"I bought this CD in September 1998 because I always wanted to own a Harry Chapin album. That night, I listened to it. By the time he got to the first chorus of Better Place to Be (all-time fave Chapin tune), I was crying over the beauty of the music. This album is the greatest CD ever manufactured. Chapin puts a ton of emotion into all fourteen cuts he sings vocals on. From the tragic hopefulness of Remember When the Music to the humor of 30,000 Pounds of Bananas, Chapin makes you think and feel so many things that he wears you out, but you love every minute of it. It should be a law that every person in the world must own this CD.-AJR P.S. I fantasize about singing along with this album at the top of my lungs while driving down Parkside Lane, San Francisco and "the hill that leads into Scranton, Pennsylvania"."
Tragic, but essential
David A. Bede | Singapore | 08/31/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is, of course, impossible to listen to Harry Chapin without thinking of the car accident that took him from us much too soon. That has never been more true than with this great live performance, which took place just six months before Chapin's death. That said, this is one of Chapin's very best (if not THE best) albums, and the bitter irony of its timing only adds to that. Recorded in an intimate venue on Chapin's old Greenwich Village stomping ground, it features a warm, immediate quality that is lacking on the two live LPs Chapin released during his lifetime. That intimacy is almost certainly by accident - no one knew at the time that this performance would take on historical value, and Chapin wasn't known for spare production - but so what? The band is in fine form, and if the performances are a bit ragged in places, that only plays up their sincerity. (This, of course, was not always apparent on Chapin's studio albums, including the original versions of so!me of the songs featured here.) As for the music itself, there is a decent cross section of his entire career here, including first rate renditions of "Taxi" (with terrific audience participation), "A Better Place to Be", "WOLD", and the obligatory "Cat's in the Cradle". The latter is one of the weaker performances here - the band almost sounds bored - but if you're a serious fan you already know that one note for note anyhow. But it's on the more obscure numbers - "Mismatch", "Mercenaries" - that this collection really shines. It's a nice reminder that story-songs weren't Chapin's only strong point. Last but not least, if "Remember When the Music" doesn't move you to tears, Chapin's thoughtful, poignant spoken introduction will. That one deserves to be among his most famous songs, and this is the definitive rendition of it. In a nutshell...if you're already a serious fan, you don't need me to convince you of anything. If you just want to find out what Chapin was! about beyond "Taxi" and "Cat's in the Cradle", this is the best place to start!"
Brian | Ohio, United States | 01/07/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I feel terrible to be the only non-5 star review so far, but this CD set was a let down to me. I am very happy to see that it touched so many folks though. For me, "Greatest Hits Live" is much better. I have two Chapin videos, and the earlier one (Soundstage) is far better than "The Final Concert". Maybe I just prefer the earlier stuff, but on this 2 CD set there are problems with backing vocals, some ragged moments-but mostly what bothered me is that it seemed that the attempted humor was pushed and struggled with. Steve Chapin again seems to often want to share the spotlight as an equal, rather than a band member. His influences in new arrangements and more intricate backing vocals are admirable, but sometimes get in the way. 30,000 lbs of Bananas broke my heart. It was just too forced. The earlier live version is still fresh. This one was just...not right. The CD does have some highlights-don't get me wrong. Taxi is spectacular, and Remember When the Music is THE verison to own. Certainly buy this one, but do not do so expecting the "greatest CD in the World"-you may be setting yourself up for disappointment."
The Greatest Story Teller
Brian | 10/28/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My husband an I missed one of Harry's last concerts, because we had two "Cats in the Cradle". But those two "cats" are now in college, and when they packed to go, their treasured Harry Chapin CD's went with them. They were five and two when Harry left us,but he lives on in our hearts through his music. We know that where Harry is, he's making it "A Better Place To Be". This CD is a must for Harry fans.We were delighted to find it. Harry is at his best on a live recording."
One more round from the Cheap Seats!!!
Brian | 02/01/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Either you liked Harry Chapin, or you didn't. There was no middle ground. Same for his music. Harry didn't believe in middle ground, pushing himself right to the limit. This is a great concert, even though those who attended his shows realize there was more not on this 2 CD set. No matter. Go get it. He really made it work, even though he punished his voice,and frankly, it shows. But that, to me made it all the more "real"--too many other "live" albums have more post-production work than studio albums. This was Harry, as he was. Live, and seemingly unstoppable. Put your headphones on, close your eyes, and crank it up. Go back, one more time, to the cheap seats."