Beyond his considerable skills as a tunesmith and the charm of his ragged, emotive voice, Harry Chapin was primarily a storyteller, and the appreciative, attentive audience gives GREATEST STORIES LIVE an intimate, fireside feel. With less emphasis on the orchestral arrangements that could detract from the studio work, Chapin and his band play with vigor here, clearly energized by the live setting. The best thing about GREATEST STORIES LIVE, however, is the selection of tunes, which plays to Chapin's penchant for the "point-of-view song."
Chapin's ability to invent a character and narrate the details of his or her life, coloring the scenes with details, metaphors, and literary flourishes is evident on "W.O.L.D.," the story about the life of a disc jockey, and "Mr. Tanner," the tale of a coat cleaner from Dayton, Ohio. Chapin's best-known songs are also here, including "Taxi," a melancholic tale in which old lovers meet by chance, and "Cat's in the Cradle," an emotionally resonant story of an underdeveloped father-son relationship. Each of these display Chapin's trademark skill with deeply human sketches, while "30,000 Pounds of Bananas" shows how fun he could be in concert, making this set the best representation of the artist's strengths as a songwriter and performer.