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Heads And Tales/Sniper And Other Love Songs

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD (16 Aug. 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Rhino UK
  • ASIN: B0002DXQ38
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Audio Cassette  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 461,016 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Could You Put Your Light On, Please
  2. Greyhound
  3. Everybody's Lonely
  4. Sometime, Somewhere Wife
  5. Empty
  6. Taxi
  7. Any Old Kind Of Day
  8. Dogtown
  9. Same Sad Singer
  10. Barefoot Boy (Previously Unreleased Full Version)

Disc: 2

  1. Sunday Morning Sunshine
  2. Sniper
  3. And The Baby Never Cries
  4. Burning Herself
  5. Barefoot Boy
  6. A Better Place To Be
  7. Circle
  8. Woman Child
  9. Winter Song
  10. City Sweet (Previously Unreleased)
  11. Halfway To Heaven (Previously Unreleased)
  12. Big Big City (Previously Unreleased)
  13. Pigeon Run (Previously Unreleased)
  14. Simple Song (Previously Unreleased)
  15. Dirty Old Man (Previously Unreleased)
  16. Songwriter's Woman (Previously Unreleased)

Customer Reviews

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Format: Audio CD
What we have here are the first two albums produced by Harry Chapin. While "Heads and Tales" does contain the exquisite "Taxi," that really is the only above average song to be found on this 1972 album. Even though this is obviously an early effort, you will still find the core elements that would be developed so wonderfully in later albums: the lengthy story songs ("Dogtown"), the focus on the downs of relationships ("Sometime, Somewhere Wife"), the angst of human existence ("Everybody's Lonely") and the self-awareness of the singer-songwriter ("Same Sad Singer").
Of course it was "Taxi" that brought Harry to the attention of the public despite its 6:44 length, with its simple guitar, haunting cello, and falsetto solo by Big John Wallace, telling the story of a chance meeting several years between two old lovers. However, since Taxi is to be found on a couple of other CDs, this particular one is primarily going to be of interest to the devote Harry Chapin fan, which, come to think of it, is really the only type out there, even after all these years following his tragic death.
"Sniper & Other Love Songs" is much stronger than "Heads & Tales," but I would not say it is a great album. What it is would be an album with a couple of really great songs. I used "Sniper" in class for years to show how one song could use different musical themes to change mood. The idea of a song clearly inspired by the Texas Tower sniper strikes everyone as very strange at first, but what they usually end up thinking after actually listening to the song a few times is how good Chapin could be as a storyteller. This is driven home even more so by "A Better Place to Be," which is arguably more poignant than "Taxi" and almost as beautiful melodically.
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Format: Audio CD
Released in late 1972, hot on the heels of the critically-acclaimed debut album "Heads and Tales", this is Chapin's most underrated work and for many fans his finest musical achievement. It is a prime example of his cinematic-style of story-telling that arguably defined the gentre. Self-indulgent, perhaps. Pretentious, maybe, but like the minstrels of old, Chapin leaves captivates the listener and leaves them with some thought-provoking and candid imagery of a darker, somewhat sinister, slice of American life and the complexities of the human soul. There was pressure by Elektra for Chapin to continue a solid sales trend and deliver a blockbuster second album,. and the sessions for "Sniper" were reputedly heavy-going, with Harry pushing for a double album, and at loggerheads with his band over arrangements and last-minute changes. Producer Fred Kewley and engineer Bruce Morgan had their work cut out. The band remained as before, with Harry on vocals and guitar, John Wallace on bass, Ron Palmer on lead, Tim Scott on cello, along with brother Steve Chapin guesting on keyboards and top session drummer Russ Kunkel.
Chapin eventually settled for a single album, gleaning nine songs from an extensive backlog to create a conceptual work of intensity and beauty. Originally titled "City Suite", the album is a roller-coaster ride through a city - any city - in which we encounter a variety of people with different "conditions", at odds with personal traumas in their essentially lonely existence. The "crazy carousel" of urban life, particularly the solitude, feature strongly.
The opening track is "Sunday Morning Sunshine", a bouyant song that was culled as a single release, introducing us to this wandering minstrel and his backlog of "hobo" stories.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Ok so he was not the best singer around but for me he was and still is my favourite singer songwriter. His story songs resonated with me and I am so pleased that I got to see him live twice. Yes I have these albums on vinyl but I got these CD versions for the car.
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By A Customer HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on 16 Nov. 2002
Format: Audio CD
I think "Sniper & Other Love Songs" is much stronger than "Heads & Tales," the album which had "Taxi," the song that got Harry Chapin on the radio. However, I would not say it is a great album, but rather that it has a couple of really great songs. I used "Sniper" in class for years to show how one song could use different musical themes to change mood. The idea of a song clearly inspired by the Texas Tower sniper strikes everyone as very strange at first, but what they usually end up thinking after actually listening to the song a few times is how good Chapin could be as a storyteller. This is driven home even more so by "A Better Place to Be," which is arguably more poignant than "Taxi" and almost as beautiful melodically. I could even make the case that even with all the epic story songs that were to come, from "Taxi" to "Bummer" to "The Mayor of Candor Lied," the two best ones are on this album ("There Was Only One Choice" is so autobiographical that it stands on its own). Add to this "Circle," Harry's favorite final encore piece, and "Sunday Morning Sunshine," and this album rates above average no matter what you think about the other tracks. Those four songs along justify having this album. But if you remember the music of Harry Chapin with the same fondness that I do, then the only thing you need to know is that this album has finally been released on CD. Harry, you were a good man and you are missed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x99023234) out of 5 stars 18 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94f3ddb0) out of 5 stars Harry proved here that he was no sentimentalist 28 Dec. 2005
By R. L. MILLER - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
During the time he was still with us, the rock'n'roll crowd sneered that he didn't have the proper rock "attitude". The folkies felt he was too philosophical and didn't stick to the standard ballad form enough. Fortunately the bona fide folk purists weren't listening anymore because original material had been "in" for folksingers for years, or we'd have heard "where's Jimmy Crack Corn?" ad nauseam. The audience who listened to Carole King and Carly Simon wanted to hear love ballads and Harry wasn't enough of a Neil Diamond clone for their tastes. The Singer/ Songwriter fans complained that his lyrics were too prosaic, too matter-of-fact. But Harry overcame the "sophomore jinx" by giving us more "pay attention, Jack" material than on his "Heads & Tales" debut. From the start, we got some very listenable material. "Sunday Morning Sunshine" is a joyful your-love-gives-my-life-meaning song. Then the album abruptly shifts to the raging epic title song, the tale of Charles Whitman of Texas Tower fame. Given the times this song was written during, Chapin can be forgiven his attempt to understand this monster who didn't realize that the universe underwrites no insurance against hurt feelings to any of us--instead Whitman threw the most fearsome temper tantrum a human being can throw: mass murder. Listen to the lyrics--every slight mentioned has happened to all of us, but the difference is that the rest of us do like the old saying: "get a life". Then the album moves to a song of a lonely musician who finds love in the arms of an abandoned single mom whose "Baby Never Cries". Then to "Burning Herself", the helpless thoughts of a man in love with a woman who's into self-mutilation and he can't think of a thing he can do to help her, and as such he's letting her down. "Better Place To Be" is the tale of a lonely waitress who meets an equally lonely customer in the line of duty. The sequence of "Sunday Morning Sunshine" and "And the Baby Never Cries" bracketing the shock-and-awe "Sniper" isn't a recent development of later editions--I still have the LP of it, which I grabbed when it was first released over 20 years ago. This album is basically Harry saying "bull" to those who called him a wimp and a poor songwriter on strength of his freshman effort. Not to mention those who couldn't fit him into a convenient pigeonhole so decided to sneer at him instead--the sneer being the defalt facial expression of 20th century Americal, a syndrome our society is still sick unto death from. To call him "progressive folk" along with brilliant Texan Shawn Phillips is the closest one can come under mass-market music rules. That's if those really apply. Which they don't--this is Harry Chapin Music you're buying here. That's the name of the category.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94f3de04) out of 5 stars Great for serious fans, overkill for others 27 Nov. 2004
By David A. Bede - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
At long last, someone has done some serious digging into the far reaches of the late, great Harry Chapin's catalog. I'm glad to see it happen and I hope it continues with the remainder of his work, but I can't say this collection quite qualifies for buried-treasure status. Of course, other hardcore Chapin fans won't need me to tell them it's worth the expense to finally hear the long-lost half of the fabled Double Album That Wasn't. (Elektra balked at letting Chapin follow the success of "Taxi" with a 2 LP set, hence the lost tracks unearthed here.) On the other hand, if you only own "Greatest Stories Live" or "The Gold Medal Collection" and are thinking about a second purchase, this probably isn't your best choice until you become more familiar with Chapin's work as a whole.

Chapin's first solo album, "Heads and Tales," has always been my favorite, with its beautiful melodies and passionate lyrics about isolation and lost love. (That admittedly vague description literally fits every song on the album.) This collection includes "Heads and Tales" in its entirety, with the unfortunate exception of the opening track, "Could You Put Your Light On, Please?" Only an alternate version of that is included here, featuring a poppier, acoustic opening which segues into the original version towards the end of the song. It's an interesting variation, but it just isn't as good as the beautiful original, which could easily have fit on the disc along with the rest of the album. That omission is, in my opinion, the biggest strike against this edition.

"Sniper and Other Love Songs" is quite a bit less accessible than its predecessor, which might be why it was one of the last Chapin albums to be reissued on CD. But the repeated listenings it takes to enjoy the album are well worth it. I've met a lot of fans who consider it Harry's best effort. It is certainly his darkest, tackling subjects like self-mutilation, abortion, underage sex and, most notably, murder. The title track, a nine minute epic about Texas mass-murderer Charles Whitman, is perhaps Chapin's most ambitious work ever. He takes on the point of view of several different characters in Whitman's life and the tragedy he inflicted, changing the time signature and instrumentation with each change of narrator, and ending it all in a raw climax. Don't be surprised if you have to listen to this one several times before you appreciate it as a whole.

While nothing else on the album is quite that hard hitting, most of the other songs are topical on some level. The uncharacteristically opaque "Barefoot Boy" is (I think) a gorgeously sad call to arms for the then-nascent environmentalist movement, in the form of a portrait of a country boy trying in vain to escape the growing city. A much longer, previously unreleased arrangement of this one is included here in addition to the version from the original album. "Woman Child" is a frank look at a very young woman in over her head, from the perspective of the older man who put her there. (Chapin prided himself on never being afraid to take on the personas of the nastier characters in his songs!) "Burning Herself" is more sympathetic, but just as uncomfortable, in its tale of a woman addicted to doing just that. Elsewhere, there are echoes of the less-intense "Heads and Tales." "And the Baby Never Cries" and "A Better Place to Be" are classic Chapin story-songs of people unlucky in love and life, while "Sunday Morning Sunshine" and "Circle" inject some much-needed lightheartedness into the picture.

And the newly released songs? Most of them were worth waiting for. "City Suite" (the lyrics make it clear that this was almost certainly the intended spelling of the title) is brilliant. It's yet another of several reworkings of one of Chapin's earliest songs, "Someone Keeps Calling My Name," and in my opinion it's better than either of the songs he released under that title. "Big Big City" and "Pigeon Run" do a great job of capturing some of the absurdities of city life. "Dirty Old Man" barely qualifies as the same song as the throwaway track found on "The Gold Medal Collection" - here he tackles a similar subject with respect rather than silliness. "Halfway to Heaven" and "Simple Song" are early recordings of later-released songs (the latter was rechristened "I Wanna Learn A Love Song"), and I wasn't so impressed with them. As with most such alternate takes, they're interesting to those who are familiar with the later versions, but Chapin just hadn't nailed them yet.

It's a lot and it's not perfect, but if you're like most Harry Chapin fans, that's probably just what you want. For those of us who are already hooked, this was long overdue!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x967524d4) out of 5 stars some dark love songs 6 Dec. 2002
By aaron neubauer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I have waited for 10 years for sniper and other love songs to be released on cd. The album is very dark, typified by "Sniper", and "Woman Child". The album features the Chapin anthem "Circle" and Harry's favorites song that he wrote "A Better Place" to be. Over all a very good album. aaron neubauer
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94f3f0a8) out of 5 stars Heavy songs that are nice to know 23 Jan. 2005
By hold on to nothing - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Steve Chapin plays piano for his brother Harry Chapin on the album "Sniper and Other Love Songs" released in 1972. With Tim Scott on cello, Ron Palmer on lead guitar, John Wallace on electric bass, and Harry Chapin with his own guitar, the group always has plenty of irons in the fire to add to the astounding lyrics of Harry Chapin. The first song brags about having "a pocket full of stories that I just had to tell." On the dramatic side, this album is named for a song called "Sniper" that is 9 minutes and 50 seconds long, ("Seven A.M., the day is beginning, so much to do and so little time") that tells a story which starts with a tower on a campus. By the middle of the song, the main character is spewing out "Are you listening to me? Are you listening to me? Am I?" as the bullets fly. "Not much of a joiner" was the explanation people gave for his idiosyncrasies.

The song "Circle" has a 1971 copyright, and the "let's go 'round one more time" theme is just right for a career in music. The best song with a "Sshh, I know just how you feel" line is "Better Place to Be," which takes 7 minutes and thirty-five seconds to answer the question:

Where the hell you been hiding,

and why do you look so down?

The long story keeps turning into a chorus when it gets to:

If you want me to come with you

then that's alright with me

'cause I know I'm going nowhere

and anywhere's a better place to be.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94f3f2e8) out of 5 stars Genius storyteller 11 Oct. 2002
By Erica A. Bardan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Sniper and Other Love Songs is easily one of Harry Chapins best albums, with it's title track (Sniper) ranking up there as one of his best works. No one could put a story to music like Harry and it's about the time they started releasing more of his work on CD. Listen to the CD, then take the time to REALLY listen to it. I promise you'll be moved!
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