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April 03, 1980 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 1980-04-03

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The Michigan Daily-Thursday, April 3, 1980-Page 7

CHAPIN BENEFIT

Just mild about Harry: audience excess, performing recess

By PHIL DESCHAINE
'Harry Chapin made his Ann Ar-
bor quasi-solo debut Tuesday night.
But, unfortunately, with the sup-
port of his full band, after a full day
of music and politics, his voice
lacked the total color and endurance
needed to make it constantly in-
teresting. While the presence of his
brother Tom helped somewhat, it
was not enough to keep his voice
*from nearly collapsing. Full time
consideration of one endeavor, or
another, might be in order.'
Every year at this time, Harry
Chapin bring his acoustic guitar, band,
and his repertoire of "short-story"
songs into Ann Arbor for another three-
hour "audience precipitation"
marathon events. Tuesday night he
brought his own show to the Michigan
theatre, and, like most of the 200 shows
he'll do this year, it was a benefit for
local and international hunger groups.
This concert, however, unlike any
other he's done in Ann Arbor, was
without the much-needed support of his
band-John Wallace and company.
While his brother Tom Chapin's deft
vocal and guitar talents helped, without
the support of the entire band, Chapin's
music fell flat and his voice, more often
than not, seemed strained. The band's
absence became nearly laughable
during the first ten minutes of the show
when, Tom attempted to duplicate
Wallace s unique baritone voice in
"Mr Tanner." Almost cracking up
half way through the song, Tom Chapin
seemed as puzzled as anyone else as to
why Harry Chapin would attempt such
a song without the necessary baritone
back-up.
CHAPIN, who has had two gold
albums and one gold single, sang 15.
songs, most of which had been
previously recorded-"Bananas,"
"Better Place To Be," "I Wanna Learn
A Love Song," etc.... Tom sang eight

guitar playing and sloppy singing
Tuesday night, he was warmly received
by 3500 amicable fans at the Michigan-
Theatre, and was called back for two
encores. In fact, there always seems to
exist a symbolic relationship-between
Chapin and his audiences that was very
much in evidence Tuesday. For his
part, Chapin encourages people to sing
along on almost half of his songs; he
also tolerates their insistence upon
smacking their . hands together,
irregardless of the rhythm or mood of
the song; and he even puts up with an
unending stream of shouted requests,
names, comments, and one-liners
during the most intimate moments of
his perfromance.
For the audiences' part, they don't
seem to mind his often coarse, weary
voice, which started breaking by about
the sixth song; nor do they seem
bothered by his corny and often
preachy stories; and finally, and most
tolerant of all, is the fact that his
audiences don't object to his string of
four family songs, the worst of which
("Poor Damned Fool") is nothing short
of vainglorious. They want to scream
"Ba-na-nas" and "IT SUCKS" and he
lets them; he wants to sing about his 19-
year-old step daughter and her stupid
father, and they let him.
YET IN SPITE of this lackluster
musical performance, Chapin's April:
Fool's day benefit was proof of his
prowess at managing an audience.
Playing off the two basic yearnings of a
concert-goer-one, to hear familiar
music, and two, to be let in. on the can-
did inside details- about the origin,
meaning, and related jokes for that
familiar music-Chapin had the entire
audience firmly under his control for
the entire performance. Seemingly
without effort he led us up, to, and
through each song, maybe stopping in
the middle for a joke. Then he'd go
quickly on to the next song, beginning
with an anecdote about playing it in Salt
Lake, then getting most of the audience
to join in the singing, finishing it with a
driving rhythm' and crescendo. The

crowd loved it all, and was on their feet
long before the ,thought about leaving
for an encore.
Unfortunately, Tuesday night Chapin
let this group-effort style go a little bit
too far, even for him. Rather than let-
ting the A.M. hit "Cat's In The Cradle"
(which by now even he ought to be tired
of) quietly slip by, he turned it into a
who-can-sing-better, male vs. female
singing contest. So, rather than the
usual four times 'round; he got that
same chorus repeated nearly a dozen,
times.
Later, almost beyond belief, he
stooped so low as to turn the last half of
"Taxi" into a sing-along. Here we have
one of the best stories ever told on F.M.
radio, and Chapin ruins its effect by
getting the whole damn place shouting
and clapping along. The man's voice

was understandably tired after a full
day of pleading his hunger cause, but is
nothing sacred? Must there exist
nothing in his repertoire that might just
retain some small element of art in it?
And can't his listeners be trusted to un-
derstand or appreciate something other
than this simple, literal, sing-along
image?
Chapin is fond of saying of himself,
"music critics wish that I would spend
more time with my politics, and the
politicians wish that I would spend
more time with my music." While this
writer is in no position to tell Chapin
which of these critics to listen to, it's
obviously after Tuesday's show, from
simply an artistic point of view, that
he's going to have to chose one or the
other; no longer both.

Harry Chapin appeared Tuesday night at the Michigan Theatre in a
benefit concert for World Hunger Week. As. usual, the performer had
everyone singing along and clapping their hands-though by now this cam-
pfire style is beginning to take precedence over his musicianship.

Contact Lens Special
Soft and hard* contact lenses $178.50
includes exam, fitting, dispensing, follow-up visits,
starter kits, and 6 month checkup.
*includes a second pair of hard lenses
Offer expires April 18
Dr. Paul C. Uslan, Optometrist
545 Church Street
769-1222 by appointment
TONIGHT TAKING OFF (MILOS FORMAN)
AT 7:00 & 9:05 ONLY $1.50 (CHEAP)
The director of HAIR and CUCKO'S NEST gives you the sixties at their
funniest. A generation gap film about a 16 year old girl who runs away to try
everything and her parents who try everything to find her.
FRIDAY: IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT-Starring Gable and Colbert
And A ROPE AND A BLANKET

songs which, aside from a couple of
satirical folk ballads, were of the love
ballad genre. The younger Chapin spent
five years on network T.V. with .his
"Make A Wish" show, which he says
was aimed at "Six to eleven-year-old
speed freaks."-His fresh voice, combined
with an adroit guitar style, was a
pleasant interlude for the audience,
which appeared to be largely un-
familiar with his music.
Harry Chapin is at present intensely
involved with the Presidential Com-
mission on World Hunger, which has
been charged with the task of turning
the tide against hunger, both in this

country and abroad. In the past five
years, Chapin has raised over four
million dollars to create lobbying and
research efforts for world hunger.
Taking pride in his antipathy toward
pop music, including F.M., Chapin sees
himself as "the marriage of music and
politics which they (Rolling Stone) as a
magazine tend to represent." However,
critics of that publication and others
have taken little interest in any of his
nine albums, calling them didactic
"moral" fables and melodramas," in-
cluding his archetypal ballad "Taxi,"
released in '73.
In spite of Chapin's less than precise

CINEMA GUILD

OLD ARCH. AUD.
(A FUN PLACE TO BE)

R E C O R D S

By MARTIN LEDERMAN
The first impression that struck me
upon listening to Warren Zevon's new
album, Bad Luck Streak in Dancing
School, was how utterly unimportant it
was. I ddn't figure I'll listen to this in-
'significant crap ever again after I
finish this review. This is a real disap-
pointment, because Zevon had the
potential to become a major musical
figure, even if that potential wasn't
really close to what certain critics were
proclaiming. Paul Nelson had the nerve
to classify Zevon along with
Springsteen, Neil Young and Jackson
Browns as the "greatest '70's artists,"
but now is seems that it would be more
reasonable to list Zevon with the likes of
Don Henley, J. D. Souther, Billy Joel
(yes, even New Yorkers can be insub-
stantial) and the assorted L.A. genre
usually associated with a mellow,
boring musical style and equally trite
lyrical content. For a long time it
seemed that this artist was a refreshing
departure from all that, but, Bad Lack
Streak confirms that this simply isn't
true.
L. A. ARTISTS don't get continuous
condemnation for nothing. There really
is something genuinely inferior about
their music that can best be explained
by its ultra-consistency and mediocrity. s
There is so little material of substance
coming out of L.A. that Joni Mitchell
and Neil Young seem to be light years
,ahead of their contemporaries, even
though they work in a similar vein.
:These two exceptions to the rule are the
only L.A. artists (both from Canada,
incidentally) determined to actually
change and develop; the rest of the
tribe simply wallows in its own ex-

cesses and drowns in its boredom. The
real problem is that nothing is ever
progressively developed; rather, L.A.
material is arbitrarily created out of
nothing more than previous L.A.
"music." Sometimes it seems as
though everything from Southern
California is artificial.
Even one of the best of the lot, Linda
Ronstadt, has resorted to expression
from the head and not the heart.
'Something is unquestionably wrong
when one glosses over pseudo-Sex
Pistols minimalist cover art with a
slick Fleetwood Mac-like production
finish and adds west coast culture
shock to a set of songs based on urban
sensibilities. All this adds up to one big
sea of complacency and self-
righteousness.
ALTHOUGH Warren Zevon has taken
pride in his "differences" from his
comrades, closer inspection shows that
he is just as painfully limited as the rest
of them. He too has made absolutely no
movement in his recording career, and
just because he sounds alittle different
from his colleagues doesn't mean that
there's really much of an improvement
in his level of quality.
From the beginning, Zevon has soun-
ded a lot like the quintessential L.A.,
outlaw. His first album was much like
the Eagles' Desperado in outlook, and
although it was a more mature view, it

was forced nonetheless. Zevon is
reminiscent of the scorned kid in high
school who resorts to pseudo-toughness
in order to hold his own. This includes
feigning chic status, notoriety and,
especially, strange obsessiveness.
Zevon covers all of these grounds,
particularly in his "fascination" with
murder mysteries, mercenaries, and
(gasp) handguns.. Always with class,
mind you. Excitable Boy presented a
revolver on a freshly prepared dinner
platter, and this new album presents
another polished weapon amidst a clut-
tered array of ballet shoes. And get
this: actual spent bullet shells! Hey,
this guy must be really tough, huh?
Gosh, he sure scares the hell out of me.
Actually, the album cover is more in-
teresting than the music inside.
THE MOST OBVIOUS indication of
Zevon's stagnation is the fact that he
surrounds himself with all of those
musicians whom he supposedly tries to
avoid sounding like. I'm really tired of
albums featuring Ronstadt, Lee Sklar,
Bob Glaub, Waddy Watchel, etc. Sure,
they're efficient. But they're awfully
commonplace and boring, too. Unfor-
tunately, the quality of songwriting
here is not nearly up to par with Zevon's
earlier work. His major asset in the
past has been a keen sense of humor that
frequently hit home with glaring,
photographic accuracy. That humor
has now become stale.

On Bad Luck Streak Zevon merely
retreads concepts he has already
utilized (to much more effect, I might
add). Once again we have a zoo animal
turned chic-lit debutante ("Gorilla,
You're a Desperado"), in an apparent
attempt to cash in on the success qf
"Werewolves of London." Remember
"Roland the Headless Thompson Gun-
ner?" Well, this year's mercenary
shows up in "Jungle Walk," where the
refrain is simply, "Strength and muscle
and jungle work," repeated con-
tinuously in a strenuous grunt. Wow.
Other "songs" include "Empty-Han-
ded Heart" (truly a wimpy love
ballad), "Bill Lee" (saga of spoiled big-
leaguer), "Wild Age" (in which Zevon
shows just how wild he really isn't), and
"Jeannie Needs a Shooter" (could this
tripe really have been written by
Springsteen??). All of these have their
inevitable origin in Zevon's former
work, which isn't necessarily so bad,
except that they were all more convin-
cing (and more fun) in their previous
incarnations. Mediocrity is the key;
plug new words into an old formula and,
viola! a brand "new" album.
See ZEVON, Page 9

IN MEMORY OF
ROLAND BARTHES
1915-1986
A Panel Discussion To Assess The Impact
And
Significance Of Roland Barthes'
Work For Literary Discourse
And

UAC Musket
Watch for the
first light of spring
GODSPEA
a musical based on the Gospel
according to St. Matthew
April 3, 4, 5,&6
8:00 pm

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