Band members Related acts
line up 1
- Neil Harbus -- vocals, guitar
- J.R. Bailey -- backing vocals
- JohN Chalres -- vibes
- Sid Cooper -- flute
- Hank DeVito -- pedal steel guitar
- Marc Freeman -- keyboards
- Alex Guevera -- percussion
- Carl Hall -- backing vocals
- Amy Hobish -- backing vocals
- John Miller -- piano
- Steve Nelson -- backing vocals
- Jim Payne -- drums
- Neil Portnow -- bass
- Nina Tax -- backing vocals
- Tasha Thomas -- backing vocals
- David Wolfert -- guitar
- none known
Rating: 3 stars ***
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Catalog ID: 2311
I'm sure there's material out there on Neil Harbus. I just haven't had the time, or made the effort to look for it. That means 1973's "Harbus" remains a complete mystery to me.
Co-produced by Neil Portnow and John Miller, the album featured an all-original collection of material. Musically material like 'Hudson Harbor', 'Bushes and Brambles' and 'Open the Door' found Harbus framed as a member of the sensitive singer/songwriter camp - think along the lines of a less sunny and country-flavored John Denver, a less pop-oriented Lobo, or maybe a second tier Gordon Lightfoot. Given his dry, slightly raspy voice, on tracks like 'Gonna' Make It This Time' and 'Songs for Singing' Harbus actually reminded me a bit of an American Cat Stevens. It wasn't a heavy, in-your-face style of proselytizing, but exemplified by the closer 'Brother Daniel', the album also seemed to have a slight religious edge to it. Interestingly, given my usual musical prefer preferences, this one shouldn't have made much of an impact on me. I won't try to convince you it was a lost classic, 'cause it wasn't, but the collection had an enjoyable, almost calming feel and over the years I've played it a surprisingly number of times. By the way, 'While the Daylight Shines' and 'Brother Daniel' may have been the album's most interesting performances - not that they were the album's best tunes, rather because they offered up atypical conventional rockers.
"Harbus" track listing:
1.) Gonna' Make It This Time (Neil Harbus) - 3:53 rating: ****
Imagine Cat Stevens had he been born and raised in the States ... In spite of myself I have to admit to liking 'Gonna' Make It This Time'. Musically the singer/songwriter tune wasn't anything you hadn't heard before, but the combination of his dry, raspy voice, a jaunty melody, and nice orchestration made this one ear candy.
2.) While the Daylight Shines (Neil Harbus) - 3:04 rating: *** stars
Given I was expecting an album of sensitive singer/songwriter angst, 'While the Daylight Shines' came as a total surprise. Surrounded by a full-on rock arrangement, including bleating female backing singers, the song made it clear Harbus could compete on a commercial basis. One of the album's standout performances and again reminded me a bit of Cat Stevens at his most commercial.
3.) Memphis To Nashville (Neil Harbus) - 3:34 rating: *** stars
The country-rocker 'Memphis To Nashville' was another tune that surprise me. To be honest, there wasn't a single original note, or though across these grooves, but Habus' performances was surprisingly gritty and the guitar accompaniment was great.
4.) Hudson Harbor (Neil Harbus) - 3:25 rating: *** stars
Kind of a Gordon Lightfoot/Lobo vibe on this one. Pretty folk tune with a dark, ominous aura that should appeal to professional depressives, but lyrically it was a bit on the sappy side for me.
5.) Country Song (Neil Harbus) - 2:58 rating: * star
Well the title was an admirable slice of truth-in-advertising. Unfortunately I'm not a big country music fan so this one was wasted on my ears.
Pretty, acoustic ballad with Harbus' vocals again baring a passing resemblance to Cat Stevens. Loved the slide guitar solo on this one.
2.) Bushes and Brambles (Neil Harbus) - 3:35 rating: *** stars
Pleasant sensitive singer/songwriter number that should have had significant appeal to folks who like personal angst in their lyrics, as well as Herbie Mann-styled flutes.
3.) Arizona (Neil Harbus) - 4:54 rating: *** stars
If you ever need a song for a movie with a '70s country-rock theme, then 'Arizona' would be a good track to contemplate. Nice breezy melody with tasteful pedal steel guitar from Hank DeVito. The song had a nice Michael Nesmith feel. The tune was tapped as a promotional single:
- 1973's 'Arizona' (mono) b/w ''Arizona' (stereo) (Evolution catalog number 1081)
4.) Open the Door (Neil Harbus) -3:25 rating: *** stars
Heavily orchestrated and lyrically bloated, 'Open the Door' wasn't one of his better tunes. It's one of those things hard to put down in words, but there was just something in Harbus' delivery on this one that reminded me of Cat Stevens.
5.) Brother Daniel (Neil Harbus) - 4:29 rating: ****
Another track where Harbus shed his acoustic leanings for an out-and-out rock arrangement. And the results were quite impressive.
They were seemingly recorded at the same time as the album, but for hardcore fans, there are also at least two non-LP promotional singles:
- 1974's 'Please Come To Nashville' (mono) b/w 'Please Come To Nashville' (stereo) (Evolution catalog number 1087-DJ)
- 1974's 'All You Want To Do Is Rock And Roll' (mono) b/w 'All You Want To Do Is Rock And Roll' (stereo) (Evolution catalog number 1089 DJ)
Abandoning his sensitive singer/songwriter orientation, the 'A" side borrowed Sly Stone's 'Everyday People' and found Harbus displaying a surprisingly raw rock and roll voice with quite a bit of commercial potential. Nothing like his album ...
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