Chris Bailey returns with another batch of catchy rock songs on Prodigal Son, though it rarely reaches the heights of his last album, All Fools Day. In retrospect, Hugh Jones' ornate production brought out the best in Bailey's songwriting and gave each song its own identity, something that many of the songs here struggle to establish. There are some standout tracks, like the powerful "Ghost Ships," the acoustic "Shipwreck," the bouncy "Sold Out," and a spirited cover of the Easybeats' "Music Goes Round My Head" (produced by Harry Vanda and George Young). But most of the material is simply intelligent rock with a slight edge, similar to the work of Graham Parker (e.g., "Massacre") and producing the same pleasant and slightly prickly results. A few songs openly question the cost of stardom, suggesting that Bailey may have felt some pressure to duplicate the success of his last effort. To his credit, Prodigal Son is a harsher record in many ways, revealing his punk roots in vocals that kick up a certain amount of surliness. The opening track, "Grain of Sand," remains one of his more popular songs, even if it's not appreciably better than any number of cuts on the album. And the stripped-down production lends a raw, honest quality to songs like "Tomorrow" and "Stay," two of the album's better tracks. Despite more lineup changes (original drummer Ivor Hay is noticeably absent), Chris Bailey keeps the Saints afloat with another good album, which is a success in itself.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Connolly