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Why We Fight

John Wesley Harding

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Album Review

After a recording alliance with producer Andy Paley spawned John Wesley Harding's first two studio albums for Sire, the singer/songwriter had suffered more Elvis Costello comparisons than anyone should have to endure. While such assessments were largely due to the vocal similarities of both Wes and E.C. — plus the fact that some of the Attractions had played on 1990's widely acclaimed Here Comes the Groom — a loyal and burgeoning pack of fans found Harding's material to be genuine enough to hang in there. While some of those same disciples were soon second-guessing their loyalty when Wes forced them to cope with an ill-advised cover of Tommy James' "Crystal Blue Persuasion" on the following year's experimental pop effort, The Name Above the Title, JWH finally got it right on 1992's Why We Fight. Arguably his strongest album and boasting the perfect balance of folk and attitude, Harding gets down to business under the guidance of Los Lobos saxophonist/producer Steve Berlin. A contemptuous opening number, "Kill the Messenger" seemingly sets the pace, but the controversial and infectious "Hitler's Tears" soon reveals that Harding was really just getting warmed up. If the allure of a song like "Millionaire's Dream" didn't allow Harding to cash in (Why We Fight stalled commercially and was out of print for eight years), "Where the Bodies Are" was a harsh but needed criticism of the justice system that would still make a great bumper on Court TV. While this reissue offers no bonus material, it was remastered, houses new artwork, and most importantly, stands the test of time. ~ John D. Luerssen, Rovi

Biography

Born: 22 October 1965 in Hastings, East Sussex, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

John Wesley Harding may take his name from a Bob Dylan album and be a modern-day folksinger, but with the biting, cynical observations in his songs and a sharp sense of humor combined with winning melodies, he shows that his true forefathers are Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe with a hint of Billy Bragg. Far from being a follower or strict revivalist, however, Harding draws on a wide assortment of...
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Why We Fight, John Wesley Harding
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