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The Diaries of Private Henry Hill

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Album Review

A concept album built around the true-life diaries and letters of a young U.S. serviceman killed in Iraq, The Diaries of Private Henry Hill is one of those rare (too rare, considering how many of the things there are out there!) thematic offerings that is as impressive in execution as it was in conception. Blow Up Hollywood frontman Steve Messina first heard of Hill when the young man's bereaved father walked into the homeless shelter that he, Messina, was running. They talked, of course, of war and loss, but it was only when he was loaned the soldier's own writings that Messina comprehended the true nature — and horror — of the war. The result was a collection of songs and themes that neither support nor attack the conflict, but simply show it from the point of view of the people who are actually there: the only people, in fact, whose opinions on the rights and wrongs of the war actually matter. Musically, it is easy to compare Private Henry Hill with latter-day Pink Floyd, if they hadn't gone so horribly off-course with and after The Wall. Of course, the theme is one that is likewise dear to Roger Waters' heart, but more than that, the performance possesses that same sense of gut-wrenching drama that was the hallmark of Waters' most effective compositions. Lyrics are forthright and to the point, but they are also sparingly used — the album is at its best when the instrumental passages paint the pictures in your mind, with the occasional well-chosen sound effect to hammer home the precise time and place. Such comparisons, however, are also a cop-out — Private Henry Hill deserves to be viewed alone, heard in isolation, and appreciated within the nightmarish darkness of the shell-torn foxhole in which Henry Hill wrote his original words — and in which countless thousands of other, unknown Henry Hills are still writing their own. Thanks to the Internet, the Iraq War has already established itself as the most literate conflict the world has ever seen. More albums like Private Henry Hill could also see it become the most musical.

Customer Reviews


this album i can connect to very much. i love the song WMD. im sorry for hell you had to go through at war.

A Concept Album that works on many levels

The album is supposed to be the musical adaptation of the diaries/war experiences of a real U.S. grunt. The music and lyrics are excellent and reminiscent of Steve Earle in style and musicality, with a large dollop of Neil Young and Edwin Starr thematic content. WMD is getting airplay, especially on Pacifica and as segway music on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! program (available as a podcast here at the iTunes Store). The theme is solidly anti-war through the description of the day-to-day experience of war. There is no doubt that the name of this album is a clever take on the Right-Wing's use of the name of an otherwise anonymous U.S. Private who was killed in Korea. Well worth the investment.

Fantastic album but too real for many to handle.

This album is so far away from anything that could be considered mainstream yet there's something so immediately identifiable in every word and note. Thankfully we don't all have to live through the hell artfully detailed in these songs but you come off after sitting and listening to this album like you just experienced a small glimmer of that that world. I think this is far to real for many people as most like to just be able to put their "I support the troops" bumper sticker on and forget about the lives being lived over there but for those who can handle the emotional weight this is a fantastic voyage into a very real slice of American life.

The Diaries of Private Henry Hill, Blow Up Hollywood
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Customer Ratings