Harry Chapin

On the Road to Kingdom Come

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On the Road to Kingdom Come sounded more like a rock album than anything Harry Chapin had done to date. In the hands of sympathetic producer/arranger Stephen Chapin, Harry's songs are infused with clever and often humorous bits of musical commentary -- horns, electric guitars, keyboards, backing vocals, and various sound effects pop up at opportune times throughout -- that makes much of the material instantly ingratiating. While the record failed to capture commercial interest (singer/songwriters were out, disco was in), song for song this is one of his strongest efforts. As a musical storyteller, Chapin has few peers; both the potent tale of a duplicitous potentate on "The Mayor of Candor Lied" and the heartwarming "Corey's Coming" are masterfully conceived. Harry's humorous side, which somehow got stifled in the studio, here comes out of the closet for the title track and "Laugh Man," though both have their barbs. The album also included two of his prettiest songs, "Caroline" (co-written with wife Sandy Chapin) and "If My Mary Were Here." A track dedicated to the recently fallen Phil Ochs, "The Parade's Still Passing By," is also featured. Compared to some of his earlier work, which was often dry and dour, these songs are vigorous and saturated in sound. Some might charge that the record's resemblance to Elton John's contemporary work renders it lightweight, but Chapin's wit was sharpening with age and his romantic visions remained keen. For the faithful, getting On the Road to Kingdom Come is a good idea.

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