New Spotify Playlist: Tim Hardin Covers (Scott Walker, Small Faces, Colin Blunstone…)

I’ll be back to my Who And Batman blogging tomorrow, now all my computer/work/illness/exhaustion problems have finally been sorted (PEP 2 will be a little later than planned too because of those, but it *is* coming…). But a brief discussion with Burkesworks in the comments from my linkblog led me to do this.

We were talking about the odd intersection, in the late 60s, between MOR, bubblegum, psychedelia and folk-rock, a whole swathe of completely ‘uncool’ (at the time) music ranging from Scott Walker at the most adult and downbeat to the Cowsills at the most upbeat. That in turn got me thinking about the folkier end of that spectrum, and how so many of them covered the songs of Tim Hardin, and how influential Hardin was in general (listen to Dennis Wilson’s early songs, or Colin Blunstone’s solo material, for some stuff that comes very, *very* close at times to outright plagiarism).

So I’ve put together this playlist of Tim Hardin covers. The odd thing about TIm Hardin songs is how great they all are individually, but how similar they sound to each other, so I’ve tried to find versions that sound as different from each other as I can.

Black Sheep Boy by Scott Walker is one of the highlights of Scott 2, one of Walker’s run of four eponymous albums of ‘proper songs’ (rather than the strange and wonderful avant-garde musings he would do later) that gave him his reputation as a proper artist, rather than just a pretty boy with a good voice.

Red Balloon by The Small Faces isnt by Rod Stewart, no matter what Spotify says. You can tell by the way it sounds like the Small Faces, and is on a Small Faces CD I own, and the way Rod Stewart isn’t on it. You can also tell that this was a run-through that was never intended for proper release, but it’s still worth a listen.

Reason To Believe by Rod Stewart on the other hand is by Rod Stewart. Rod Stewart is one of those embarrassing musicians who, had he died in 1974ish, would now be regarded as one of the all-time greats. As it is, we’ve had nearly forty years of truly horrible muzak to taint the memory of albums like Every Picture Tells A Story, from which this comes and which is one of the best albums of its time. Honestly.

Don’t Make Promises by Cliff Richard… I’m really not doing myself any favours in the musical credibility department here, am I? But this is really good! Honestly! Cliff Richard may be the embodiment of all that is wrong with the universe, but this makes at least two Cliff tracks I’ve heard that I actually like (the other being his early rock hit Dynamite). Given he’s had a fifty-three year career so far, it’s only to be expected that he might make two enjoyable tracks accidentally, I suppose…

If I Were A Carpenter by The Four Tops is The Four Tops singing If I Were A Carpenter, so therefore great. I considered using Johnny ‘n’ June for this one, but I chose a solo Johnny Cash track for later.

Single Song Of Freedom by Bobby Darin is from the third period of Darin’s career, when after his novelty-rock hits like Splish Splash and his big-band period doing songs like Mack The Knife, he renamed himself Bob Darin and started doing folk-ish songs. This is from an album that was almost entirely songs by Hardin and John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful. It would work a lot better had I never seen Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox story, though..

Misty Roses by Colin Blunstone is not by the Zombies, as Spotify thinks, but it *is* produced and arranged by Blunstone’s former Zombies bandmates Rod Argent and Chris White. And it’s one of the most beautiful things ever committed to vinyl, going from the simple acoustic-backed rendition of the song in Blunstone’s voice, easily the most gorgeous ever to belong to a male rock vocalist, into the astonishing Bartok-inspired string arrangement. One Year, the album from which this was taken, was largely an attempt to marry ‘proper’ string quartet music with popular song, and this is where that gels the best. Extraordinarily beautiful.

Southern Butterfly by Marianne Faithful is a Marianne Faithful track. As with all Marianne Faithful tracks after about 1966 it sounds like Nico covering Leonard Cohen. Lovely guitar and sitar backing.

Lady Came From Baltimore by Johnny Cash is actually one of the few tracks he did in his commercial heyday that, at first, sounds like one of his later American Recordings tracks, before the overdone 70s-country arrangement kicks in.

And How Can We Hang On To A Dream by Kathryn Williams has a lovely celeste and ‘cello backing, although it sounds a bit like everything else Kathryn Williams does…

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3 Responses to New Spotify Playlist: Tim Hardin Covers (Scott Walker, Small Faces, Colin Blunstone…)

  1. Colin Smith says:

    Now, first things first: a fascinating post. Huzzah!

    Hardin is one of those writers who never grabbed me as a performer, though I fully accept that heresy & am reading to perform penance after I’ve gotten through the rest of my suffering for my sins. Yet if he’d written nothing except Misty Roses for Colin Bluntstone to stumble upon & record, he’d still be worthy of veneration. (Bluntstone’s voice sounds exactly like a ’70’s kid imagining what love was going to be like: I know, because I was that kid.)

    As for credibility and Cliff Richard; I’m with David Hepworth when he got exceedingly snotty with the concept of guilty pleasures. There are no guilty pleasures, he hissed, there are pleasures. And that’s so obvious & yet so worth saying. Cliff Richard? Move It & Wired For Sound are sublime, & I couldn’t care less about tennis players, plastic surgeries, christianity & ego-mania. I don’t know his take on “Don’t Make Promises”, but I’ll track it down. I trust your recommendations.

    I’m almost tempted to start a blog “100 Embarressing Records That Are Actually Sublime”. But I doubt the list would stop at 100 ….. or a 1000 either. It would be fun to do, though, and I’ve no doubt it’s been done many, many, many times already.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Oh, I absolutely agree there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. I just tend to detest Cliff Richard’s *voice*

      If you download Spotify from spotify.com, you can listen to these playlists I do for free (legally), as well as about 80% of all recorded music or some stupidly high amount like that. Well worth you getting.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Incidentally, I would definitely read that blog. As someone who owned an eight-album Glenn Miller box set when I was 11, I know no fear when it comes to musical embarrassment.
      And if you haven’t, you *must* go and see Colin Blunstone/the current touring ‘Zombies’ when they’re next within a reasonable distance of you. Blunstone’s voice still sounds *exactly* like it did in the late 60s. I’ve seen a lot of performers from the 60s/70s (Brian Wilson, ‘the Beach Boys’, Everly Brothers, Al Green, McCartney etc etc) and *only* Blunstone hasn’t disappointed vocally *at all* (though the Everlys came damn close – but even there several times they had to switch vocal parts around as Don’s voice had deteriorated more than Phil’s).

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