A Musical History Lesson

About spirituals, slave songs, and the pentatonic scale. (HT: Andrew Sullivan)


I Heard It Was You

The Soft Drugs are pretty awesome, although it occurs to me that somehow they never got their own post. Lost in the shuffle I guess. They were mentioned in my previous post about their founder and leader, one TW Walsh, (himself a former member of Pedro the Lion and a Truckstop/My Pal God solo artist). Their In Moderation EP is available under a Creative Commons license on their website. Evidently an album is coming forthwith, which I am pretty excited for. See this studio video:

This is more of an FYI post than an "MP3 is attached" post, since Mr. Walsh has done us all the great and gracious favor of posting and hosting the band's recent set on Boston's WMBR, the MIT campus station. Well worth a listen. Go here to check it out.


You Keep on Waking Me

So I realize this bumps the proportion of Bazan-related posts on the front page up to a semi-excessive level, but I would be remiss if I did not point you to YouTube user brianjbean's impressive collection of early Pedro the Lion-related videos. Here's an excellent example (and something of a live rarity): "Almost There" from the Whole EP, performed solo with drum machine. (No screaming, but still a great version, and with an early draft of the lyrics).


In Lincoln Park, the Dark was Turning

Phil Ochs was a brilliant American folk songwriter. At his best, he was every bit the lyricist Dylan or Cohen was, and that is no exaggeration. Ochs came up in the Greenwich Village scene with Dylan, Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, and all the others. His first big break was 1963's Newport Folk Festival. He went on to release three records on Elektra in the mid-sixties, including the three classic war protests "Talking Vietnam Blues", "Draft Dodger Rag", and "I Ain't Marching Anymore".

He then moved to A&M, where he released four albums that were frankly kind of terrible. There are some great songs on them, but are filled with some horrifically gaudy post-Sgt. Pepper "pop" arrangements that have not aged well. Seek out the original version of "Crucifixion" if you want a good sense of what I'm referring to. (Incidentally, it's one of the best songs ever written, I think, lyrically. Here is a partial clip:

Attempts at mainstreaming his sound on A&M didn't work, unfortunately, and Ochs eventually succumbed to addiction and depression and killed himself in 1976. Music is worse for it.

One great posthumous release is Rhino's There and Now, recorded in Vancouver in 1969. The following track, "William Butler Yeats Visits Lincoln Park and Escapes Unscathed" originally appeared on Rehearsals for Retirement, Ochs's second-to-last release, as a piano track. The live version is a medley with "Where Were You in Chicago?".

Phil Ochs - Where Were You in Chicago?/William Butler Yeats Visits Lincoln Park and Escapes Unscathed