My Boy/Slides

Richard Harris

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My Boy/Slides Review

by Thom Jurek

One has to love Raven Records in Australia. Their reissues of classic and forgotten recordings by artists both marginal and mainstream are something to behold. Presentation is everything. They don't worry about deluxe packages that become fetish objects. Instead, they present the recordings they re-release with dignity; with great remastered sound and informative, detailed -- though not obsessively so -- liner notes. These two albums by Richard Harris are a case in point. Pairing Harris' two concept albums in a double-disc package is a brilliant idea. Also, given their earlier Webb Sessions -- which paired The Yard Went on Forever. . . and A Tramp Shining -- with Jimmy Webb's liner notes, this makes an excellent addition. What's most important about these recordings is their general obscurity. The first disc, produced by Jimmy Webb, was conceived by Richard Harris, dealing with his experience with the cyclical birth and dissolution of a marriage. Its songs runs the gamut of production and wonderful vocal excesses, with Harris doing his best Jacques Brel and Scott Walker. The title track and "This Is Our Child," written by Bill Martin and Phil Coulter are simply over the top, and Harris' singing is out of this world in both theatrics and dynamics. The outrageously deep emotive performances are unlike anything else recorded at the time except for Walker's first and fourth albums. There are fine Webb tunes here including "Beth," and "Sidewalk Songs," and his "Requiem" is so moving it's almost worth hitting the stop button right there. When Harris half-speaks, half-sings the words: "When we stopped the clock on that cold rock/and mixed our hot young blood with granite dust/And I raised my head and kissed the sweat that hung like honey/Form your goddess brow. . ." the listener wants to either hide in embarrassment for him or swoon. This set also includes two bonus cuts with minor hit "Ballad of a Man Called Horse," and "Morning of the Mourning for Another Kennedy." Slides is a hedonistic biographical concept about a teacher who loses his job for his rather free living and loving ways. It features great songs by producer Tony Romeo, who wrote or co-wrote everything on the set except for the closing cut, Harris' "There Are Too Many Saviors on My Cross." It's a looser album, folksier with pedal steel guitars, honky tonk pianos, and less overall orchestration. In some ways, it's more nostalgic, more loosely romantic, and more inward looking, reflective. But it still features Harris going for the limit vocally. He was gusty and very fine for a man who wasn't a natural as a singer. And his shortcomings are more than overcome by his effort and sincerity and dare one say it, his willingness to make a fool of himself. There are two bonus cuts here as well, in the Martin/Coulter compositions "Turning Back the Pages," and "Half of Every Dream." The liner notes by Ian McFarlane are wonderfully written and are packed with a solid biographical essay and specific discographical information. This is a wonderful package of two truly enigmatic recordings.

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