 / 2014

Pure Prairie League - Profile


Carl Bookstein looks back on the career of Ohio-based country rock outfit Pure Prairie League, who have recently had several of their albums reissued on CD

Pure Prairie League’s roots run back to Waverly, Ohio in the mid-sixties. This band was part of the country rock boom that Gram Parsons (of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers) gave birth to. While Pure Prairie League never achieved the stratospheric success of country rock’s the Eagles, they nevertheless made waves. Pure Prairie League was signed to the RCA label and released their self-titled debut album early in 1972. The follow up ‘Bustin’ Out’, released in 1972 was a sleeper of a record that actually broke in 1975, significantly charting that year. That album’s hit ‘Amie’, a truly evocative country rock love song, has been a staple of American classic rock radio for ages. ‘Bustin’ Out’ is now being issued by Retroworld as one of two albums on a one CD set along with the follow up ‘Two Lane Highway’. ‘Bustin’ Out’ was a tour de force by singer, guitarist and songwriter in Chief, Craig Fuller who was, following this album, forced to quit the band after being conscripted to the U.S. military. Pure Prairie League’s George Ed Powell on guitar and vocals and William Frank Hinds on drums were also band mainstays. In 1975 ‘Amie’ made the U.S. charts’ top thirty and the album ‘Bustin’ Out’ earned gold status. The album’s opener ‘Jazzman’ starts out with a mellow guitar strum, down home and easy, soothing classic country rock from the get go. ‘Angel #9’ is up tempo and rocking with some stinging lead guitar and a hopeful lyric: “Sunlight you got to shine on through/So that I can have it all.” This is earthy, cozy cabin music that nevertheless carries a bite, plus a resonant lead vocal. ‘Leave My Heart Alone’, with its “pack up your rocking chair” lyric and fine female backing vocals, finds the band rocking on all cylinders. A fine countrified, soul stirring ballad, ‘Early Morning Riser’ ushers in easy notes from the American heartland. ‘Falling In and Out of Love’ is the beautiful prelude to ‘Amie’, and a sweet, moving, philosophical take on love and romance. With ‘Amie’, you hear a hit from the first notes, then the signature chorus: “Amie, what you want to do?/I think I could stay with you, for a while maybe longer if I do.”- one of the all time classics of the whole country rock genre. ‘Call Me, Tell Me’ is the elevating finale to ‘Bustin’ Out’, a solid first-rate album and the strongest of the five albums currently being reissued by Retroworld on two combination CD package sets. ‘Two Lane Highway’ followed in 1975 and charted at #24 on Billboard’s top albums. With Fuller’s departure, the other members of Pure Prairie League recruited guitarist, vocalist Larry Goshorn, another Ohio native to the band’s ranks. Goshorn in turn contributed significantly to the band’s songwriting duties. ‘Two Lane Highway’ presents a significantly different sound from the album’s opening title track, boldly claiming the glory of the open road. There is a more straight ahead rock sound here after Fuller’s departure: “Two lane highway… taking me home at last.” ‘Kentucky Moonshine’ offers a purer country, a Nashville based Grand Ole Opry kind of sound. ‘Kansas City Southern’ is a chugging train of a railroad song, with the singer wishing he was homeward bound. ‘Harvest’ reflects on wrong roads, lonely times, restlessness and the end of the line. On ‘Sister’s Keeper’, we hear a rich steel guitar serenade played by added Pure Prairie League member John David Call. ‘Just Can’t Believe It’ possesses an old honky tonk sound, philosophising on goodbye, and ‘Pickin’ to Beat the Devil’ , which brings ‘Two Lane Highway’ to a close, is a gospel rave-up. The next three Pure Prairie League albums are being reissued in a two CD package that includes ‘If the Shoe Fits’ (1976), ‘Dance’ (1976) and ‘Just Fly’ (1978), a less essential but complimentary collection to the ‘Bustin’ Out’/ ‘Two Lane Highway’ release. ‘If the Shoe Fits’ starts out with a kicking country rock cover of Buddy Holly’s ‘That’ll Be the Day’ followed by ‘I Can Only Think of You’, a soft ballad about the singer’s anecdote to lonely motel rooms. ‘Sun Shone Lightly’ reflects on lost love and hardship with some heightened guitar leads. The laid back closer ‘Goin’ Home’ again speaks to the reoccurring theme of loneliness ending the album eloquently. The ‘Dance’ album begins with the steady, boogie woogie-tinged, rollicking title track. ‘In the Morning’ is good mood music with sweet pedal steel guitar, and ‘All the Way’ finds the singer seeking assistance from his bartender. ‘Fade Away’ soulfully hearkens back to the singer’s dearly missed yesterdays. ‘San Antonio’ is a solid countrified ballad about flowing waters and distance. Finally, ‘Just Fly’ is the least distinctive of the five Pure Prairie League albums being released. More straight ahead rock (although including some ballads too), it offers less of the signature understated country rock Pure Prairie League flavour. In the end, the ‘Bustin’ Out’/ ‘Two Lane Highway’ collection is the deeper of the two sets, including guest spots by Mick Ronson (of David Bowie/ ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ fame) on the former and Chet Atkins, Emmylou Harris and Don Felder of the Eagles on the latter. All in all, Pure Prairie League remains a seasoned, still touring band, well worthy of their country rock recognition.

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Pure Prairie League - Profile

Pure Prairie League - Profile

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Firin Up (2018)
Enjoyable reissue of Pure Prairie League’s 1980 album which will remind fans of just how great they were and hopefully will motivate a new audience into appreciating how influential their music continues to be

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