Protest Songs was recorded by Prefab Sprout in 1985 in the wake of the masterful Steve McQueen/Two Wheels Good, but shelved in favor of the subsequent From Langley Park to Memphis; it finally surfaced to little fanfare in 1989, appearing almost as mysteriously as it was abandoned four years earlier. It's a wonderful record, but perhaps too close in sound and spirit to Steve McQueen for comfort -- From Langley Park, for all its flaws, is a much more adventurous effort, and with the benefit of hindsight, it seems reasonable to assume that Paddy McAloon wished not to stick with the tried-and-true but instead attempt something new and different, successful or not. That said, fans who loved Steve McQueen and its gossamer pop beauty will find much to savor here -- songs like "A Life of Surprises," "Talking Scarlet" and "Diana" (the latter an evocative portrait of the late "people's princess" and her effect on British society) rank alongside McAloon's finest, informed by the stately grace and ingenious wit which remain the hallmarks of every Prefab Sprout record. By no means a lost masterpiece, it's still an essential piece of the puzzle.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny