Monday, February 21, 2011

There But For Fortune

While I've always liked much of Phil Och's music, I've never been a really big fan so when a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go see "There But For Fortune", a documentary about the life and music of Phil Ochs I went more because it seemed a pleasant way to spend an afternoon than out of any real curiosity. It turned out to be much more interesting than I had expected. Phil Och's music was so completely tied to the politics and events of the 1960's and as such "...Fortune" is about the times he lived in almost as much as about the man himself. Like many great artists (and indeed like many of us) he was also deeply flawed and towards the late 60's, when he realized that his music was not enough to change the world, alcohol and depression started to take their toll. As the 1960's turned into the 70's, despite the fact that he created what I think was some of the best music of his career, he felt more and more marginalized and in 1976 committed suicide.

In my own life, as I've written about on these pages, it seems as if I am becoming more politically minded at the ripe old age of 59 than I was back when these songs were recorded. So while the names and places he was singing about were quite time specific, there's a feeling in his songs that still resonates very true in 2011. And even though I never believed that a folk song could ever actually change the world, I think that had he lived he would be creating some very interesting and compelling music today.

Big Martha - You Don’t Love Me Like You Used To
From the sound of it I'm guessing this was recorded anywhere between 1958 and 1962. This is the first and last I've heard of Big Martha but as one-song legacies go, she could do a lot worse.
The Endd - Out Of My Hands
Whenever I hear this song I have this fantasy that during the last Beatles tour of the U.S. in 1966, John Lennon escaped for a few hours and cut this record with a local garage band. That's how much the lead singer sounds like him.
Los Rialaz - Puppet
Despite their Spanish sounding name, these guys appear on the 2d set of the amazing 3-volume "Tsunami Attack!! Of The Japanese Garage Rock'n'Roll" collection which came out last year. When the A-Bones toured Japan in 2009 they came back raving about all of the great Japanese garage bands they heard and many of them are probably on these discs. If you search around you can probably find them out there in blogland or, if you have deep pockets and feel like taking a chance, you can grab your very own CD copies at CD Japan.
Jason Knight - Our Love Is Getting Stronger
Classic Northern Soul. As best I can tell this was originally released in either the UK or Australia and on a search for an original copy of the 45, the cheapest one I could find was $165. Luckily it is also on a number of different NS comps that have come down the pike in the last few years.
Jim Alley & The Alley Cats - The Great Pretender
I doubt that Mr. Alley will ever replace The Platters in the hearts of music listeners all over the world, but nonetheless I quite like his take on their mega hit "The Great Pretender".
Phil Ochs - I Ain't Marching Anymore

Phil Ochs - When Im Gone
Phil Ochs - Boy In Ohio
"....Marching" is from one of Phil's early albums and it's an antiwar anthem for the ages. Unfortunately, since this song was written there have been many more wars to add to the list. Listening to "When I'm Gone" I can't help but be struck by the irony of such life-affirming lyrics with his tragic end 12 or so years later. The autobiographical "Boy In Ohio" from the "Greatest Hits" album has always been one of my favorite songs. That line "the radio was always loud" gets me every time.
Couple -You Don't Have To Be So Nice
I've written about Couple a few times before on this blog and they remain one of my most loved bands. While they are building up quite a following in their home country Malaysia, they remain pretty much unknown in the rest of the world which is a damn shame. Check out their Myspace page to hear more.
Love - Can't Explain [mono]
Since the day I bought it on a whim at EJ Korvettes when I was 15 years old in the summer of 1966, the first Love album has remained on or near the top of my all-time best albums list. And of course, it always sounds just a little bit better in mono.
Bo Diddley - Hey Good Lookin'

This is the great Bo Diddley and there will never be another quite like him. What more do I need to say?
The Beach Boys - She Knows Me Too Well (stereo)
While "Pet Sounds" stands out, for many (myself included) as the Beach Boys finest moment, the second side of "Today" which came out about a year before is as perfect a practice run as you'll ever hear. Up to this point I was never that crazy about their ballads (remember I was only 13 or 14 at the time) but his was the album that showed me that slow could still be cool. And in an about face from my usual practice, I am featuring a rare stereo mix.
Percy Sledge - Baby Help Me
Speaking of ballads, they are what Percy Sledge is best known for - hits like "When A Man Loves A Woman" and "Take Time to Know Her" are staples of oldies radio. "Baby Help Me" takes him into upbeat dance territory and while it was not as successful for him chart wise, making it only up to number 87 on Billboard's Top 100 in Feb. of 1967, it's still a great record.
The Final Four - Hold On To Your Life
Other than the act that I first heard this song on a comp of Australian garage bands I found on another blog whose name I can't remember (sorry), I know absolutely nothing about these guys. Anyone with any info is encouraged to leave a comment.
S.J. & The Crossroads - The Darkest Hour

From Beaumont, Texas this track by SJ & Co. has appeared on a number of comps over the years. Most recently it was featured on a volume of Sundazed's Garage Punk '66 series in perfect sound quality.
Tico & the Triumphs - Noise
Before he was PAUL SIMON, Paul Simon was Jerry Landis and Tico & The Triumphs and he had a real talent for coming up with some of the catchiest teen pop ever that nobody heard at the time and is finally being appreciated all these years later.
Dionne Warwick - Reach Out For Me
Despite the fact that Dionne became something of a laughing stock with those "Psychic Friends" commercials, there is no denying what an incredibly talented singer she was and her involvement with Burt Bacharach and Hal David produced some of the best-loved and most enduring pop of the 60's.
The Shadows of Knight - Three For Love
I first discovered this song on the 2d Shadows of Knight album "Bad Little Woman". On an album filled with snarly garage tracks like the title song and "Gospel Zone"
, "Three..." always stood out with it's slightly gentler folk rock sound.

They don't believe it could be this way