Phil Ochs

20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: Best of Phil Ochs

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This midline-priced best-of is drawn from the second half of Phil Ochs' discography, the period from 1967-1970 that he spent on A&M Records, and therefore contains none of his Elektra Records tracks from 1964-1966. Ochs made a major stylistic shift when he went to A&M, abandoning his strict acoustic guitar accompaniment for more elaborate, eclectic arrangements reminiscent of the style of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The selection here emphasizes that approach, drawing five tracks from Ochs' first A&M album, Pleasures of the Harbor, and only two each from its less ornamental follow-ups: Tape From California, Rehearsals for Retirement, and Greatest Hits (the last, despite its title, a collection of all-new material). Ochs had no real hits, so a selection of his best is necessarily subjective, and this one de-emphasizes his folky side by leaving out, for example, "Joe Hill," and his rock side, with none of the rockers such as "Pretty Smart on My Part" or "Another Age" from Rehearsals for Retirement. Nevertheless, it does give a sense of the musical experimentalism he indulged in, particularly on the electronic sounds of "The Crucifixion," while expanding his lyrical concerns through more poetic and imagistic writing. The few selections from his later albums tend to be the more melancholy ones, such as Rehearsals for Retirement's title song, though his savage sense of humor is glimpsed in "Outside of a Small Circle of Friends" and his anti-war fervor in "The War Is Over." Note that, contrary to the liner notes, the version of the early standard "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore" comes from the 1970 concert that produced Gunfight at Carnegie Hall, not from "late 1968 at his first public performance following his arrest at the Democratic convention."

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