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

1 comment:

yip said...

I'm glad to see you enjoy those tracks as much as I do. I think some of his singing on There And Now is better than the studio versions. The full version of the acoustic "Crucifixion" is available here.