This article first appeared in Issue 5 of
in Sept. 1966.
It somehow seems strange to review a Tim Hardin album and realize that this is his first record, despite being acknowledged as a giant within the field for several years.
Tim lived in Cambridge for some time, taught at the Folklore Center on Mt. Auburn Street, and then vanished several years ago. Rumors kept coming back that he was going to record for Columbia, then Mercury, then-RCA Victor, etc. How he landed with Verve/Folkways is anyone’s guess, but let’s not start kicking gift horses around. The album is that good.
One bright spot to be found in Tim’s several years of blowing everyone’s mind and never being recorded is that it kept him from being recorded too early and bringing forth an inferior product.
It’s a difficult album to assess from the viewpoint of such pigeonholes as “folk,” “folk-rock,“ “rock,” etc. Someone once said that you don’t learn anything while you are talking, but Hardin apparently kept playing and listening at the same time. The jazz influence is definitely present, and Hardin’s vocal phrasing, a technique unknown to most of today’s singers, can be likened to—believe it or not—Mel Tormé at his best.
Listening to Hardin sing uptempo material with his soft voice is like watching someone walk straight toward a stone wall and materialize himself right through to the other side. A neat trick if you can do it, and Hardin eschews earthy belting to stay right on top of the music at all times.
The best cuts are “Reason to Believe,” “How Can We Hang On to a Dream” (previously released as a single), and “While You’re on Your Way.” It’s not a slam-bang record for quick response, but rather one that lingers, hangs in the memory, and then brings the listener back to hear just one certain track again. Ultimately, because there is a charm to the album on the whole that might be lacking in individual cuts, it becomes a favorite.
The question is—now where? This record is obviously not Tim Hardin as a finished product, but rather a beautiful glimpse of an artist in transit. Where he is going with his innately creative touch is entirely up to his whim and design.
His intensity comes through in an almost ethereal sense as he caresses and bends lyrics into a style that is—at present—uniquely Tim Hardin, but could someday be the rage of the imitators.