Review: Eric Andersen – Avalanche/Eric Andersen [Runt/ DBK works 2008]
In 1970 the fabulous seventies were just gone and not just because of a mere matter of dates: it was the idea of confining the world and its stories in the few minutes of a song that was ending. Instead, the world was welcoming the rise of the Me-Generation and its obsessive way to focus on the private life of authors, anxieties, hopes and disillusions of individuals rather than whole movements.
Eric Andersen, born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1943 and moved in his early years to New York to chase the river of words of Bob Dylan and the sung journalism of Phil Ochs, had already recorded 6 albums without, however, having taken nothing for granted. After having already given voice (and what a voice! sour, low, tenor, male and suffered) to the ones who, behind a coffeehouse windows in Greenwich Village, were dreaming to change the US political scene with the pacific weapons of folk and country, he was ready to reconsider ideas and doubts .
His best seller, the still marvelous Blue River (1972), will soon see the light although Avalanche and Eric Andersen (released three years before in 1968) were still exemplifying a beautiful, confused and rived transition, non replicable operas of a time when also majors – Warner Bros – could pay the rent of a recording studio for a folksinger whose only goal was to carve the perplexities, torments and forebodings of a whole generation on the polymers of a vinyl acetate.
San Francisco based DBK reissues these albums with their usual slovenliness, carefully avoiding any chronological information and forgetting even to reference the musicians and technicians involved. However, considering the mess that has been ruling the reissuing process of the artist’s work so far, a little inaccuracy will not prevent the fans of Eric Andersen from enjoying two, often forgotten, pages of his travel: a creative route that in its best moments is worth as much as the most revolutionary Bob Dylan, the most intimate Joni Mitchell or the most sharpened Lou Reed.
Avalanche, the first record released out of the historical partnership with Vanguard, comes out after the exquisite rootsy experiment of A country Dream (1969) whose chirpy and joyful traditionalisms are partially disowned by this new work.
The paths taken are the ones of a delicate and introspective folk song, often lost in the spiral of the one’s own dreams and thoughts. It’s Comin’ And It Won’t Be Long is a meaningful Dylan’s apocryphal, although the homeless folky passages of So Hard To Fall or Think About It, soften by female choruses and light orchestrations, are not worried to represent monologues that the author addresses to the most intimate part of the one’s being.
As if Andersen’s inspiration was following a tough personal confrontation or a snake of reflections ready to bite its own tail at any time, there’s not a ray of light apart from the bohemian elegy of (We Were) Foolish Like The Flowers, while the anguished vertigo of the meditations grows until it explodes in the visionary eight minutes of For What Was Gained, a long confessional mourning of a boy who died in Vietnam that clears off the optimistic antimilitarism of Thristy Boots or Violets Of Dawn and overthrows on it a ton of pessimism.
The upcoming Eric Andersen is more accessible, again focused on a soft and light country-rock enriched with steel, off-beats, percussions and honky-tonk steams. It Wasn’t A Lie, Secrets and I Will Wait are harsh ballads that don’t winkle to the listeners who are not tuned on the minimalist poetry of Andersen. On the other hand, the electric rockabilly of I Was The Rebel (She Was The Cause) or the distinguishing country-soul footprint of a Don’t Leave Me Here For Dead, which Spooner Oldham would have liked, catches Andersen in one of his most outgoing phases of his career. Sign Of A Desperate Man and She Touched Me, with those inserts of an almost funky organ, could easily compare in the catalogue of Dusty Springfield or Charlie Rich and the piano tenderness of Go Now, Deborah reveals instead a clear influence of Revolver by The Beatles (1966), especially referring to For No One.
These two record are surely not a must have especially because if you really want to explore Andersen’s catalogue you should surely pick first Blue River, the raw debut Today Is The Highway (1965), the underrated Upon The Road (1989) or the recent Memory Of The Future (1998). Nevertheless Avalanche and Eric Andersen represent meaningful steps in the journey of a musician that only a cynical and cheating destiny managed to imprison in the disheartening exile of the “cult heroes”.
Eric Andersen 7.5
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