Remembering Phil Ochs As Greatest Hits Record With No Hits Turns Fifty
His 1970 Record Was the Last We Were To Ever Get From Phil Ochs
Satire was glaringly obvious in its two-word title, since a mere cursory look at the songs indicated that it included nothing like Greatest Hits. In fact, the album 's ten tracks were all brand new, having been recorded just a month prior to the 1970 release.
Above the listing of the songs rests another example of satire, where bold gold letters announce that "50 Phil Ochs Fans Can't Be Wrong." The line is a take on an Elvis Presley record that boasted three more zeroes after the two digits, which helps explain why Ochs appears on the front cover in gold lame.
Although it is definitely a sharp turn from the folk music that characterized his heyday in the early Sixties, this record still sounds great as it turns fifty. To give it a classic country flavor, producer Van Dyke Parks enlisted the aide of numerous veteran Nashville musicians.
Most prominent is Don Rich, the long time collaborator of Buck Owens, whose fiddle playing makes "Gas Station Women" and "Chords of Fame" the standout tracks. Adding his country-tinged guitar is Clarence White, who had just a few years before played with the Byrds as well as the Kentucky Colonels.In
In addition to its country appeal, Phil Ochs Greatest Hits also investigates classical music. Nowhere is this more apparent, not to say unexpected, as on the piano-based "Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Me."
Also reflecting the classical genre, though certainly a more rock and roll subject, is "Jim Dean of Indiana." The slow-paced melody belies the fast life of the film star, all the way up until his death in a fatal car crash.
Changes in genre aside, fans of Phil's folk music can still find delight in Greatest Hits. "Boy in Ohio" is an acoustic look back on his childhood in a small town near Columbus, where Ochs laments that "now a freeway covers the field where I used to be so happy."
"Ten Cents a Coup" shows Ochs in his traditional light, humorously attacking politicians. Backed only by his acoustic guitar, the anti-war troubadour compares Nixon and Agnew as bumblers akin to Laurel and Hardy.
The most poignant track of all, "No More Songs," comes fittingly at the end of the record. It seems even more ironic in reflection, for Ochs would indeed write no more songs before his suicide a few years later.