Harry Chapin – Sniper & Other Love Songs (1972)

FrontCover1Sniper and Other Love Songs is the second studio album by the American singer/songwriter Harry Chapin, released in 1972. The album’s title song is a vaguely fictionalised account of Charles Whitman’s shootings from the clocktower of the Main Building of the University of Texas at Austin in August 1966. In 2004 it was released as a double CD package with “Heads and Tales” featuring several previously unreleased out-takes.

The song “Circle” was a major hit for The New Seekers (released as “Circles”) and became known as the Chapin Anthem. “Sunday Morning Sunshine” cracked the Billboard Hot 100. A live version of “Better Place To Be” charted in 1976. (by wikipedia)

Sniper & Other Love Songs never sold remotely as well as its predecessor, Heads & Tales, mostly because it never had a hit single like “Taxi” to help lift it high on the charts, but it is actually a bolder and better album and a much more balanced record; the lack of an elaborately produced number like “Taxi” may have hurt sales, but it meant that no one song dominated the proceedings. Chapin sings better here than on his first album, with improved range and a lot more confidence, which extends to his songwriting as well — “Sunday Morning Sunshine” is a fine folk-based number that opens the album in achingly beautiful, genial fashion, but it’s on the second song, “Sniper,” that Chapin shows his real range.

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A ten-minute conceptual work, the latter has all the complexity and drama of a screenplay and a movie soundtrack woven into one, and is brilliantly performed/acted by Chapin; listening to it, one gets the impression of a real-life, soft rock version of Noel Airman, the composer character from the novel Marjorie Morningstar, who was forever trying out and reworking material from the Broadway show that he was planning for years; even overlooking the fact that Chapin did, of course, get to Broadway, there’s a sense of someone looking for a bigger canvas that records or singing songs on a concert stage can provide. The rest ranges from low-key, elegantly played, but unpretentious singer/songwriter material, built on beautiful melodies (“And the Baby Never Cries”) to fairly hard-rocking electric numbers (“Burning Herself”). Some of it, like “Barefoot Lady,” sounds a decade out of place in the 1970s, while other numbers, such as “Better Place to Be,” are the kind of extended soft-rocking, poetic numbers that collegiate audiences (at least, humanities majors) used to devour in the early ’70s. “Circle” is probably the most popular number ever to come off of the album, but it’s merely the most obvious personal statement here, rather than representative of this engaging and still very rewarding album, which finally showed up on CD in 2002, in time for its 30th anniversary, from the Wounded Bird label. (by Bruce Eder)

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Personnel:
Harry Chapin (guitar, vocals)
Steve Chapin (keyboards)
Russ Kunkel (drums, percussion)
Ron Palmer (guitar, vocals)
Tim Scott (cello)
John Wallace (bass, vocals)

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Tracklist:
01. Sunday Morning Sunshine 3.51
02. Sniper 9.58
03. And The Baby Never Cries 5.09
04. Burning Herself 3.30
05. Barefoot Boy 3.29
06. Better Place To Be 8.36
07. Circle 3.24
08. Woman Child 5.24
09. Winter Song 2.31

All songs written by Harry Chapin

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