John Wesley Harding makes a confession in the liner notes of his latest release: It Happened One Night, his first album, should've never been his first album. It was live, which meant it would never get radio play, and he was bored with the songs by the time he recorded them. It Never Happened at All, on the other hand, is an imaginary reconstruction, an album Harding says was much more representative of where he was at the time. This previously unreleased material (the second disc of this collection) should have been his first release. Whatever one thinks of Harding's revisionist history of his own career, it's easy to listen to It Happened One Night and think it rather old-fashioned. His topical songs sung to the tune of an acoustic guitar remind one of Phil Ochs without the humor (and 25 years too late), and one imagines that he's instructing the audience more than entertaining them. It Never Happened at All, recorded with a full band in the studio, sounds like a lush product of the 20th century by comparison. The comparison is most obvious on a piece like "The Devil in Me," a cut that appears on both albums. The studio version, spruced up by Steve Donnelly's spunky guitar work, is far superior and really doesn't seem like the same song. Even Harding's vocal is much more spry, which makes the rather heavy lyric much easier to listen to. These observations are true across the board. Whether or not It Never Happened at All should've been Harding's first album, it is a much superior work than It Happened One Night, and a fine addition to his catalog. Fans should be ecstatic.