Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Phil Ochs

  • Rehearsals for Retirement [A&M, 1969] B
  • Greatest Hits [A&M, 1970] B-
  • There and Now: Live in Vancouver 1968 [Rhino, 1990] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Rehearsals for Retirement [A&M, 1969]
The arrangements, which Phil is no longer allowed to do, are excellent and work for his voice; contains some predictable bummers but two great flashes, "The Scorpion Departs But Never Returns" and "Another Age." B

Greatest Hits [A&M, 1970]
Sporting his gold lame suit and boasting that "50 Phil Ochs fans can't be wrong!," the Singing Yippie bids for pop power once again on this prematurely entitled work of art. Van Dyke Parks's classy, countrified production suits Phil's strange lyricism a lot better than the baroque excesses of Pleasures of the Harbor, but in the end Ochs's compulsive sweetness does him in anyway. It's always been one of the prime paradoxes of folkiedom that our most astringent protester should come on like Richard Dyer-Bennett gone Nashville, and the sad truth is that the lone protest number is the weakest cut on the disappointing second side. But even the first side, as strong as any pop Ochs has written to date, works in spite of his voice. Fond as I am of "James Dean of Indiana," I think it would be even more haunting done deadpan, by Arlo Guthrie or Tom T. Hall. B-

There and Now: Live in Vancouver 1968 [Rhino, 1990] Dud

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