This is a “greatest hits” compilation of Japers’ first four albums, released because he was taking too long to release his fifth album way back in year one-seventy. It’s heavy on the eponymous debut and “Sweet Revenge” and light on “Common Sense” and “Diamonds in the Rough.” There’s nothing new here at all save for a different version of “Grandpa Was A Carpenter.”
So what are the advantages? Well, obviously you’d be spared listening to much of the filler than no JP album is without; so these twelve songs make up an album that you and your cousins can enjoy without bickering over whether “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” is any good (it is) or whether Prine should do any covers (he shouldn’t). Also there’s that new version of “Grandpa Was A Carpenter” to justify the purchase to old-timers. Plus, drawing from four albums usually means a variety of styles!
On the other hand, if this is all the JP you need then you and your cousin gargle shit for a living. You should at least have “John Prine” and “Sweet Revenge,” especially because the song selection here is omitting sure winners “Paradise” and “Christmas in Prison,” among others, in favour of “Sweet Revenge” (the song) and “Saddle in the Rain.” Also, the song selection here is oddly sedate. You’d think Japers didn’t have much fun at all, and that just isn’t twuu. Also, the new version of GWAC is worse – it’s countried up and bluegrassed down with a slightly slower tempo and no fiddle. Totally not needed. Also, Prine’s albums are diverse enough that (aside from “Sadddle in the Rain” there isn’t a stylistic monotony to get you down from the proper albums.
I did learn a couple things here from enjoying these songs over. First, “Donald and Lydia” is not only a really nice love song, it’s also about masturbation! Also, “Saddle in the Rain,” aside from a horn line that’s the catchiest thing since “Entrance of the Gladiators,” is bad enough that I won’t even rewrite this sentence for greater syntax. And apparently it’s fucking impossible to include “Dear Abby” even once without including the 40-second intro that one only needs to hear once (unlike the song, which one must hear once a week until death to keep one grounded).
So yeah, these are almost all great songs, four from JP and SR each and two from DITR and CS each, but you can get “Come Back to Us Barbara Lewis Hare Krishna Beauregard” elsewhere and you should buy all three earlier albums, so that you don’t miss “Sour Grapes.” But really, two thirds of this albums I spent pacing in my living room singing along, because great songs. 9/10 for song quality, -1 for fuck you.