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The Essentials
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Performer Notes
  • Recorded between 1972 and 1980. Includes liner notes by Barry Alfonso.
  • All tracks have been digitally remastered.
  • Audio Remasterer: Pat Kraus .
  • Liner Note Author: Barry Alfonso.
  • Photographer: Sherry Rayn Barnett.
  • Harry Chapin's skills as a songwriter include a strong narrative sense, a detail-centered approach to scene, and a deft ability with characterization. In a sense, Chapin is a writer of musical short stories, and these qualities are in ample evidence on THE ESSENTIALS. "Taxi," the lead-off track here and Chapin's first hit, is a tale of a cabbie's chance meeting with an old lover, and sports interesting string arrangements and a reflective, melancholic atmosphere. "W*O*L*D" is the story of an aimless disc jockey, while "30,000 Pounds of Bananas," a comic song, tells of a fruit deliveryman's slippery accident.
  • Despite his story-like verses, Chapin's choruses are often quite catchy, as on the hopeful "I Wanna Learn a Love Song" and the sprightly "Dreams Go By." The finest example of the story-song mix is probably "Cat's in the Cradle," Chapin's most known and emotionally resonant song. A heart-tugging tale of a underdeveloped father-son relationship, the tune was a huge hit and is still much-loved decades after its release. Like GREATEST STORIES LIVE (another fine Chapin sampler), THE ESSENTIALS hand-picks the artist's finest songs, and testifies to his status as one of the most popular singer/songwriters of the 1970s.
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