In March of 1966 Phil Ochs released his In Concert album. It has become a classic folk and protest recording. At the time it made him a leading voice of the anti-establishment movement in the United States. It was also his most commercially successful release as it reached the Billboard National charts at number 150. All of this added up to the Electra label dropping him from their roster of artists.
He quickly signed with A&M and in late October of 1967 released Pleasures Of The Harbor. This was a different sounding Phil Ochs as he strayed from a traditional folk presentation by adding strings and piano while incorporating elements of jazz and classical music. It was not the commercial breakout that he hoped for at the time but it was as an interesting fusion of musical styles on his part and today remains one of his most listenable efforts.
“Outside Of A Small Circle Of Friends” would become one of his signature songs. Apathy, murder, and parody are all present but they are combined with a musical styling that runs counterpoint to the message. “The Party” has a similar intent as it criticizes the upper class but the song is played as if in a lounge and Ochs vocal is dead on.
“The Crucifixion” remains one of the most ambitious compositions of his career. It traces assassination from Christ to Kennedy. There is a beauty to the lyrics and music. If you want to hear a stripped down and superior version of the song just check our There and Now: Live In Vancouver where Ochs just accompanies himself on an acoustic guitar.
Several of the other songs are well constructed and contain superior lyrics, but suffer from overproduction. “Pleasures Of The Harbor” is a gentle song of searching by sailors who traveled from port to port. “Flower Lady” is about being invisible to people as they pass by.
Pleasures Of The Harbor is the most modern sounding album that Phil Ochs would produce. It also contains some of his most thoughtful and beautiful lyrics and, in many ways, is more personal than political. It is not the place to introduce yourself to his music but it is a nice stop along his musical journey of life.