This Rhino-issued box set features five of the late great singer/songwriter's best albums in their entireties, including Heads and Tales (1972), Sniper and Other Love Songs (1972), Short Stories (1973), Verities & Balderdash (1974), and On the Road to Kingdom Come (1976).
Verities & Balderdash is a very strange and wonderful album. “Cat’s in the Cradle” was the driving force behind the album’s sales, but there’s a lot more to appeal to listeners, along with enough personal, topical material to make it seem a bit didactic at the time, but Chapin was cultivating a politically committed audience. Verities & Balderdash walked several fine lines, between topical songwriting and an almost (but not quite) pretentious sense of its own importance, humor and seriousness, and balladry and punditry, all intermingled with catchy, highly commercial ballads such as “I Wanna Learn a Love Song” (which is about as pretty a song as he ever wrote).
This is yet another Harry Chapin anthology, which, like the others, is a fine representation of his career. All the hits are here, "Taxi," "Cat's in the Cradle," "W.O.L.D.," "Mr. Tanner," and the like, which are detailed well in the liner notes. This set may be a better choice for the casual fan as opposed to Story of a Life: The Harry Chapin Box Set, as it is more concise. There are also some interesting snipets taken from various interviews and events, which offer a window into Chapin's strong ideals and also his sense of humor.
On the Road to Kingdom Come sounded more like a rock album than anything Harry Chapin had done to date. In the hands of sympathetic producer/arranger Stephen Chapin, Harry's songs are infused with clever and often humorous bits of musical commentary – horns, electric guitars, keyboards, backing vocals, and various sound effects pop up at opportune times throughout – that makes much of the material instantly ingratiating.
Over the course of three albums and an EP, Ugly Kid Joe managed to parlay their pronounced Guns N' Roses fixation into something of a career. On their best songs – "Everything About You," "Neighbour," and "Milkman's Son" – they blended cartoon rebellion and a sense of humor best described as pre-adolescent into powerhouse singles full of tasteless good fun. Perfect for that time of life when all one wants to do is go around breaking things. Though routinely flagged as a hair band, their twin-guitar attack and fondness for funky, bottom-end heavy riffing also places Ugly Kid Joe among the forefathers of the late-'90s rap-metal explosion. As Ugly as They Wanna Be showcases the band in all their juvenile glory – from their surprise hit version of Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" to their tight cover of Black Sabbath's "NIB" to "Busybee" – pretty much the best Guns N' Roses song Guns N' Roses never recorded – all the hits are here, present and accounted for.