From Prefab Sprout's early-'80s singles up through their often brilliant but much maligned album The Gunman and Other Stories in 2001, Paddy McAloon has written some of the finest pop tunes you're likely to hear in your lifetime. Comparisons have been made with Cole Porter, Lennon/McCartney, Brian Wilson, Stephen Sondheim, Jimmy Webb, Elvis Costello, and many others, but he remains a truly original and gifted singer and songwriter. While Prefab Sprout could never be called prolific in terms of physical album releases, McAloon has continued to write and demo material throughout the band's 20-plus-year career. In recent years McAloon has dealt with a series of health issues that have left hiim virtually unable to carry on as a recording artist. Thankfully, he continues to write songs that can be sung by other vocalists, and perhaps one day he will be able to grace listeners with his own voice again. Until then, listeners will fortunately be graced with previously unreleased Prefab Sprout music, such as Let's Change the World with Music, the often rumored 1992 follow-up to the Sprouts' Jordan: The Comeback album. While the album was never actually completed by the band, McAloon's fully formed demo is not just a hint of "what might have been": it's one of the most consistent albums of the band's career. Let's Change the World with Music is a loose concept album that is based around the intense, oftentimes religious, joy of music and the gift it brings to those who allow it to overcome and overwhelm them. While McAloon is not a Bible-thumping evangelist, he uses religious imagery to describe the magical power of music and how it can literally change the world. Those who choose to push music to the background in their lives may not understand where McAloon is coming from, but for those who have lived and breathed music since their early days, Let's Change the World with Music is a revelation (pun intended).
From the intro of the leadoff track, "Let There Be Music," it is immediately obvious that this will be a different Prefab experience to what most fans are used to. In the past (especially on Jordan: The Comeback), the band used keyboards to add depth and atmosphere to its tracks, but Let's Change the World is a different ball of wax: it is all keyboards. As stated previously, this is McAloon's demo version of his musical vision and does not feature backing vocalist Wendy Smith or brother Martin...or anyone else for that matter. And to be honest, even without the other bandmembers, it's an absolute joy to listen to. Would it have sounded better with real strings, real drums, guitars, and proper production from someone like Thomas Dolby? It's really hard to tell, since the album is a nearly perfect collection of songs celebrating the glory of music, becoming a glorious piece of music in the process. Some of the lyrics on the album may seem a bit twee and trite on the surface (particularly on "Music Is a Princess"), but in the context of the album, they become touching and heartwarming. Like all Prefab albums, there are moments of absolute joy on display mixed with an equal amount of bittersweet and touching songs that reach right down and stir your soul. Highlights include "Ride," "Earth, the Story So Far," "Last of the Great Romantics," "Angel of Love," and the title track. For the uninitiated, the Prefab Sprout albums to investigate first would certainly be Steve McQueen and Jordan: The Comeback, but Let's Change the World with Music isn't far behind. It is a beautiful, joyful, and unpretentious musical love letter written to and about this life-changing force called music.