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

Phil Ochs

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Album Review

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."

Customer Reviews

Decent Place to Start

There are better Ochs compilations available (the import "American Troubadour" on A&M, for example), but for someone looking for a place to start, this will suffice. It's a good sampling from his late 60s A&M albums ("Pleasures of the Harbor", "Tape From California", "Rehearsals for Retirement" and "Greatest Hits"), and listeners will want to seek those out after hearing this. Whether you agree with Ochs's politics or not, his passion and total sense of commitment to the material is irresistable -- something sadly lacking in most of today's music. This is the work of a pure heart, and there's beauty in every song.

Phil Ochs is the Folk Singing Man!

This short lived artist was the BEST of the RELEVANT political activist song writers of the 60's. Dylan, Donovan, P,P & M, they all worshipped the ground this young and angry Irishman's feet trod upon...don't believe me??...ASK them, they'll be happy to tell you. A fixture of the post beatnik Greenwich Village NYC scene, Phil succumed to Herion & Politics...a bad combination in the J. E. Hoover era... His songs are even more relevant today than during his lifetime. If you're interested in the Folk Music Activisim of the 60's, this guy is the true Budddah! Enjoy.

Good place to start, but....

iTunes needs to get Rehearsals for Retirement, Pleasures of the Harbor and Tape From California, but since they don't. this will have to do. Ochs was one of the most amazing political songwriters ever, and even though some of his references might have dated the passion he showed in his music is still there.


Born: December 19, 1940 in El Paso, TX

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s

Phil Ochs is a figure both glorious and tragic who haunts the history of the 1960s folk revival and its aftermath. A topical singer and songwriter in the manner of Lee Hays, Pete Seeger, and Woody Guthrie from the previous generation, he was forever in the shadow of Bob Dylan in terms of the recognition for his music; but unlike Dylan — who, in retrospect, seemed to approach his work with overpowering facility and talent, but only occasional moments of...
Full Bio

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