Saturday, 27 August 2016

"Suite For Susan Moore And Damion - We Are - One, One, All In One/Bird On A Wire" by TIM HARDIN (1999/2009 Beat Goes On 2LPs onto 1CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Will We Ever Run Free Of Those Worldly Wantings?"

This is a moving and at times frustrating release for an artist who engendered both emotions - Oregon's TIM HARDIN.

It's also a tale of two cities - an experimental navel-gazing heart-on-your-emotional-sleeve concept album from 1969 that some have praised as a second "Astral Weeks" while others have labelled "Suite For Susan Moore..." as utter knob and self-indulgent drivel - sat alongside a far more accessible and commercial album from 1971 called "Bird On A Wire" (after a Leonard Cohen cover version) - itself a sort of Soulful singer-songwriter return to form. I'm down with both opinions. Whatever you say about Tim Hardin - he and his music was never anything less than interesting. Here are the satisfied minds...

UK released November 1999 (reissued October 2009) - "Suite For Susan Moore And Damion - We Are - One, One, All In One/Bird On A Wire" by TIM HARDIN on Beat Goes On BGOCD 470 (Barcode 5017251204707) offers 2LPs Remastered onto 1CD and plays out as follows (78:53 minutes):

Implication I: [Side 1]
1. First Love Song
2. Everything Good Become More True
Implication II:
3. Question Of Birth
4. Once-Touched By Flame
5. Last Sweet Moments
Implication III: [Side 2]
6. Magician
7. Loneliness She Knows
End Of Implication:
8. The Country I'm Living In
9. One, One, The Perfect Sum
10. Susan
Tracks 1 to 10 are his 5th album "Suite For Susan Moore And Damion - We Are - One, One, All In One" - released April 1969 in the USA on Columbia CS 9787 (Stereo) and May 1969 in the UK on CBS Records S 63571 (Stereo).

11. Bird On The Wire [Side 1]
12. Moonshine
13. Southern Butterfly
14. A Satisfied Mind
15. Soft Summer Breeze
16. Hoboin' [Side 2]
17. Georgia On My Mind
18. Andre Johray
19. If I Knew
20. Love Hymn
Tracks 11 to 20 are his 6th album "Bird On A Wire" - released June 1971 in the USA on Columbia C 30551 and August 1971 in the UK on CBS Records S 64335

The 8-page booklet features a short but very informative essay on the mad troubadour by COLIN IRWIN as well as the inner artwork to "Suite" and the huge session-musician list for "Bird". That 'crazy man' photo of Hardin and an Eagle that graced the rear of "Suite" is used as the inlay beneath the see-through CD tray and the statuesque picture of Susan Moore graces the last page. It doesn't say who remastered what or where - but the sound is gorgeous - especially for the notoriously quiet passages of "Suite". A track like the acoustic Folk of “The Country I’m Living In” and the simple plinking of an electric piano on “Everything Good Become More True” have tiny amounts of natural hiss - but are never too intrusive or overbearing. A nice job done...

The silly title gives you an indication - a stream of consciousness - contemplation on the 'implications' of relationships - or that Tim loves Susan so much he might just have to marry the broad. I have a love/hate relationship with this album - at times the spoken tracks like "Question Of Birth", "Loneliness She Knows" and "Susan" with lyrics like "...we cannot choose to come or not to come..." or "...if understood the meaning has no meaning..." don't offer explanations on life or love - but instead give you a stream of what feels like therapy psychobabble that doesn't stand up to any real scrutiny. But then there are moments too like the straight-up passion of "First Love Song", "Last Sweet Memory" and "Once-Touched By Flame" where this album dips into the realms of magical - simple and moving. It's an album of both hues...

1971's more polished and accomplished "Bird On A Wire" LP opens with the first of four cover versions sat alongside six new Tim Hardin originals. The 28 session players make it seem like a roll call for a Soul or Jazz Fusion album - included names like Joe Zawinul and Miroslav Vitous of Weather Report, Bassists Tony Levin and “Pops” Popwell of The Crusaders, Guitar virtuosos like Ralph Towner alongside Keyboard people like Warren Bernhardt and Paul Hornsby. But the music is more Rock with a Soulful tinge as evidenced the moment you play his almost Gospel take on Leonard Cohen's "Bird On The Wire" (originally on his 1969 LP "Songs From A Room"). His voice is more noticeably ragged - like a man on his last legs - his drug dependency showing. "Moonshiner" is a Traditional but again his voice and the sweet keyboards make it feel like a broken down Tim Hardin song. "Southern Butterfly" is oddly hissy (the first of his original songs) but lifted out of the ordinary by beautiful string and horn arrangements from Ed Freeman. Written by noted Fiddle player Joe Hayes and his pal Jack Rhodes - "A Satisfied Mind" features the Pedal Steel Guitar of Bill Keith and The Canby Singers giving it some choir-like backing vocals.  We get Funky with "Soft Summer Breeze" - a very cool groove which acted as the flipside to the album's only American 45 on Columbia 45426 in August 1971 (the LP's title track was on the A - it didn't chart). 

Side 2 opens with the almost Crusaders/Meters funky groove of "Hoboin'" where Tim tells us that he 'took a freight train to be my only friend' and 'I took it everywhere...' We return to covers with Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia On My Mind" - the famous song Jazzed up by Joe Zawinul's classy keyboard touches - what a sweet vibe this version is. "Andrey Johray" starts out with "Suite For Susan Moore..." dialogue about good and evil and lost highway children whove become famous - it's a 'know thyself' parable from Tim - a supercool gentle song that hankers back to that 1969 experiment. "...Will we ever run free of those worldly wantings..." he pleads - when deep at the heart of the song is a plea to himself and his friend to do something about their respective self-destructive addictions. Things mellow down with the lovely "If I Knew" - a song I play a lot - gorgeous tune. "Love Hymn' ends a classy but overlooked album on a 'so beautiful' up-note. Nice...

While I would never cite "Suite For Susan Moore..." as some undiscovered masterpiece the great unwashed need alongside their eggs and chips - there are times when I find it magical like a Fred Neil album or a Roy Harper LP. And just sometimes when I'm grooving to the simply Folk Rock beauty of say "Last Sweet Moments" as those vibes ping and that Harmonica soothes - this is the kind of album you 'need' to hear every now and then - an enchanting record that could never get made in 2016 (more's the pity).

Trippy, heartfelt, honest, soulful and as mad as a Psychotherapist at a Donald Trump drug-tasting convention - this pairing of Tim Hardin's 1969 and 1971 albums offers us music lovers two overlooked pieces - both brilliant in their own flawed and haggard ways. A sort of stormy sadness...recommended...

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