There and Now: Live In Vancouver 1968 was the last Phil Ochs album that I purchased and will probably be my final one unless some rare material is unearthed.
The album was recorded March 13, 1969 and not 1968 as the album title states. It presents just Ochs and his acoustic guitar except for one track. The concert occurred after his personal trauma over attending the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, but before his depression and addictions began to erode his skills. As such it provides an excellent retrospective of his career and is in a way the greatest hits album that he never issued during his lifetime.
I think that Live In Vancouver is the best live document that he left behind. Just about every important song in his catalogue is included and when they are performed one after the other, his passion and talent shine brightly.
The album begins with a graceful rendition of “There But For Fortune.” It is quickly evident that his voice is in fine form. His persona and the type of songs that he sang and wrote often covered up the fact that he possessed one of the better voices in folk music history.
The second song is a stripped down version of “Outside Of a Small Circle of Friends.” Without the production and arrangements that provided a counterpoint to the vocals when it was originally issued on Pleasures Of The Harbor, it takes on a whole new meaning.
His musical adaptation of the Alfred Noyes poem, “The Highwayman,” is presented in all its seven minute glory. This epic song of love and death remains one of the classic folk songs of its era. It was preceded by another of his forays into literature with his musical interpretation of the Edgar Allan Poe poem, “The Bells.”
At this point in his life Ochs was still unrelenting in concert. “I Kill Therefore I Am,” “The World Began In Eden and Ended In Los Angeles,” “The Doll House,” and “Where Were You In Chicago” find his personal agenda intact. This is no more apparent than the angry and painful eight minute presentation of “Crucifixion.”
“The concert ends with his “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,” which was not intended as a retirement or final statement when it was released but serves that purpose here.
Phil Ochs has been dead for 33 years now and There and Now: Live In Vancouver 1968 is a fitting and haunting last will and testament from one of the masters of sixties folk movement.