The final brace of the nine albums Chapin recorded for Elektra in the 70s, this twofer suggests the singer-songwriter was continuing to grow in stature and makes the listener wonder where he might have headed had he not died in a car accident in 1981. Always an articulate troubadour with an idiosyncratic worldview, the songs here arguably represent some of his most personal and savage work.
In some respects, 1977’s Dance Band On The Titanic attempts to draw parallels between a brutal, uncaring music industry and an America serving in populace equally as callously. It’s there on the lengthy fable There Was Only One Choice and the Ballad I Wonder What Happened To Him, while We Grew Up A Little Bit picks over the bones of a romance desperately trying to avoid being dashed on the rocks.
The following year’s Living Room Suite is less fanciful in its themes and ambitions: a more introspective Chapin feels sympathy for his lover’s old beau on Poor Damn Fool, while Flowers Are Red is a striking dissection of an education system forcing bright, individual minds to conform. Musically, Harry occasionally steps out of his folk-friendly comfort zone, serving up some delicious blue-eyed soul on It Seems You Only Love Me When It Rains.
Harry Chapin’s unashamedly middlebrow musings on the human condition never really struck a responsive chord with British audiences, although the New York born singer-songwriter did enjoy a brief glimpse of chart success on this side of the Atlantic in 1974 with the plaintively memorable W.O.L.D. This inexpensive re-issue couples two of the later albums that Harry recorded for Elektra before his untimely death in a car accident in 1981, capturing the essence of the well intentioned balladeer’s grandiose approach to music-making via unwieldy epics such as There Only Was One Choice and Dance Band on The Titanic itself.