Category: Harry Chapin

Harry Chapin – Verities & Balderdash

ARTIST: Harry Chapin         Harry_Chapin_-_Verities_&_Balderdash

TITLE:  Verities & Balderdash

YEAR RELEASED: 1974

CHART ACTION: #4

SINGLES: Cats in the Cradle (#1 US, #53 UK), I Wanna Learn a Love Song (#44 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: 30,000 Pounds of Bananas

LINEUP: Harry Chapin, John Tropea, Don Payne, Allan Schwartzberg, Don Grolnick, Ron Bacchiocchi

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A breakthrough to the mainstream, with a few pop-flavored and light songs, but there are still some preachy overwrought songs lurking about.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: With this batch of songs, Chapin’s producer Paul Leka decided that session musicians would be better than Chapin’s road band to convey the songs, and it was a good decision as “Cat’s in the Cradle” became the big hit, and the song most identified with Chapin.

While the message of that song is important and resonates to this day, it’s obvious that there was more to Chapin that just the stories songs about relationships, love and societal ills. Two tracks, “Six String Orchestra” and “30,000 Pounds of Bananas” showed Chapin’s sense of humor, which had been lacking in his other material.

A couple of cuts really get into the preachy mode, as his earnest liberalism, while admirable, can come off as heavy-handed. Also, while the session musicians made the sound more radio friendly, it also seemed sterile as compared with his first album. It’s worth a listen if you’re a Chapin fan, or a singer-songwriter fan.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The incident in “30,000 Pounds of Bananas” really happened, in 1965, in Scranton Penn-sylll-vania

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B: The at-times sterile production and a few overwrought songs aside, this is his best since his debut.

Harry Chapin – Short Stories

ARTIST: Harry Chapin 220px-Short_Stories_LP
TITLE: Short Stories
YEAR RELEASED: 1973
CHART ACTION: #61
SINGLES: WOLD (#36 US, #34 UK), Mr. Tanner
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Mail Order Annie
LINEUP: Harry Chapin, Bobby Carlin, Paul Leka, Ronald Palmer, Buddy Salzman, John Wallace, Tomi Lee Bradley, Jeanne French
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Third album returns Chapin to the Top 40, but drowns his work in strings and orchestral arrangements – for better or worse.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Chapin mines his now familiar territory of characters with flaws and disappointments, and unleashes a lot of his lyrical bite against the misplaced idealism of the 60’s that is now clashing with the reality of the 70’s.

This album, though, is really over-produced at times. Chapin’s songs work best with spare, sympathetic production – not strings, horns, choruses, and the like. I don’t know if Chapin was trying for another hit with this production style, but he got it in “WOLD”. No doubt, the plight of the itinerant and lonely radio DJ struck a chord with radio programmers, but it’s also a very effective story / song.

Some of the other songs work with the production, but some are hindered by it. Overall, it seems bloated even though the album’s songs are as strong as his debut.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: WOLD is an actual radio station. It’s at 102.5 on your FM dial with 440 powerful watts based in Marion, Virginia.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B-: The songs are decent, and I’m keeping it but the production hinders more than helps.

Harry Chapin – Sniper and Other Love Stories

ARTIST: Harry Chapin  Harry_Chapin_-_Sniper_and_Other_Love_Songs
TITLE: Sniper and Other Love Songs
YEAR RELEASED: 1972
CHART ACTION: #160
SINGLES: Sniper, Sunday Morning Sunshine (#75)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: A Better Place to Be is more known on a live album.
LINEUP: Harry Chapin, John Wallace, Tim Scott, Ron Palmer, Steve Chapin, Russ Kunkel
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A grandiose telling of the Charles Whitman saga stands out, in many ways, with another collection of love laments.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The song “Sniper” is an almost 10-minute saga of Charles Whitman – using artistic liberty and the actual facts of the incident. Reading the Wiki entry of that is hard enough. Somehow Chapin pulls it off, but it does get a bit grandiose and over-the-top at times.

The other songs seem a bit of a letdown from his first album. Well played, nicely sung, but many of them don’t quite carry the emotional heft.

“Sniper” really just takes the wind out of the whole thing though. I’m either going to play that cut by itself, or play the others and skip it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Circle” was a hit for the New Seekers.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: It’s repackaged with Heads and Tails with some outtakes.

GRADE: B-: This is a case where one song sticks out and emotionally, for me at least, overshadows the others and the flow of the album is flawed.

Harry Chapin – Heads & Tales

ARTIST: Harry Chapin Harry_Chapin_-_Heads_&_Tales
TITLE: Heads & Tales
YEAR RELEASED: 1972
CHART ACTION: #60
SINGLES: Taxi (#24)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Singer songwriter fans know this record…
LINEUP: Harry Chapin, Steve Chapin, Russ Kunkel, Ronald Palmer, Tim Scott, John Wallace
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Poignant singer-songwriter’s debut shows his penchant for deconstructing bad relationships, albeit in a sometimes long-winded way.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Harry Chapin is known and remembered fondly for the most part, though some rock critics didn’t like him, his target audience loved and respected him.

He was a very detailed songwriter, sometimes to his detriment, but he really made his songs into novels. Taxi, the hit from this album even as it clocked over 6 ½ minutes, demonstrates this more than any other song on this collection. It’s the highlight of the album, because even at its length it doesn’t meander.

The rest of the cuts are decent as well. If you like singer-songwriter confessionals, this IS one of the best albums. I can take them in small doses, but that’s a personal thing. I can appreciate the songwriting here.

I’d like to say something about the musicianship on this album. The band Chapin assembled, accented by Russ Kunkel on drums, is excellent and Jac Holzman’s production is pert near perfect for the songs.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Harry’s recording career started with an album made with his brothers Tom and Steve called Chapin Music!

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: A-: Some cuts meander too long, but the music is great and Taxi is a classic of the genre.