Harry proved here that he was no sentimentalist
R. L. MILLER | FT LAUDERDALE FL USA | 12/28/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"During the time he was still with us, the rock'n'roll crowd sneered that he didn't have the proper rock "attitude". The folkies felt he was too philosophical and didn't stick to the standard ballad form enough. Fortunately the bona fide folk purists weren't listening anymore because original material had been "in" for folksingers for years, or we'd have heard "where's Jimmy Crack Corn?" ad nauseam. The audience who listened to Carole King and Carly Simon wanted to hear love ballads and Harry wasn't enough of a Neil Diamond clone for their tastes. The Singer/ Songwriter fans complained that his lyrics were too prosaic, too matter-of-fact. But Harry overcame the "sophomore jinx" by giving us more "pay attention, Jack" material than on his "Heads & Tales" debut. From the start, we got some very listenable material. "Sunday Morning Sunshine" is a joyful your-love-gives-my-life-meaning song. Then the album abruptly shifts to the raging epic title song, the tale of Charles Whitman of Texas Tower fame. Given the times this song was written during, Chapin can be forgiven his attempt to understand this monster who didn't realize that the universe underwrites no insurance against hurt feelings to any of us--instead Whitman threw the most fearsome temper tantrum a human being can throw: mass murder. Listen to the lyrics--every slight mentioned has happened to all of us, but the difference is that the rest of us do like the old saying: "get a life". Then the album moves to a song of a lonely musician who finds love in the arms of an abandoned single mom whose "Baby Never Cries". Then to "Burning Herself", the helpless thoughts of a man in love with a woman who's into self-mutilation and he can't think of a thing he can do to help her, and as such he's letting her down. "Better Place To Be" is the tale of a lonely waitress who meets an equally lonely customer in the line of duty. The sequence of "Sunday Morning Sunshine" and "And the Baby Never Cries" bracketing the shock-and-awe "Sniper" isn't a recent development of later editions--I still have the LP of it, which I grabbed when it was first released over 20 years ago. This album is basically Harry saying "bull" to those who called him a wimp and a poor songwriter on strength of his freshman effort. Not to mention those who couldn't fit him into a convenient pigeonhole so decided to sneer at him instead--the sneer being the defalt facial expression of 20th century Americal, a syndrome our society is still sick unto death from. To call him "progressive folk" along with brilliant Texan Shawn Phillips is the closest one can come under mass-market music rules. That's if those really apply. Which they don't--this is Harry Chapin Music you're buying here. That's the name of the category."
Heavy songs that are nice to know
Bruce P. Barten | Saint Paul, MN United States | 01/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Steve Chapin plays piano for his brother Harry Chapin on the album "Sniper and Other Love Songs" released in 1972. With Tim Scott on cello, Ron Palmer on lead guitar, John Wallace on electric bass, and Harry Chapin with his own guitar, the group always has plenty of irons in the fire to add to the astounding lyrics of Harry Chapin. The first song brags about having "a pocket full of stories that I just had to tell." On the dramatic side, this album is named for a song called "Sniper" that is 9 minutes and 50 seconds long, ("Seven A.M., the day is beginning, so much to do and so little time") that tells a story which starts with a tower on a campus. By the middle of the song, the main character is spewing out "Are you listening to me? Are you listening to me? Am I?" as the bullets fly. "Not much of a joiner" was the explanation people gave for his idiosyncrasies.
The song "Circle" has a 1971 copyright, and the "let's go 'round one more time" theme is just right for a career in music. The best song with a "Sshh, I know just how you feel" line is "Better Place to Be," which takes 7 minutes and thirty-five seconds to answer the question:
Where the hell you been hiding,
and why do you look so down?
The long story keeps turning into a chorus when it gets to:
If you want me to come with you
then that's alright with me
'cause I know I'm going nowhere
and anywhere's a better place to be."
Chapin RAW - his most affecting album. I'd give it a 10.
J. LaCoss | Los Angeles, CA USA | 04/06/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is Chapin's strongest album, but it's not for everyone -- "Sniper" and "A Better Place to Be" are about the rawest, most emotional works I've ever heard. "Sniper" is in fact a love song, but it's a look into an an awfully strange world view.
If you like "Heads & Tails," give this one a try, but be ready for a visceral experience. I went almost 10 years between listenings at one point, and remembered every song almost word for word. You don't have that kind of recall if material is just goop. This is a real artistic roller coaster."