Harry Chapin - acoustic guitar, vocals; John Wallace - bass, vocals; Doug Walker - lead guitars, mandolin, vocals; Howie Fields - drums; Kim Scholes - cello; Stephen Chapin - keyboards, vocals
This very intimate and personal performance by one of America's greatest musical storytellers, Harry Chapin, was recorded at the historic Rainbow Theater in London for the King Biscuit Flower Hour. It was recorded the same week he released what would be his last second-to-last studio album, Dance Band on the Titanic, a double, pseudo-concept album. All of Chapin's biggest hits are here, as well as six songs from that album.
Although he never achieved the folk icon status of Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez or Bob Dylan, Chapin did attract a loyal following of fans that adored him for his sentimental character-driven story songs and his lush orchestrated arrangements. Most critics considered him sappy, but his fans loved him then and still do. Not surprisingly, many of his songs have become staple programming on adult music and oldies stations. This show, like all Chapin performances, is filled with extensive onstage chats with the audience. The dialogue is essential if you want to know what was behind these many stories. Chapin, never shy for words, is eager to explain the inspiration behind most of the tracks featured here.
Love him or hate him, Chapin certainly knew how to write lyrics that could touch people's hearts - a quality best made manifest on his classic #1 hit, "Cats In The Cradle," the story of a workaholic father who misses all the key moments in his children's lives. The song, which evolved from a poem written by Chapin's wife Sandy, is just as poignant here as it is on the original recording. Another highpoint is the sad story of the irresponsible disc-jockey who laments losing his wife and family to the lifestyle of a radio rock jock. Having to act like a teenager during his air shift, he sings "Playing all the 45s and I'm going on 15."
Sadly, Chapin would die four years later in 1981, in a fiery car crash while driving on the Long Island Expressway on the way to perform at a free concert. This recording, made for the King Biscuit Flower Hour, is an excellent example of just what a consummate performer Harry Chapin was during his short but influential career.