Tim Hardin

Tim Hardin 1 & 2 (Verve '66, '67; Repertoire '98) Rating: A
A troubled soul ultimately undone by drugs, Tim Hardin is best remembered today for a couple of classic songs made famous by other musicians, "Reason To Believe" by Rod Stewart and "If I Were A Carpenter" by Bobby Darin. However, one listen to his imaginatively titled first two albums, "lost classics" both now compiled onto a generous single cd, should convince you that he was a major talent, at least for a little while. Hardin's first album is the less impressive of the two, though it does offer more variety in the form of the lo-fi, Dylan-ish "Green Rocky Road," the briskly paced, jazzy "Smugglin' Man," on which Hardin assumes a beatnik persona, "How Long," a ragged blues heavy on the harmonica, and "Ain't Gonna Do Without," another rough folk rocker highlighted by John Sebastian's harmonica. Still, though these throwaways offer a little diversity to what can be a one-dimensional sound, what Hardin really excelled at was romantic ballads, on which his gentle voice was often aided by moody vibraphones or lush strings along with other more typical folksy instrumentation. On that front, "Don't Make Promises" is a simple but extremely effective pop ballad that opens the proceedings, the pretty "While You're On Your Way" has a classic low-key feel, "It'll Never Happen Again" is a sad rainy day ballad, "Never Too Far" exquisitely highlights Hardin's dramatic vocal delivery, "Part Of The Wind" is more nondescript but still nice, and "Misty Roses" is a lovely late-night-by-the-fireplace kind of love song. Best of all are the album's two undeniably classic songs, "Reason To Believe," a less raucous, rocking version than Rod's definitive interpretation but terrific nevertheless, and "How Can We Hang On To A Dream," a haunting piano ballad that really sticks with you (I bet my beloved Tindersticks was familiar with it). But Hardin was just getting warmed up, as 2 delivered a more consistent batch of songs (only 10 in under 25 minutes, so the 2-for-1 idea makes perfect sense) that stick to his strengths. "If I Were A Carpenter" is simply one of the most perfect songs ever, its heartfelt, romantic lyrics matched to an equally brilliant melody; Darin's similar hit version was put to superb use at the end of a Sopranos episode. "Red Balloon" sounds a lot like "If I Were A Carpenter" and is something of an inferior sequel, but it's still gorgeous and its lyrics about drugs hit close to home given that they would prove to be his undoing. "Black Sheep Boy" (later to inspire Okkervil River) and "The Lady Came From Baltimore" also sound a lot alike, but again both are lovely and affecting, the latter in particular containing lyrics that any songwriter would be proud to call their own ("The lady came from Baltimore and all she wore was lace, she didn't know that I was poor, she never saw my place, I was there to steal her money, to take her rings and run, then I fell in love with the lady, and got away with none"). Hardin's song titles ("You Upset The Grace Of Living When You Lie," "It's Hard To Believe In Love For Long") are great as well, and the upbeat, jazzy "See Where You Are And Get Out," which again has a whimsical Lovin' Spoonful/Randy Newman sort of feel, provides a little levity, at least for 1:14 (most of these songs are only around two minutes long). More typical are "Baby Close It's Eyes," a pretty, lush lullaby, "Speak Like A Child," with gorgeous flute accompaniment, and "Tribute To Hank Williams," a wholly appropriate and obviously heartfelt tribute to a kindred spirit. For, like Williams, Hardin delivered highly intimate, poignant, and sadly affecting songs that have held up over the years (both met tragic early demises as well). And though Hardin isn't half as well known as Williams and supposedly his subsequent work isn't nearly as impressive as the drugs really took a hold of him, these two albums (especially 2) are classics of their type. Indeed, fans of Tindersticks, Leonard Cohen, Tim Buckley, Nick Drake, and melancholy late night mood music in general will likely find these albums irresistible.

send me an email

Back To Artist Index Home Page