Harry Chapin - Sniper And Other Love Songs

Harry Chapin
Sniper And Other Love Songs

Released 1972 on Elektra
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 26/08/2010ce

What can ya really say about Harry Chapin that hasn't been said? During the 1970's here in the States, Harry was Mr. Public Television, he was a staple on Channel 13, playing his mournful folk music to the James Taylor, Elton John, Carly Simon set. His audience was an odd bunch, heavy into pop psychology, granola bars and Peter, Paul & Mary records. Of course, Harry scored a reasonable hit with the song "Taxi", on his debut set for Elektra in 1972. "Taxi" itself was a somewhat maudlin tale of a New York taxi cab driver and his experiences with those he picks up in his hack. Harry's whole career would more or less follow this route. With his second album "Sniper And Other Love Songs" Harry took it a step further, taking up the alter-ego of a city barfly by the name of Farley Higgins, who basically wanders the city streets observing man's inhumanity to man. The album "Sniper" consists of a motley collection of dour mid tempo folk songs with titles like "And The Baby Never Cries", "Better Place To Be" and "Sunday Morning Sunshine." Nothing too terrible really but nothing all that exceptional, that is until one is confronted by the album's two essential biggies. The first one is "Burning Herself" a grim tale about a troubled woman that is into using herself as a human ashtray, on this number Harry really gets into his William Shatner meets Peter Hammill groove, going completely over the top in a way only Harry and Shatner could really pull off. Then there is the title track "Sniper" which is a nearly 10 minute puke ride that actually outdoes Shatner even at his most overdramatic. "Sniper" is actually Harry's take on Texas mass murderer Charles Whitman, as told by Harry the shocked but interested observer. Harry's backing group provide demonic backing vocals that sound like the Four Preps on a bad STP trip. Then there is Harry, completely coming out of his skin thinking he's Jim Morrison performing "The End" on the Sunset Strip circa 1966. At one point Harry stops the action and screams "I HATE YOU", and you don't know whether to break out laughing or bolt out of the house into the night! There is a video currently on YOUTUBE of Harry and band performing "Sniper" on the PBS soundstage show from 1975 that simply must be viewed by anyone reading this review. I certainly know that buying a Harry Chapin album won't put you on any urban bohemian's hip list, but who the fuck cares about that shit, because "Sniper" is a must have! You haven't really lived until you've heard the title track. I actually ran out and bought every Harry album I could find, hoping there was something that would equal "Sniper" but nothing even came close (although his 2 LP concept album "Dance Band On The Titanic" sure gave it an honest effort and included a song that was over 18 minutes long.) Can you honestly conceive of listening to a HARRY song that goes on for 18 minutes? Well I played it last New Year's Eve and lived to talk about it. HARRY, KEEP THE FUCKING CHANGE!

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