Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why Can't I Just Hate Anything Anymore?: Phil Och's "Pleasures of the Harbor"

Another dark night of the soul for Jaybee, my friends. Today's crisis: Why can't I just hate anything anymore? It seems if I give anything enough time, I can come to enjoy - or at least tolerate - it. The joyful catharsis of despising something now appears lost to me.

It's not like I don't try. When it comes to people, my disdain can barely be contained. Music? No such luck.

Here's the latest instance of my irrational Breaking Good:

Unlike Dylan, who had electrified Newport in 1965, Phil Ochs would stick to the protest-singer-with-just-a-guitar style for a couple of years more. But by 1967 everybody was experimenting. So it was time for a change. And the longer you wait, the more humungus change you better make. So Phil gets himself an orchestra.

And after an initial shock most of his fans would come around. Not so, a couple of years later, when he got a rock and roll band.

So, what's worse a switch orchestrations or Buddy Holly medleys?

My first listen would indicate the former. Here's my immediate reaction upon first listen:

... this may turn out to be the worst album I’ve gotten in a while. Phil goes with full orchestrations - tinkly piano and swooning strings crammed into every little nook and cranny - this time out. They suit melodic songs like “Flower Lady” but are atrocious on otherwise masterpieces like “The Crucifixion”, the acoustic version of which, on 'Chords of Fame' is far superior. Instead of cloaking his frail voice - which sounds fine with more sparse arrangements - the strings actually highlight it. It remains to be seen which way the unfamiliar songs fall from here, but it’s looking anything but pretty. Horrific, actually.

I immediately downloaded another album to get the bad taste out of my mouth.

And yet, here I am a couple of weeks later:

Not so bad. "Small Circle of Friends" is great, of course. Several songs are too long, but only "Crucifixion" is outright bad. There are nice melodies, which get me through side one. The title song, was far better live. But it’s growing on me. 

Now this might just be yet another illustration of how my first listen to any album is no indication of where it will eventually end up. Or it proves I can get used to anything.

Final Verdict on the Record: Good, but a better first stop to check out Phil Ochs is the missing in action Chords of Fame.  B+

Final Verdict on Me: Given enough time most of my records ratings will move to the fine-but-not-brilliant (or the pleasant-and-thus-no fun) A- to B+ territory. Which leads me to suspect I'm headed for a future in Hooray for Everything. C

I apologize. I will try to do worse next time.

"Outside of a Small Circle of Friends"

No comments: