Rod MacDonald

Lee Harvey & the Microdots

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If Phil Ochs, the great protest singer and topical songwriter of the 1960s, were still around in the early '90s, he might have made an album a lot like Lee Harvey & the Microdots. Like Ochs, Rod MacDonald took stories out of the newspapers that didn't seem like obvious subjects for songs, including the Gulf War ("Little Black Pearls") and the savings & loan scandal ("The American Way"), and made them work. Like Ochs, his takes on these subjects could often be witheringly critical ("The Contract on America"). And like Ochs, he sometimes applied a bizarre sense of humor to them ("Here's a Pretty Girl," about slasher films, and "The Aliens Came in Business Suits"). Some of the concerns MacDonald explored on this homemade tape were ones he had touched on in his regular albums, including the Kennedy assassination (also a favorite topic of Ochs'), the movie Psycho, and a left-wing political stance dating back to the Vietnam War era. But MacDonald took it all farther on this tape -- for example, there were two songs about the Kennedy assassination, and "The Aliens Came in Business Suits," previously released on his White Buffalo album, was given a lengthy arrangement. In that sense, Lee Harvey & the Microdots was like any other Rod MacDonald album, but more so. But the ghost of Phil Ochs hovered over it nevertheless; if only Ochs could have written a song as hopeful as the album-closing "The American Guerillas" (chorus: "In our hearts we'll always be the American Guerillas"), maybe he would have stuck around.

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