Eric Andersen – CSPS (Cedar Rapids, IA)
Eric Andersen entered the public eye over 30 years ago as one of the leading lights of the Greenwich Village folk scene. Generally less political and certainly less prolific than Dylan (my god, who wasn’t?), Andersen nevertheless made a huge impression with his startling good looks and a gorgeous, impossibly romantic vocal style. Combined with the best of his somewhat uneven songwriting, Andersen’s persona served as something of a template for the incipient singer-songwriter boom of the ’70s. His 1972 landmark album Blue River (long out-of-print, but scheduled for reissue on Columbia/Legacy) made that notion a reality.
As a result of the usual banal career missteps and record-company woes, Andersen pretty much treaded water for the next decade-and-a-half before moving his home base to Norway. Physically and emotionally rejuvenated, the troubadour explored world music, toured the Continent and delivered some soundtrack projects. Ghosts Upon The Road — a solid comeback effort released in 1989 and championed by the late, great critic Robert Palmer — succeeded in righting the ship, and the time since has marked a systematic reconstruction of Andersen’s career and catalog. His early Vanguard recordings have, for the most part, stayed in print, but two remarkable albums with Rick Danko and Norwegian Jonas Fjeld on Rykodisc refueled interest in this singular talent.
Dressed entirely in black and looking improbably lean and youthful (one wag whispered that he must have a very old painting of himself in his attic), Andersen took the stage at the warm, intimate CSPS, a beautifully refurbished Czech community hall. After muttering a thanks and hello, he immediately established that his extraordinary voice is more than intact. Splitting time (about three-to-one) between his percussive guitar strumming and the hall’s gleaming black upright piano situated on the floor next to the low, in-your-face stage, Andersen interleaved material from his new Memory Of The Future (a stunning, seven-years-in-the-making jewel which features contributions from Fjeld, Danko, Richard Thompson, Howie Epstein, Benmont Tench and Garth Hudson) with selections from his sprawling, 35-year career.
Highlights of the new material included “Sudden Love”, “Foghorn”, “Blue Heart”, and the chilling, fascists-are-still-among-us warning, “Rain Falls Down In Amsterdam”. His resonant past was represented by to-the-bone renditions of the exquisite “Close The Door Lightly When You Go”, the classic “Thirsty Boots”, a splendid “Blue River”, and the plaintive Andersen/Danko beauty “Drifting Away”.
The room’s awesomely copacetic acoustics drew repeated commentary from the singer, once leading him to remark, “I feel like I’m inside a guitar!” With two shimmering sets clocking in at just under two hours, Andersen clearly reasserted himself as a vital, major player, with indications that his creative arc has, if anything, veered upward.