Jack Hardy

Collected Works, Vol. 1: 1965-1983

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On this first five-CD volume, Hardy has included his second through fifth albums, but not his debut LP, 1971's Jack Hardy. In place of that is Early and Rare, a 20-track disc containing seven of the 11 tracks from the LP, as well as unreleased demos and one teenage home recording. Especially as compared to Hardy's later work, this is embryonic juvenilia. The Jack Hardy of the early 1970s is something of a country singer; in contrast, the Jack Hardy of his second album, The Mirror of My Madness (1976), is a fully formed folk-rocker lyrically influenced by Dylan. Though cobbled together from various sessions held over a period of years, the album has a consistent sound. On 1978's The Nameless One, Hardy has grown much more interested in story-songs, often on centuries-old topics. This academic strain continues on the somewhat elegiac Landmark (1982), which is distinguished from its predecessor due to lead guitarist Frank Christian, who can suggest Mark Knopfler or Dylan associates Bruce Langhorne and Robbie Robertson. White Shoes (1982) finds Hardy surprisingly returning to romance as a subject, as well as biting political satire and history lessons in song. Taken together, Hardy's first 16 years of recording are a triumph of craftsmanship over commercial considerations. Perhaps his most telling song in this sense is Landmark's "Wheelbarrow Johnny," in which the title character takes off for the gold rush, only to make his fortune building wheelbarrows for other forty-niners. Hardy has made a point of shunning the commercial trappings of the music industry, instead putting out albums as he liked on his own record label. If he hasn't grown rich in the process of building wheelbarrows, his Collected Works stand as sturdy musical tools.

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