steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

Various Artists

"Poison Ochs" CDR

Wood Records

Genres: diy pop, lo-fi, experimental rock

Wood Records
1604 Central
Dodge City KS
67801 USA

Aug 11 - 17 2003

I've never been a Phil Ochs fan. It's not that I don't like his music, it's just that I never really listened to it. My entire understanding of his music is comprised of hearing around three of his songs. So when Poison Ochs, Wood Records' Phil Ochs tribute album, came in the mail, I knew I was going to learn a thing or two.

As is the case with all Wood Records releases, things start off unusual right from the first track, which is Camper Van Chadbourne's "I Kill Therefore I Am." Yep, Eugene Chadbourne! The tune itself is a goofy junkyard of country, Celtic, and folk influences all compounded together. Chadbourne's interpretation of the track goes well with the lyrics, which are a political satire of the way men are expected to act in our society. After Chadbourne's track comes LAM's delicious space-surf rendition of "Half a Century High" and Johnny J's surprisingly faithful version of the infectious "Spaceman". Later, Linda Draper's anti-folk "Flower Lady" will bring a tear to your eye; its beautiful melody is only enhanced by Draper's adorable voice.

Even later, you get interesting experimental interpretations by Franck Sinistra, MWF, and Ernesto Diaz-Infante. Lolwolf composes a grand, shockingly articulate cover of "Floods of Florence", Charles Fyant's take on "Another Age" is typically spirited albeit off-key, and Mary Jane, Jr. Grease Chiefs, and the Jon Thompson Orchestra all contribute solidly melodic Ochs tunes. The album closes with "Chords of Fame" as done by Daniel Johnston and Jad Fair. It's a surprisingly melodic track for the Half Japanese vet, although the guitar part isn't afraid to go typically off-tune every once in a while.

All in all, this is a very successful DIY Phil Ochs tribute album. It's often difficult to put together tributes because bands and artists tend to be awfully picky about what they cover, although this compilation sees everyone putting their heart into what they're doing. Fun for both Ochs fans and just curious parties. As well, all profits benefit Amnesty International.


Matt Shimmer

[Vitals: 14 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2003]