It isn’t often a compilation comes out that I love. You know, the ones I’m talking about the albums where they say The Songs of…and then proceed to butcher their way through 12 formerly great tracks. They’re often marred by unknown artists trying to remake classic songs so that they don’t come off sounding so much like the original that it’s basically a rip-off. I love originality, but unless you have a cool twist on a classic song don’t mess with it. Jens Lekman is a good example of someone who took a great song, Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” and changed it just enough to make it his own without marring the original tune.
I’ve been through a few compilations in recent years, the Bob Dylan one last year that was terrible. The Bruce Springsteen one a few years back that was okay, but certainly could’ve been better had they not had a smattering of terrible bands used. There’s always that shitty hipster band too that takes a song that no one has ever heard of and says, “We’re different because we covered Jackson Browne’s ‘For a Dancer’.”
This leads us to the album Reason to Believe – The Songs of Tim Hardin. Tim Hardin was a folk singer cut from the same cloth as someone like Harry Chapin or John Sebastian. He was subtle and had a good, but not great voice. His talent was writing great lyrics that in turn became great songs. In a time where great songs were seemingly a dime a dozen, Hardin stood out as head and shoulders above many of his contemporaries. This compilation is nevertheless surprising, as his brilliance has sort of faded with time.
This album is full of the same problems I discussed earlier, songs that try to take away from the original and songs that go out of their way to disrespect the original with kooky covers. There is, however, a few that stand out which makes the album likable Average for one of these types of albums is really the hope with so much filler included, but this one isn’t that bad. It’s certainly better than the Dylan compilation from last year that sounded like boiled cats. Mark Lanegan has a brilliant rendition of “Red Balloon”. He does a great job of channeling Hardin without coming off as a copycat. It turned out to be my favorite track of the album. He’s the artist I would most look forward to hearing from in the future off this album.
A couple of the other bands that I like were The Sand Band, Gavin Clark and Okkervill River. The Sand Band countried up “Reason to Believe” and I actually liked it. Gavin Clark took “Shiloh Town” and made it sound like something that should be on Sons of Anarchy. It had a desolate echo to it that really gave it an eerie feeling. It is probably my second favorite track of the album. Okkervill River is funny, because since their two amazing albums a few years back, The Stand-Ins and The Stage Names I haven’t liked anything they’ve done, at all. I hope this means they’re getting their groove back, because I so want them to. The rest of the album is just sort of blah. There are a couple of other songs that will find their way into the overall rotation and others that I’ll rid myself of. It’s a fine album, but the songs I mentioned are enough to reason to buy this album.