Eric Andersen

The Street Was Always There

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This is the first of a projected two-volume set by singer/songwriter Eric Andersen showcasing the songs of his youth, by some of its best-known as well as by all-but-forgotten songwriters from the New York Greenwich Village scene of the early- to mid-'60s. There are modern versions of classics like Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Universal Soldier," Bob Dylan's "Hard Rain's Gonna Fall," Tim Hardin's "Misty Roses," and Fred Neil's "The Other Side of This Life," and Phil Ochs' "I Ain't Marching Anymore." There are tunes that are now considered obscure tunes too, such as Paul Siebel's "Louise," David Blue's "These 23 Days in September," Patrick Sky's "Many a Mile," Peter La Farge's "Johnny Half-Breed." As well as a pair of originals, in the title track and "Waves of Freedom." What this all amounts to is nothing more than nostalgia. First there's the package: There are no less than three sets of liner notes including an utterly verbose, florid, self-indulgent insult to the intelligence by writer Glenn O'Brien. Next is the music itself. Andersen, despite his plethora of musical guests like Pete Kennedy, Wyclef Jean, Happy Traum, John Sebastian and Sky adds nothing to this material. Andersen's voice is shot; it's ragged and his delivery ridiculously stresses how "important" these songs are, or at least how important they are supposed to be. Make no mistake, they made a difference once, they were anthems and road signs for what was at that time a new consciousness among America's youth -- not the least of which is Andersen's "Waves of Freedom," which is easily the best song on the set. Most of the arrangements here don't work either. A case in point is the army of bagpipes, penny whistles and military drums that overwhelm "I Ain't Marching Anymore": they utterly undermine the poignant meaning and intention of the tune. Actually, in almost every instance, Andersen's ragged manner makes these songs seem like ghosts who've been haunting the landscape for far too long and wish to move on to their rest. Rather than inspire, Andersen's recording comes off as beaten, lost, and bewildered. It feels as if he's trying to convince himself that these songs still mean something, rather than his listeners.

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