Phil Ochs “Pleasures Of The Harbor”

Phil Ochs (pronounced “oaks”) had a practiced and stark folk vocal, with deep and pretty vibrato, which makes a bizarre contrast to his pointed lyrical content. I don’t know what it was like to hear this music in 67, but I’m not saying I wish I could have. When people refer to music as ‘dated’ it’s a turn-on; good records are timeless and it’s our ears that are ‘dated.’ Besides, it wasn’t that long ago. Forever, however, I am going to keep diving back in time for discoveries as rich as this one.

Today, I’m posting a longer track. I can’t get it out of my mind. “I’ve had her, I’ve had her…” Two listens to Pleasures Of The Harbor hooked me. It becomes a sing-a-long record, with catchy choruses: “She’s a Rudolph Valentino fan, and she doesn’t claim to understand, she makes brownies for the boys in the band.” Despite the importance of a memorable refrain, the poetics are sprinkled within the verses.

Songs have the smoky sound of a dark bar. At times shifting in mesmerizing harpsichord, brass, winds, and strings. Joseph Byrd contributes electronics on the final track. A soft lounge combo and it sounds on the lighter side of things, but Ochs has this hard edge you can’t escape.

Elektra put out his protest record, I Ain’t Marching Anymore, recently on vinyl so it would be nice see a similar treatment to the above, though I found mine for a few bucks at the shop. It makes more sense to hear Phil stretching his vox over a violently stroked acoustic, but this album is gorgeous and impossible to get over.

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“I’ve Had Her”

:) Original Vinyl Search | ebay ]

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  • Phil said that one of his favorites was “I’ve Had Her,” but that critics never liked it. You’re certainly an exception!

  • ib

    Nice. I’ve been an admirer of Ochs since the mid 70s when i bought the four sided compilation, “Chords of Change” on A&M, but never got much deeper into him beyond that one purchase. Incidentally, that album contains an infinitely wearier live rendition of “Pleasures of the Harbor” – a major stand-out – alongside the gorgeous “jim Dean of Indiana” from 1971’s (?) ironically titled “Greatest Hits”, replete with a lamĂ© besuited Phil on the jacket.

    That LP is really hard to get hold of on the web or elsewhere, but it’s surely only a matter of time.

    BTW, love the new animated logo, Brendan. Entertaining and unnerving at one and the same time! I’ve been otherwise disposed lately and i’ve just caught up with the site’s new look. Did you get round to to putting together a post on the zither ?

  • Pleasures of the harbor is my favorite Ochs album. Found two sealed copies on vinyl for 3 $ each in a record shop last year (I already had a used LP). Not everyone appreciates the work invested in Crucifixion but I think it is an amazing song, with the arrangements or without.

    More on Crucifixion here:

    Crucifixion with Byrd

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