Personnel: Harry Chapin (vocals, guitar); The Cowsills (vocals, background vocals); Big John Wallace, Herbert Rhoad, Joe Russell, The Dixie Hummingbirds (vocals); Bob Cowsill (guitar, electric guitar); Tom Chapin (guitar, banjo); Doug Walker, Lou Volpe (guitar); Chris Darrow (banjo); Kim Scholes (cello); Ernie Watts (flute, clarinet, oboe, saxophone); David Burgen (harmonica); Dennis Frick (bassoon, wind); Jackie Kelso (baritone saxophone, wind); Chuck Findley, Steve Madaio (trumpet); Dick Hyde, George Bohannon, Richard Hyde (trombone); Bill Payne (organ, keyboards); Stephen Chapin (keyboards); Howie Fields (drums, percussion); Andy Newark, Jim Keltner (drums); Steve Forman (percussion).
Audio Mixers: Chuck Plotkin; Jim Niper; Bobby Thomas.
Recording information: Secret Sound Studios, New York, NY; Sound Factory, Los Angeles, CA.
Photographers: Ruth Bernal; Reid Miles.
Arranger: Stephen Chapin.
Listening to Living Room Suite today, you'd never know that it marked the commercial nadir of Harry Chapin's career -- the songs have such touching and startling intimacy, and are so beautifully produced that it's just a damn imposing record, just in the listening. Coming at the tail-end of the second disco boom, the cresting of punk, and the full flourishing of power pop, however, it got buried. When he opened up his heart on "Jenny," it was a phenomenally personal moment, but that wasn't the kind of love song that was selling in 1978; "Poor Damn Fool" was a wonderful song as well, with a glorious sound, but in tone and sound it was a million miles from "My Sharona"; "Flowers Are Red" was a startling ode to non-conformity, a subject much too serious for a pop record at the end of the 1970s; and "Dancin' Boy" and "I Wonder What Would Happen to This World," with their bluesy and gospel sounds, respectively, were even farther from what radio stations were playing. Of course, the very attributes that made Living Room Suite seem so dated in 1978 that neither of its singles charted make it seem completely timeless and enduring today, as a body of music and a personal statement. ~ Bruce Eder