Sunday, October 3, 2010
This album is a valuable document of progressive opinion in the mid-60's. The dual injustices of Vietnam and white racism are tacked here, with a salute to the still-warm body of JFK and a nod to Appalachian labor troubles. There's biting satire in a number of places on this album but particularly in 'Talking Birmingham Jam', which would be a lot funnier if it hadn't been true. I'm consistently stunned by the craftsmanship of these songs. The album closes poignantly with the incredible 'Here's to the State of Mississippi', which is as moving as it is beautiful. There's a lot of romanticism here, but despite the occasional loftiness of the lyrical content I find these songs touching.
The lyrics take full focus on the record; they're less ambiguous than, say, Dylan's, but are no less clever or potent. They're thought-provoking and smart during his political songs, with beautiful and unique imagery on display during the story-telling tracks. Ochs' tone of voice and range is amazing and classic, yet it never detracts from the lyrical content; rather it allows it to breathe and grow throughout the song. The guitar, as well, is rather impressive in its own right, yet the lyrics keep the focus. Part of this can be attributed to the accomplished production which is damn-near perfect and keeps every piece of this album in place, and part to the savvy songwriting of Ochs.