Where I dig into something I’ve not heard before, from the reviews section of old Mojo Magazines, on an irregular basis.
All The News That’s Fit To Sing
1964 – Elektra
It’s pretty interesting that I’ve never dived into the career of Phil Ochs. I love this era of music. The pre Beatles American folk scene – so well captured in ‘Inside Llewyn Davis‘. The period Chris Thile says that Greenwich Village was the world’s living room of beatniks and poets.
Phil Ochs is always held up as one of the best – and worst – examples of the era. His music managed to reach and connect people. But he doggedly refused to stray from his politics, even when the world moved on. His later years was also marked by personal problems and a struggle to change his sound.
But that is all later, as we are talking about his first album – All The News That’s fit To Sing. He is young, his voice is clear and his ideas are fresh. It is reviewed in Mojo alongside his second album ‘I Ain’t Marching Anymore‘.
My knowledge of Phil Ochs pretty much comes from his mentions in Bob Dylan biographies and his most vocal champion, Billy Bragg. So as I got this album, I also decide to watch the documentary ‘There But For Fortune‘. It is excellent and tells his full story. There’s also heaps of footage, none of which I can find full clips for online. My one big takeaway from the film – how many men did Bob Dylan psychologically destroy? Ochs, Donovan, Dave Van Ronk, the fictional Llewyn Davis….what a jerk!
The worst things about 60s folk are nowhere to be found. The songs are melodic and memorable, not flat and droning. His lyrics are often clever and memorable. But what is most interesting to my new ears is how much heart is in the songs. He genuinely wants to save lives. His sad to see the world fall apart. His anger would rise, but now it seems like a young man sad and trying to change the world.
That he can sustain the one-man-and-one-guitar schtick is impressive. He has a couple of things going for him. One More Parade, Too Many Martyrs and others are emotional, filled with genuine sadness and regret. Or he fills his words with so many ideas and images that there is always something new to discover.
It’s dated, but it was always going to. Mentions of Soviets, Vietnam and Nazis, it could only be the sixties. Yet, it’s powerful stuff, and one wonders why there aren’t equivalent songs about our times. How chickenshit are modern bands?
It is kinda crazy that this album has not come my way earlier. There was a few years here when I would have been responsible for this album. Having never been given a lovin reissue by Elektra, it has passed me by. Which begs the question – why? When even Judee Sill gets lavish reissues, surely this album is deserving of the same treatment? A reappraisal is overdue.
Hippies get a bad wrap, and protest music is out of fashion. It went out of fashion very soon after this album in fact. The Beatles would destroy Ochs. But right now, the world could still be changed by one-man-and-one-guitar. It still sounds pretty good today.