His music radiated the thoughts and feelings of those he wrote about and
labored to help through his incessant fund raising efforts.
Few men could be considered great. Harry Chapin was definitely one of those few. He reached out and touched so many lives in different ways, whether it was through his fundraising or his concerts. He co-founded World Hunger Year, an organization devoted to ending world hunger. He would stay for hours after concerts signing merchandise or just chatting with the fans. Sadly, he would die in an accident that by all accounts was completely preventable.
My godfather always told me "Harry never had a huge following. But he had a "loyal" following." That is absolutely true. Only two of his albums were certified platinum and two others certified gold. But his die hard fans treasure them all and they made the CBS/Fox VHS release of "The Final Concert" a bestseller in the early years of home video. Many websites are devoted to him and he was such a positive influence that he was posthumously rewarded the Gold Medal of Freedom by Congress. For many years, "The Final Concert" was thought to be the only Chapin concert videotaped. In 1994, Rhino uncovered a long missing PBS Soundstage concert and released it on tape as "The Book of Chapin." Then in mid 2002, with the cooperation from Chapin's widow Sandy, Pioneer located this rare concert.
Taped in Germany on April 12, 1977, this is an episode of the popular German music series "Rockpalast Live." In support of his newly released Dance Band on the Titanic LP, with a backing band consisting of brother Steve Chapin on keyboards, Big John Wallace on bass, Doug Walker on electric guitar, Howie Fields on drums, and Kim Scholes on bass, Chapin (on acoustic guitar) performs fourteen songs:
• "Shooting Star" (from Verities and Balderdash,
This is a great introduction to his music. Many songs were culled from his Verities and Balderdash album, but considering that album was his biggest selling one to date, it's a smart decision. The performance is excellent. Some songs don't sound exactly like their studio counterparts, but Chapin sings with great feeling and care for his music. His backing band is solid and with good reason, many of the same musicians appeared in his live concerts and they knew the music by heart. The only negative about this particular concert is that the German audience doesn't really know how to respond to this music. Chapin's gift was to tell a full story in a song and it's a concept that is lost on this crowd. Chapin understood this and tried his best to win them over. He nearly succeeded.
My favorite cut from this concert is "Corey's Coming." Besides the fact that it was one of his best songs, this live version is twice as long and even more powerful than it was before. The only two cuts that suffer a bit are "30,000 Pounds of Bananas" and "Cat's in the Cradle." The former suffers from a clueless audience (apart from one enthusiastic man) and Chapin, sensing trouble, doesn't perform the alternate endings that were so popular in North America. The latter lacks the polish of the original version and is a bit too rough for this concert. A much better live version can be found on his "Greatest Stories Live" album.
The full frame video transfer is often poor in quality. Grain is so thick that it often appears as if snow is falling on the soundstage. There is pixelation present throughout the program and colors are very muted. However, I must be forgiving since 1) this is a kineoscope from a German television show and 2) this tape was lost for over 25 years.
However, the audio is nearly flawless. Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround stereo is the best way to experience this concert. Only one flaw appears at the very beginning of the program, when you cannot hear Harry's introduction. Still, the music comes through clear and vibrant and that is what really matters.
Extras include a detailed biography of Harry's life and career and a near complete discography (only missing one of the eleven albums he released in his lifetime). These are worth checking out, but would it have hurt to include a stills gallery or better yet, a short featurette of recollections from his family and friends?
Despite the poor video quality, I still recommend purchasing this disc. All profits go towards the Harry Chapin Foundation and I cannot think of a more worthy way to spend $24.99.
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