John Hartford

Love Album/Housing Project

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John Hartford's death in 2001 has brought a number of issues and reissues, but none have been more important than Camdem Deluxe's release of his six early RCA albums along with the never-before-released Radio John. These albums offer a sidelong view of Hartford in the mid- to late '60s, prior to his Aereo-Plain days. The Love Album/Housing Project captures Hartford on his third and forth release, both recorded in 1968. The Love Album finds him using slightly bigger arrangements, gaining confidence, and more or less coming into his own. "The Six O'Clock Train and a Girl With Green Eyes" bounces along like the happy '60s pop song it is, while the smart and catchy "Why Do You Do Me Like You Do?" manages to be funny without being overly obvious. "I Would Not Be Here" is the type of song Dylan might've written if he'd come from Nashville and didn't take himself quite so seriously, while "Landscape Grown Cold" and "This Eve of Parting" find Hartford feigning country sincerity. Housing Project may be Hartford's best RCA album. Great pieces like "I'm Still Here," "The Girl With the Long Brown Hair," and "Big Blue Balloon" fit snuggly between bizarre word-speak poems like "Housing Project" and psychedelic fluff like "Crystallia Daydream." The arrangements are more innovative than his earlier RCA material, but don't go overboard, as would his follow-up, John Hartford. The production, nonetheless, will seem a bit much to those accustomed to his more traditional recordings. Nonetheless, The Love Album/Housing Project find Hartford taking his place beside Kris Kristofferson and other Nashville songwriters and easily holding his own.

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