29 October: Paula writes:So, you're trying to figure out who this Nick Harper bloke is and you have no idea where to start when it comes to buying your first CD. And you don't want to do what I would first suggest and buy them all! Well, we at the HOH are here to help. In addition to the album reviews on the reviews page, here's what I think you might need to know about Nick's CDs, with a little explanation of my Squeeze-loving poptrash-leaning opinions. ;)
Light At The End Of The Kennel
Probably the rawest of Nick's studio albums/EPs and still nearly the best. Great value for money - only 6 songs but 3 of them are fave standards in Nick's live set, and Headless is usually used as his set closer (now with added Love is Music riff) and is just so fantastic. Short but sweet!
One that surprisingly took a while to grow on me, probably because I spent so much time with Smithereens and Harperspace before I got it. But when I actually sat down with it for a few days and realized how many songs I loved from the live set were on it, I got into it much more. My friend Jan did a lot of work convincing me too! This one has my fave instrumental Pendle's Choice. However, it also contains the only Nick song I don't get into at all, Mr. Grey. Maybe it's an American thing! Fairly raw, but songs that have more of a band sound work well (I'm thinking mostly of Building Our Own Temple and Peace, Love And Happiness).
What a great album. I know, I know, I'm in the minority on this one! Remember, I backed into knowing about Nick via Squeeze. Even though I heard him live BEFORE I heard this album, it was the first one I owned (I remember being impressed that Glenn Tilbrook produced it :) and I still love it to bits. Yeah, I *know* it has very little to do with Nick live, but I really look upon it as separate but equal. In my mind anyway! It reminds me a bit of Squeeze, but to me that isn't a bad thing. I'll concede it's somewhat overproduced, though I think Glenn coaxes some amazing sounds out of this record. I don't think it loses that special Nick-ness, if that makes any sense at all. Plus, this is a great album to use to ease pop-loving friends into the realm of Nick more gently! Two Way Thing and both versions of Smithereens (especially the acoustic one) are highlights for me.
Probably the one I have listened to least, partly because I love the combination of Nick's vocals and guitar and also because it's the one I got last before the live one. I just got into listening to the other ones more often. That said, it's got a lovely mood to it, almost more of a classical guitar feel. I'm letting this one grow on me for a while - I definitely think it will. Very much for the acoustic lovers - what a complete guitar genius he is, I'm in awe. And very Nick-sense-of-humorous with the only vocal track called Instrumental. ;)
Back to Smithereens territory with fuller sound, but I guess this it what Smithereens *could* have sounded like if it weren't in pop overdrive! It feels more like a live gig to me, though I know a lot of production has gone into it and there's a band involved most of the time. I think the songs on here are the best overall (up to that time), considering the high proportion of fantastic ones. I wish he would play some live with his "bag of tricks" effect box more often - anyone who saw the Surround Sound shows will understand what I mean, they get a lot more "majestic" that way. Chorus of Harpic angels, anyone? ;) Probably not my fave album, but there's so little distance between them anyway. Still a great one. And for today, Watching The Stars is my fave song - ask me again tomorrow.
Stunning. No other word to describe it. It may not be technically perfect in its recording but this is the live experience in full effect and is in my humble opinion a must-buy. What Nick fans have been waiting years for, really.
The album that makes me want Nick to put together his band NOW. And that's not a bad thing. He has made the studio album he (and many fans) always wanted with this one, and not the fully acoustic work it seems that some were expecting after hearing new songs develop in concert. Rather, it's a beauty of an album that ranges from delicate to hard-driving, from in-your-face electric-led band pieces (Blood Song) to mind-bogglingly complex acoustic showpieces (The Kissing Gate). And one style works as well as the other. He wears his heart (both lyrical and musical) on his sleeve for this one, folks - definitely one for his family, and everyone's family. Most highly recommended.