Phil Ochs

Rehearsals for Retirement/Gunfight at Carnegie Hall

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The "two classic albums" in question are Rehearsals for Retirement, Phil Ochs' sixth album, originally released in May 1969, and Gunfight at Carnegie Hall, a live album recorded in March 1970 and initially released in 1974. Originally issued by A&M Records, they were licensed from its corporate parent, Universal Music, by the mail-order firm Collectors' Choice Music, which released them as a budget-priced two-CD set. The decision to pair Rehearsals for Retirement with Gunfight at Carnegie Hall is an odd one. A more logical pairing for Rehearsals for Retirement would be with the follow-up studio album, 1970's Greatest Hits (which, in a typical display of Ochs' bizarre sense of humor, consisted of all-new songs). Or, Greatest Hits reasonably might be paired with Gunfight at Carnegie Hall, which was recorded at a concert promoting that release.

The Collectors' Choice Music reissue has price and availability on its side, but it is a modest release. Nothing seems to have been done with the sound of the albums, and typographical errors are repeated from the original version of Gunfight at Carnegie Hall: "Okie from Muskogee" is misspelled "Oakie from Meskogee" on the back cover, and "Ready Teddy" is misidentified as "I'm Ready." A new error credits Ochs as songwriter on all but "Mona Lisa" and "Okie From Muskogee." (Bet you didn't know he wrote all those Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly songs!) Nevertheless, the label is to be praised for giving Rehearsals for Retirement its first CD release and putting Gunfight at Carnegie Hall back in print. Both albums are time capsules of their era and deserve to be heard.

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