Phil Ochs

On My Way: 1963 Demo Session

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On April 4, 1963 -- a good year or so before the release of his first album, All the News That's Fit to Sing -- Phil Ochs recorded the 25 songs on this CD onto a friend's reel-to-reel tape recorder while in the midst of an engagement at a Fort Lauderdale, FL coffee house. Most of them were, as you'd expect, topical folk songs; only a few appeared on his official albums, though versions of some others surfaced on posthumous compilations. The only reasons this CD doesn't get a higher rating are that the fidelity is a bit imperfect, and, for the most part, the songwriting is a bit less developed than the work he'd put into his first batch of albums for Elektra in the mid-'60s. This limits the collection's interest to serious Ochs fans for the most part, but as such archival projects go, it's quite worthwhile, and quite listenable despite the slight sonic flaws. If nothing else, it's a testament to how amazingly prolific Ochs was at an early age, with songs about all manner of current events, from the civil rights movement and the Cuban missile crisis to more obscure issues like Mexican land reform. The songs are unflaggingly committed and sharply observational, and if Ochs' way with a tune and a vocal wasn't as impressive as his talents as a lyricist at this stage, the songs are passably melodic and sung with pleasing warmth (and occasional wit). "The Power and the Glory" (also included on his first album) is by far the most famous composition, though a few others would also appear on his debut LP ("The Ballad of William Worthy," "Talking Cuban Crisis," "Lou Marsh"). But while his "singing journalist" persona dominates, there are hints at budding personal and affecting concerns in songs like "New Town" (actually covered by the Four Seasons, but never issued on an Ochs record), "Morning" (referred to in the spoken introduction as having been done by his friends Jim & Jean), "Time Was," "I'll Be There," "How Long," and "First Snow," although the satire of "Bobby Dylan Record" hasn't dated well.

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