Saturday, December 19, 2015

Topical Solution

It's the weekend before the big holiday, and that means it's time for a tribute to one of my personal heroes in life.
He didn't live awfully long, nor did he leave us in the greatest shape. The real artists sometimes don't. This isn't the most hospitable species when it comes to demands for justice.
He called what he did "topical" songwriting, and given how the events and people he sang about are fifty years gone, his music has dated extraordinarily well. He is one of the few artists -- perhaps the only one -- whom has their songs not just constantly covered, but updated to fit the narratives of the moment. He didn't just create songs about politics, he created a new way to put such sentiments across. Or perhaps he just resurrected an ancient mode of communication for the 20th century and beyond: like the Town Crier modernized with a Martin guitar.
He lived in wild times and his music did not disappoint. It spared no syllable and quickly garnered the attention of the American authorities, who targeted him constantly and were in the end partially responsible for his decline into insanity and sad, premature demise. Where Bob Dylan spoke in tongues of metaphor and submerged meaning, Phil Ochs went for the more direct line of expression. In your face, unapologetic and wondering precisely why you endorse outright fascism.
The FBI and the powers that be were less than amused. They harassed Phil constantly, and often dogged his concerts with spies and provocateurs. One time, they even went so far as to plug into the mixing desk at one of them and bootleg him. And what a tape they made!
So it's Phil's 75th birthday and I think we'd all agree he should have lived past the age of 35, so to celebrate the milestone I took all week restoring this exceptional-yet-very-rough tape our pal J. Edgar Asshole (who did as much as anyone to make sure Phil would die) made of our hero playing in Montreal almost 50 years ago, three days before I was born. It was extremely noisy and had levels all over the place, so I went track by track and cleaned it up using Sound Forge 9's Graphic EQ, Graphic Dynamics and Clipped Peak Restoration tools, removing a ton of diginoise bursts in the process.
Despite how tempting it may have been, no noise reduction was used. I also made new fingerprints, added titles and tags and changed the basic cover art to distinguish this remaster from the original boot CD... if anyone wants to make a cover for this that does not look like it was constructed by a six-year-old child, please feel free to do so cuz I am sort of inept at that part of this stuff. Seriously, how many shows do you have that were taped by the FBI?
Phil Ochs
Salle Claude Champagne
University of Montreal
Montreal, Canada
EN soundboard remaster

01 Cross My Heart
02 Song of My Returning
03 The Bells
04 Flower Lady
05 Miranda
06 Joe Hill
07 I'm Gonna Say It Now
08 Pleasures of the Harbor
09 I Ain't Marching Anymore
10 Outside a Small Circle of Friends
11 I've Had Her
12 tuning & announcements
13 There But for Fortune
14 tuning & announcements
15 Cops of the World
16 Crucifixion
17 Is There Anybody Here
18 Changes
19 The Party
20 tuning & announcements
21 Doesn't Lenny Live Here Anymore?
22 Power and the Glory

Total time: 2:02:02
disc break goes after track 10

Phil Ochs - guitar & vocals

soundboard recording thought to have been made by the FBI, remastered by EN
645 MB FLAC/December 2015 archive link
Anyway, after all these modifications it sure isn't perfect, but I feel I made a tremendous improvement worthy of the impact of the performance. It certainly provides a phenomenal snapshot of the man at the peak of his populist protest powers in front of a highly sympathetic audience, all whilst the spooks commandeer the mixing desk -- to my ears this sounds like it was taped on a Nagra device -- to get a dub of the show to bring back to their bosses at Clown Central. At several points Phil actually refers to them being afoot, which I'm sure caused several in the audience to mutter to themselves about how self-important and paranoid Phil was. Hopefully Phil is beside the right hand of The Creator as I type this now, peeing enthusiastically all over Hoover's ugly fascist face... last I checked, ain't nobody covering Edgar's tunes these days -- the Obamas and the Camerons and the Putins try, but we know those guys have no swing --  or remastering his concerts on his birthday. And remember to remember Phil Ochs, who was born 75 years ago today and crammed a whole lot of serious shit-stirring into his very few years on Earth... if we had 100 True Believers like him around today, the pigs would crap their knickers, drop their tape recorders and run away.--J.
12.19.1940 - 4.9.1976


  1. Thanks for the sentiments and the remaster.

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