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Dance Band On the Titanic

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Album Review

Who would have figured, listening to the heart-on-his-sleeve sensibilities of Heads & Tales in 1972, that Harry Chapin would or could ever generate a wry, sly, sardonic double-LP (single CD) album like this? The diversity of this album is its strong point, the core of the record made up of straightforward, serious songs, most notably "We Grew up a Little Bit" and the gorgeous ballads "Mismatch" (arguably Chapin's prettiest song) and "I Do It for You, Jane" (of which the latter could have been a smash done countrypolitan style in Nashville), and there's one lean vignette into traditional music ("Bluesman"). But those are surrounded by some of the most bittersweet work of his career, including the title track, "Mercenaries," and "Manhood," not to mention the satirical, phantasmagoric "There Only Was One Choice," a 14-minute conceptual piece that conflates a bitter, sardonic look at the music business and the history of the United States, all looping back to the opener, "Dance Band on the Titanic." The whole album is dazzling in its range, from full-blown orchestrated numbers to solo acoustic-style tracks, and moods running from wide-eyed innocence to seething anger and frustration, all of it interesting and 95 percent of it highly entertaining as well. As with most of Chapin's work — but perhaps more so throughout this album — one gets the sense of an artist who desperately needed to break out of the boundaries of recording, onto a larger canvas; on this record, the music is so effective that he nearly made it, without ever actually breaking out to another format.


Born: 07 December 1942 in New York, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s

Harry Chapin's career as a popular singer/songwriter was cut short by an auto accident in 1981, yet he left behind a series of recordings that his fans continue to treasure decades after his death. Chapin was never a critically acclaimed singer/songwriter. Critics accused him of over-sentimentalizing his subjects and attaching heavy-handed morals to his socially aware story-songs; the heavily orchestrated arrangements that accompanied many of his songs didn't help his case with the critics, either....
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Dance Band On the Titanic, Harry Chapin
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