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Harry Chapin: The Final Concert (1981)

| Documentary, Music
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Credited cast:
Yvonne Cable ...
Herself
Harry Chapin ...
Himself
Steve Chapin ...
Himself
Howie Fields ...
Himself
Doug Walker ...
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John Wallace ...
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Documentary | Music

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Better Place to Be
Written and performed by Harry Chapin
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Probably The Best Harry Chapin DVD You Will Find
12 July 2015 | by See all my reviews

The Final Concert, currently available under the title You Are The Only Song, is the best representation of Harry Chapin's unique & memorable style available for fans today. Despite it's original title, this was not Chapin last concert performance, it was filmed roughly one year before his untimely death for a TV special. Chapin plays in front of a fairly large crowd rolling through new material from his final album (Sequel) with a healthy mix of album cuts & singles from his previous 10 albums.

Chapin is at ease in front of the large crowd. Though much of his between song banter & comedic interplay with his band was scripted it still manages to come off fresh and original for the live crowd. Despite that hectic touring and performing schedule (over 230 shows per year most years) his voice is in fine form, although powerhouse vocals & glass shattering high notes were not his forte. Chapin's appeal as a performer was his ability to connect personally with his audience, an amiable, folksy, at ease style combined with his humorous and charismatic personality that made his audience feel intimately connected with him on stage. This was a strong asset given many of his songs tended towards sad or melancholy story lines, often dealing with aftermath of life's losses. Musically Chapin's arrangements tended towards the sentimental side which made sense given the story of his lyrics, there is some romanticizing and a lot of moralizing, tales of bored husbands, singing dry cleaners, failed pilots, absent dads, Chapin wrote songs about common "ordinary" people dealing with situations that while unique, actually were very basic moments most of us could relate too. Maybe we aren't all singing dry cleaners dreaming of performing in concert like "Mr Tanner" but everyone one of us at one time or another has wanted something, a job, a romantic relationship, a promotion, a championship of sorts, and come up short....and like Mr Tanner had to keep living our normal lives despite the loss. Such was much of Chapin's songwriting, songs that seemed simple to critics but reached his audience in a personal way most pop music doesn't.

Musically this is about as good a "Best Of" set as you'll find anywhere for the singer....hit singles such as "Taxi" (his debut hit), WOLD, Sequel (his final Top 20 Hit), and his million selling Grammy Hall Of Fame Inductee "Cat's In The Cradle", one of the 1970's most iconic songs, all are featured alongside concert staples from his various albums such as the aforementioned "Mr Tanner", "A Better Place To Be" (these are two of the best performances on the set, Chapin effortlessly nailing the sentiment and longing in each number in near perfect voice), "Shooting Star", a lively , rousing run through his somewhat campy, satirical, and garrulously funny "30,000 Lbs Of Bananas" (a huge audience participation number), a crazy tune completely offset by a quiet acoustic performance of "Story Of A Life" (another set highlight). Every bit of two full hours even with editing (Chapin's concerts were known to last over 3 hours) any fan who purchases this set will certainly get their money's worth.

The band is in fine form....especially cellist Yvonne Cable, a relatively new member of the group at the time of this show (about six months in the band), in sharp contrast to the rest of her band mates including "Big" John Wallace (comedic foil for many of Chapin's jokes, both a tenor and baritone as a back-up singer, bass guitarist) who was a founding member of the group, Howie "Cold Sticks" Fields (the only drummer the group ever had), Doug "Hot Licks" Walker (only the second, and final, lead guitarist the group ever had, already with over five years in the band at the time this was recorded), and Harry's brother Steve, who he had performed with on and off since the 1960s, long before "Taxi" made him a major recording star, and had been playing piano, singing back up, & handling most of the band's arrangements for roughly the previous five plus years as well. There are is also a guest appearance by Harry's brother Tom, himself an accomplished folk rock singer, who often opened for Harry and joined the band on stage for selected numbers.

The latest release under the You Are The Only Song title also features performances edited off the original TV Special and video release, mostly more material from his Sequel album but also rare on video performances of earlier songs such "Halfway To Heaven" & "If Mary Was Here".

The current release is available through the official Harry Chapin website affiliated with The Harry Chapin Foundation, the charitable organization set up by Chapin's family after his passing to raise money for the various causes he supported. Chapin was perhaps more known for his passionate philanthropic work than he was for hit records with an estimated 50% or more of his concerts each year as charitable benefits. Chapin lobbied in Congress & The Us Senate was served on The Presidential Commission On World Hunger, and was the founding member World Hunger Year (today known as WhyHunger) which not only provides emergency assistance to those in need of food but also aides in job placement and training as well as farming and agriculture, among other programs, all designed to help those in poverty become more self-sufficient. Chapin also was a strong supporter of local community programs that improved accessibility to music and the arts education, especially for children but for adults as well. Today, The National Recording Association of America awards the "Harry Chapin Humanitarian Of The Year" award to performers who best exemplify his spirit of charitable giving. In 1987 the US Government awarded Chapin The Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, the highest award given to any civilian, for his tireless humanitarian work. Proceeds of DVD sales through the Harry Chapin Foundation are donated to charity.


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