"I agree with the others on this one. Probably not the best choice for a Chapin starter album, but possibly his best album overall. This is the one album that truly conveys Harry's message. "There Only Was One Choice" is a 14-minute masterpiece that sums up The Book of Chapin to perfection. 'We Grew Up A Little Bit' is an awesome reflection of the strive-to-get-ahead work ethic. While not as deep as much of his other works, I really like 'Country Dreams'. But one of my favorite all-time Chapin pieces, one that I didn't fully appreciate for years, is 'Mercenaries'. Who else but Harry could write such a meaningful song about prostitutes and soldiers? Amazing collection."
The best Harry ever did
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What can I say...this is a sprawling (originally a double album), witty, funny, heart-felt meditation on the onset of middle age and the stock-taking that occurs so often as you hit age 34. My personal favorites include "Mismatches", an interesting reversal of traditional sexual politics, "We Grew Up a Little Bit", a biting image of the gradual crumbling of a marriage, and "Mercenaries", about soldiers and prostitutes and the role each plays. The humor of songs such as "My Old Lady" and "Dance Band on the Titanic" contrast with the final, 14 minute song "There Was Only One Choice" which is a midlife crisis crystalized into a song. I was so glad when this was released on CD, as so many of Harry's albums are only available on record. This is a full, complete work, and though I would agree that "Greatest Stories" is better for the Chapin beginner, with "Cats in the Cradle" and "30,000 Pounds of Bananas", this will always be my favorite work of his."
Brett Simpson | Auckland, New Zealand | 01/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Anybody who feels the need for some Harry Chapin in their collection beyond a compilation or "Greatest Stories Live" should look to this CD - quite possibly THE Chapin masterpiece.Like most of his albums, this was largely ignored on its initial release (although it did make #58 - quite a high chart placing for a Chapin album), which isn't really a surprise. There is not a song on it that would have been a hit single even at the heights of the singer/songwriter period of the early 70s, let alone in 1977 during 'disco fever'. But Chapin fans don't want hit singles anyway.What they DO want is here in abundance - heartfelt and insightful lyrics, with just the right amount of wit, lovingly accompanied by his 'travelling band' under the assured guidance of 'little brother' Steve - probably the only of Harry's producers to have truly understood him. Several tracks deal with the difficulties in keeping relationships 'fresh', and the truth of these songs, in particular, demonstrates just how well Chapin understood human weakness.And it all ends with the 14 minute wonder "There Only Was One Choice", a glorious epic, slightly overshadowed by the line "I fantasise some tragedy soon curtailing me" which, of course, became reality a few short years later.The best line of the album though, comes with this observation in the encounter between the soldier and the whore in "Merceneries": "You watch as she fakes it and, of course, you just take it - she's better than others you never paid your money for". Classic stuff. Recommended to anybody who actually LISTENS to music."
Harry bats 1000
Erica A. Bardan | Massachusetts | 10/11/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Quite frankly, this is an awesome CD! There is a little bit of everything to hold you're interest. Danceband on the Titanic offers a new perspective on the disaster...and in an upbeat way. There Only Was One Choice is for the true Chapin fan, someone who can appreciate the severity and simplicity that he uses to illustrate his point. And it's just plain fun to sing along to. (all 14 minutes) He throws a quirky spin on the subject of adultry with "My Old Lady" and brings the listener to another, more somber level with We Grew Up a Little Bit. There's not a song on this CD that I don't like. Enjoy the stories."
Some of Harry's best
Jim N. | East Aurora, New York USA | 05/01/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Buy this album, do. You'll thank yourself, especially if you love stories; fun, moving stories about real people facing real challenges. Some of these songs are among Harry's best, the kind that make the hair stand up on the back of your neck when you listen closely to the lyrics. I think Country Dreams (about a young couple whose bucolic dreams are put on hold by business success) is as touching a story song as he ever wrote. Bluesman (about "the last of the steet corner singers paying his final years of dues" and a young college kid), Dance Band (about the role of entertainers to distract the world from the iceberg on the starboard bow), Mismatch (a true story of young love), I Wonder What Happened to Him (about your lover's ex, "but where there's still shining/ a faint glow from a light/ it makes me wonder where he is/ tonight"), I Do it For You Jane (about the challenge of living an idealized love in the real world), all vintage inspiring Harry Chapin songs about flawed people finding the grace and courage to overcome life's disappointments in a compelling and meaningful way. I've always loved the song Mercenaries which I once heard Harry introduce in concert as a song about the world's two oldest professions ("you've used up your booty/ the girls done her duty/ the turnstile has turned and you learn you are done/ you're back on the street/ joining fresh marching feet/ you see more soldiers coming and your girl chooses one"). I doubt another song exists with the sheer number of lyrics as There Only Was One Choice. This is a great tribute to the soldiers out to play the music game who strive to keep music real ("And he's got Guthrie running in his bones/ he's the hobo kid who left his home/ and his Beatles records and the Rolling Stones/ this boy is staying acoustic"), and it climaxes, or anticlimaxes, with the singer passing on his love of music to his son ("and as I wander with my music/ through the jungles of despair/ my kid will learn guitar and find his street corner somewhere/ there he'll make the silence listen/ to the dream behind the voice/ and show his minstrel hamlet daddy/ that there only was one choice"). Buy this album and get to know the songs and the characters in Harry's world."