Phil Ochs

Rare & Unreleased Demos

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Not exactly easy to find is this two-CD bootleg of Phil Ochs demos, but it does exist, complete with label name, catalog number, and bar code. If it really was an official release, however, it would certainly have more information about the sources for these 45 songs; there's none here at all, in fact, except song titles, and even those are incomplete. Since all of these are acoustic, and some of the tunes are more basic versions of songs that made it onto his first three official albums, an educated guess would surmise that these were done around 1963-1965. The fidelity is hissy but listenable, with occasional squiggles and ticks indicating that much if not all of the material is taken from tapes and acetates -- perhaps recorded in a studio, perhaps a mixture of studio and home tapes -- that aren't in pristine condition (and were never intended to be recorded with an eye for release in the first place). The performances are good, but often a little rough and hasty; you can just see a producer urging him to slow down when it came time to lay these down for proper vinyl.

All of those limitations noted, if you're a serious Phil Ochs fan, this is pretty interesting to hear, both for early versions of some well-known songs and a clutch of tunes that didn't make it onto his LPs. Among the more celebrated compositions represented by alternate (presumably earlier) versions than the officially released ones are "There But for Fortune," "Bound for Glory," "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore," "Power and the Glory," "One More Parade," and "The Bells." As for the many topical songs here that aren't so familiar, it's not a surprise that a place wasn't found for all of them on his regular releases. He was simply writing at too fast a pace for a conventional release schedule to accommodate, and while his ability to write a tune about seemingly any sort of contemporary social/political issue was admirable, he couldn't maintain a high standard for all of them. Even if this was Ochs very much in his singing journalist phase, there are nonetheless solid glimpses of his growing capacity for more personal lyrics in "There But for Fortune," "City Boy," and a lilting countryish number (unlisted on the back cover) titled "This Was," which Ochs describes as "the only conservative song that I've written, conservative not in the sense of the clowns like Barry Goldwater, but the true conservative concern for the individual."