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Friday, December 23, 2011

Tim Hardin - Suite For Susan Moore / Bird On The Wire (1969/1970 us, folk rock, with jazzy and psychedelic touches)

Tim Hardin was a scary guy. At least he was when I met him a few years before his death.

One innocuous introductory question about his Nine album invoked a stream of consciousness rant that continued without pause for 45 minutes covering every topic imaginable from President Ford and the scars of Nixon and Watergate to Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, dodgy hotel suites and lots about not being a junkie.

At one point he whipped his shirt off and challenged me to find any track marks. "Can you see any track marks? Can YOU?" he bellowed at me. "I'm clean, man!" I'd only asked if he was pleased with the album.

He died — of a drug overdose — in 1980 and there was much wailing and lamenting that one of the most talented writers and singers of his generation had so comprehensively failed to fulfill his potential. But it's a harsh epitaph.

In the space of a single year — 1967 — Hardin produced a string of songs that must now rank as all-time classics ...Ifl Were A Carpenter, Lady Came From Baltimore, Red Balloon,Reason To Believe, Misty Roses, Black Sheep Boy . . . all took on a life and celebrity that far outstripped that of their author.

His immediate failure to follow that extraordinary burst of melancholy creativity with anything remotely comparable in 1968 — or indeed 1969 — led to the general assumption that he'd burned out.

Grisly stories of a debilitating habit supposedly provided the answers why. Hardin's reply came in 1970 when he re-emerged with an extraordinary concept album, full of painful beauty and disquieting intrigue.

Susan Moore, the lady who came from Baltimore and all she wore was lace, had already been immortalised in a Hardin song (""I was there to steal her money, take her rings and run Bur I fell in love with the lady, got away with none.") Susan Moore became his wife and the simple answer is that the Suite in her name is effectively a sequel to Lady Came From Baltimore.

But developed such complex sub-plots and conflicting: emotions it grew and grew into a bizarre concept album that must now surely rank as Hardin's life masterpiece.

Concept albums were still pretty thin on the ground in those days and Suite For Susan Moore And Damion - a heartfelt paeon to his wife and young son was a desperately ambitious, even visionary work for a singer-songwriter who still tended to find himself in the racks marked folk'.

After this they didn't know WHERE to rack him. Overnight he was unclassifiable and we knew then he was a particular^ wayward talent and there'd be a price to pay.

His free-form vocal phrasing assumed many of the characteristics of j a z z and blues — much like Van Morrison later — and musically he'd entered uncharted waters of texture, arrangement and range, even touching the realms of classical music at some points.

This isn't so much a conventional album of songs as elaborate variations on a theme, grouped together and subdivided under the "Implications" heading which, in tandem with the rambling mood of self-examination, adds to an intensity and intrigue that's further mystified by Hardin's occasional poetry recitals.

In fact Susan Moore wasn't from Baltimore at all and h»-real name was Susan Moore, an actress from Vermont who met Hardin in LA when she was appearing in a TV show called The Young Marrieds under her stage name Susan Yardley.

But the rest of the story is true enough. Hardin, already on heroin when he met her, fell deeply in love and Susan became not merely his soul mate but his muse.

Yet the Suite was an agonisingly difficult album to make . . . and it got harder and harder when the muse left. Plagued not only by drug addiction, stage fright and general paranoia, there were increasingly regular periods when Hardin simply dried up and couldn't write.

In the end he installed recording equipment in every room of his house in Woodstock, NY and when inspiration struck he sent urgently for a recording engineer to capture the moment, whatever hour of the day or night that moment may have occurred.

Backing tracks were added later and Tim rarely saw the other musicians on the album, let alone worked with them in the studio at the same time. It was all too much for Susan Moore, who took Damion and decamped to LA in the middle of it.

The curiously compelling yet heartbreaking result was that while Suite was both a passionate autobiography, it also revealed an artist performing out of sheer despair and longing.

The pain of love has seldom been more eloquently illustrated than on Suite For Susan Moore And Damion. They were themes pursued with even more disturbing intensity the following year on Bird On A Wire, with a whole welter of brilliant musicians (Paul Hornsby, Joe Zawinul, Bill Keith, Tony Levin, Ralph Towner, etc) to divert him into a more mainstream area and give a populist kick to the soulsearching.

In the circumstances it was a remarkable album. Surprisingly upbeat and powerful.

While his familiar writing problems meant that there were only six original Hardin songs on the album, the bluesy covers were astutely chosen for their empathy with his erratic state of mind.

Leonard Cohen's title song, Hoagy Carmichaers classic Georgia On My Mind, John Lee Hooker's Hoboin9 - each could have been written with Hardin in mind and he responded brilliantly to the challenge, proving what an explosive and expressive singer he was when he put his mind to it.

Joe Zawinul "s superb jazz arrangement of Georgia On My Mind proves Hardin's worth as a deeply emotive interpreter; and in Andre Johray he wrote one of the most telling songs of his career, revealingly confessing his own instabilities in an original mix of song and poem.

Later he moved to London and other albums followed but he hit an anguished peak with these two albums and it was effectively downwards from here on until his inevitable demise from a combination of heroin and morphine six days after his 39th birthday.

The end, like much of his life, was desperately sad. A major rediscovery of Tim Hardin s wayward, unpredictable, disturbing, beautiful music is long overdue.
by Colin Invin

1969 Suite For Susan Moore
1. First Love Song - 4:26
2. Everything Good Become More True - 3:51
3. Question Of Birth - 3:33
4. Once-Touched By Flame - 2:54
5. Last Sweet Moments - 6:12
6. Magician - 3:40
7. Loneliness She Knows - 3:14
8. The Country I'm Living In - 4:11
9. One One The Perfect Sum - 9:55
10. Susan - 0:40

1970 Bird On The Wire
11. Bird On The Wire - 5:29
12. Moonshiner - 3:15
13. Southern Butterfly - 2:56
14. A Satisfied Mind - 2:07
15. Soft Summer Breeze - 2:59
16. Hoboin' - 3:28
17. Georgia On My Mind - 4:33
18. Andre Johray - 2:50
19. If I Knew - 3:55
20. Love Hymn - 4:38

1969 Suite for Susan Moore
* Tim Hardin – Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
* Warren Bernhardt – Keyboards
* Buzz – Keyboards
* David – Saxophone
* Monte Dunn – Guitar
* Keith – Trumpet
* Gary Klain – Keyboards
* Donald Mcdonald – Drums

1970 Bird on a Wire
* Tim Hardin – Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards
* Joe Zawinul – Keyboards
* Warren Bernhardt – Keyboards
* Sam T. Brown – Guitar
* Bill Chelf – Keyboards
* Ed Freeman – Guitar, String And Horn Arrangements
* Monte Dunn – Guitar
* Steve Haas – Drums, Percussion
* Paul Hornsby – Keyboards
* Bill Keith – Pedal Steel Guitar
* Tony Levin – Bass
* Glenn Moore – Bass
* Richard Bock – Cello
* George Ricci – Cello
* Margaret Ross – Harp
* Ralph Macdonald – Drums, Percussion
* Natoga – Drums, Percussion
* Alphonse Mouzon – Drums, Percussion
* Mike Mainieri – Vibraphone, Background Vocals
* Canby Singers – Background Vocals
* Robert Popwell – Bass
* Rob Rothstein – Bass
* Joe Rudd – Guitar
* Bill Stewart – Drums, Percussion
* Ralph Towner – Guitar
* Miroslav Vitous – Bass
* Collin Walcott – Vibraphone, Background Vocals

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