Phil Ochs

Farewells & Fantasies

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This 53-song triple-CD set is the most comprehensive collection of Ochs' career that anyone with the cash is likely to see. This set largely supplants Ochs' Elektra discs. The 21-song first disc, steeped in the defiant, leftist politics of the early '60s -- sort of a political time capsule -- sums up his early career as a singing activist/journalist, filled with a mixture of seething outrage and youthful optimism, and sparked by the more than occasional turn of phrase and inventive topical allusion. In addition to expected tracks like "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore," "The Bells," "The Power and the Glory," "Bound for Glory," and "The Highwayman" (from the Vancouver show), listeners get a pair of previously unreleased tracks, including "Morning," one of the very first songs Ochs wrote in New York. The second disc takes a more poetic turn and shows the first signs of maturation, as well the deepening despair and resignation that would ultimately destroy Ochs. Its 16 songs merge his later A&M material with the transitional songs present on his 1966 Elektra "live" album, along with a pair of 1964-vintage demos. And the third disc sums up Ochs in his most daring musical guise, holding audiences spellbound with live performances of "Crucifixion" and his other epic compositions; venturing successfully into art rock with "Pleasures of the Harbor"; parodying his own style as he satirizes the country's foibles in "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends"; performing obituaries to his life ("Chords of Fame") and its purpose ("No More Songs"); and generally challenging even those who thought they knew and understood him. The 98-page booklet is richly annotated and impressively illustrated, and the sound is uniformly excellent.

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