Various Artists - Reason To Believe: The Songs of Tim Hardin
Ignorance is bliss, at least when it comes to cover compilations.
The name Tim Hardin did not ring many bells before listening to Reason To Believe: The Songs of Tim Hardin, in fact, no bells at all. If, like me, this is your first encounter with the wonderful Tim Hardin let me quickly bring you up to speed.
Oregon born Hardin was a gentle and soulful singer-songwriter who emerged during the sixties folk boom. Producing an impressive catalogue of popular music Hardin never reaped the benefits himself; a combination of stage fright and a crippling heroin addiction prevented him from extensively touring.
Hardin's material found fame through many other artists; Rod Stewart covered 'Reason To Believe', and racked up 41 weeks in the U.S Hot 100. Bobby Darin made 'If I Were A Carpenter' into a top ten hit in 1966, while dedicated Trekkies will point you towards Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and his version of the woodwork tune.
The late 60s and early 70s saw Hardin release several albums with virtually no new material and even less success, eventually selling his songs rights to keep his head above water. In 1980 Hardin wrote and began recording ten new tracks for a comeback album, but on December 29, he was found dead from a heroin overdose.
Nigel Adams of Full Time Hobby, who compiled the album, said, "So many people's entry point to Tim has been through cover versions. It felt fitting to bring his songs up to date with contemporary artists." And so, they did.
The Phoenix Foundation provide a bright welcome to Hardin's world. Led by piano, their version of 'Don't Make Promises You Can't Keep' bounces along and politely shakes your hand, welcoming you into Hardin's musical mansion. The Sand Band tackle title track 'Reason To Believe' producing the most Hardin-esque sound, laden with dreamy slide guitar and gentle vocal delivery.
Underwater strings and heavy synth make The Magnetic North's 'It's Hard To Believe In Love For Long' a bizarre yet strangely pleasant trip. While veteran Mark Lanegan contributes his third official Tim Hardin cover with a soothing rendition of 'Red Balloon'. Similarly, Okkervil River, who have an album named after Hardin's 'Black Sheep Boy' pay homage with 'It'll Never Happen', a melancholy love song segregated by distorted guitar.
Smoke Fairies reconstruction of 'If I Were A Carpenter' is a highlight. The blues-folk duo transform Hardin's plea for unconditional love into a magnificently dark and doubtful lament. 'Lenny's Tune' is reinvented by Hannah Peel, her unique combination of music box loops and wispy voice make for an intensely eerie experience, expect to hear this one in a not too distant horror film.
Psychedelic closer 'I Can't Slow Down', sounds like Hardin had imagined in his drug addled state. Pinknoizu's droning and intertwining guitars are pierced by soaring violin creating an ancient Egyptian soundscape before showing you out of the door.
Reason To Believe is a capricious update of Tim Hardin, jumping from his very own earthy-folky goodness to psychedelia, to folktronica, to horror movie ditties before returning back to the beginning. What's more, it stimulates interest in one of the most overlooked songwriters of the sixties, breathing new life into him and his work.