The Skinny: The latest release from the Phil Ochs archive is a fascinating mix of inspiring protest songs and more lyrical, personal tunes. It couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time, as the United States experiences its greatest period of unrest since the mid-sixties – when most of these songs were written. The focus here is on Phil’s last two years at Elektra Records and the demos he made for Warner-Chappell.
Sounds like: Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Nebraska Springsteen, Dave Van Ronk, Townes Van Zandt
Deeper Thoughts: The previously unreleased songs & the bonus material are particularly nice on this compilation. There’s a live performance of “War is Over” from 1967 (with alternative lyrics). A highlight is the demo version of “No More Songs” with Phil calling out verses and chords as he records his ideas. He actually sings the chord progression at the end, which is worth the price of admission.
The Sonics: In physical form, this compilation is available only as a CD. There is no vinyl, to my knowledge. It can be downloaded in MP3 format, as well. The source recordings of Phil’s music are a mixed bag, generally. And this material was never seen fit for release in the past. With that in mind, Liberation Hall have done excellent work establishing some uniformity to this broad-ranging collection. I’m not too familiar with Phil’s brother, Michael Ochs, who is credited as producer, but I find most of the material to be pleasantly soundstaged.