Noel Harrison

Life Is a Dream

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Because he's far better known in the U.S. as an actor than a singer, some might be disposed to view this 26-track compilation of Harrison's 1967-1970 recordings as celebrity vocal kitsch. It's not brilliant stuff, no, but it's far worthier (or at least more inoffensive) than many might suspect. First, Harrison did start off as a singer/guitarist long before making his name as an actor, so he did know something about singing a tune and facing the right way into a microphone. Second, he had decent taste in cover material, usually going for folk-rock singer/songwriters like Leonard Cohen (who had yet to record when Harrison covered "Suzanne" for a small hit in 1967), Donovan, Arlo Guthrie, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, David Cohen (aka David Blue, whose "In Your Childhood," included here, was never released by Cohen/Blue himself), Bob Lind, and Tom Paxton. And he was supported on this light pop-folk-rock by many of the best Hollywood session musicians of the time, including James Burton, Joe Osborn, Carol Kaye, Hal Blaine, Jim Gordon, Earl Palmer, Larry Knechtel, and Bruce Langhorne. He had an ingratiating if modest, slight way with a tune (albeit with a touch of British theatricality and a thin voice that strained to keep level on the high notes), also writing a few songs of his own, sometimes in a style heavily influenced by Donovan (as on "Santa Monica Pier" and "Leitch on the Beach"). Standing a bit above the breezy, mild norm of his Reprise work were "Sign of the Queen," a cover of a Brewer & Shipley composition with psychedelic sitar and reversed cymbal; his self-penned, little-noticed contribution to the late-'60s back-to-basics movement sweeping through folk-rock, "The Great Electric Experiment Is Over"; and what must have been the only cover of Joni Mitchell's "Nathan La Franeer" from that time period. Drawing from his Collage, Santa Monica Pier, and The Great Electric Experiment Is Over LPs, this disc also adds four songs from non-LP singles, the U.K. 1969 single "Sparrow"/"California Weekend," and previously unissued covers of Lightfoot's "Mountains and Marianne" and Baker Knight's "Another Virgin Spring." (A radio promo ad for Santa Monica Pier and an unidentified music hall-ish outtake also play as unlisted bonus tracks.) His own likable, non-self-aggrandizing liner notes, complete with comments on every song, form another plus. [This CD is only available for purchase over the Internet, from]

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:48
2 2:57
3 2:05
5 2:02
6 2:21
7 2:01
8 2:34
9 3:07
10 2:54
11 2:27
12 3:37
13 2:36
14 2:55
15 3:02
16 3:40
17 3:50
18 2:58
19 2:37
20 3:06
21 2:47
22 4:33
23 2:42
24 4:02
25 2:46
26 2:50
blue highlight denotes track pick