Andersen, Eric : Street Was Always There
Eric Andersen, one of America's premier singer-songwriters for almost four decades, puts aside his original material (for the most part) to 'sing as freshly as possible the songs I first heard sung in the streets, cafes, and clubs by certain performing songwriters in the 1960s Greenwich Village' on 'The Street Was Always There.' On his latest CD, the first in a planned two-volume series, Andersen presents passionate new versions of classics and forgotten gems written by the pantheon of his '60s elders, contemporaries, and friends - Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Fred Neil, Tim Hardin, Peter La Farge, Patrick Sky, David Blue, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Paul Siebel. When Andersen was 'discovered' performing in San Francisco in 1963 by Tom Paxton and persuaded to move East, the Village was a hotbed of folk clubs and the talented singers, songwriters and performers to fill them. Eric was one of the first of the musicians to concentrate on creating personal, poetic songs, rather than penning topical protest anthems, updating traditional tunes or writing folk-oriented urban blues. His original songs such as 'Violets of Dawn' and 'Thirsty Boots' helped point the way toward the late-'60 singer-songwriter movement that flourishes to this day. On 'The Street Was Always There,' Andersen presents the many creative facets on the '60s Village-based songwriters, spanning the protest and personal approaches to what was lumped under the heading of 'folk music' and proves the timelessness of both. With vibrant production and arrangements by longtime Andersen associate and multi-instrumentalist Robert Aaron (whose usual gig is leading international hip-hop/rap star Wyclef Jean's band), Andersen applies his time-seasoned baritone to all-to-relevant anti-war songs - Dylan's 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall,' Sainte-Marie's 'Universal Soldier,' Ochs's 'I Ain't Marching Anymore' and 'White Boots Marching in a Yellow Land' - the latter featuring an explosive reggae-flavored closing rap by guest Wyclef Jean, who also plays electric guitar and bass on the track - as well as Fred Neil's deep-running, bluesy ballads ('Little Bit of Rain,' 'The Other Side of This Life'), a shimmering bossa nova take on Tim Hardin's 'Misty Roses, an angry reading of Peter La Farge's 'Johnny Half-Breed,' and a gliding, unsettling version of David Blue's 'These 23 Days in September,' among others. Andersen also revisits his own poetic 'Waves of Freedom' (from 1969's 'A Country Dream' album), and provides the newly-penned title track, a tribute both to the tightknit Village community of the '60s and to the endless options for expression and experience provided by the metaphorical street of independent-minded people, real-life encounters, and the mysterious possibilities of the open road. The CD closes with a ghostly spoken collage of brief, still-topical statements by the late Phil Ochs. Joining Andersen (vocals, electric guitar) and Aaron (bass, guitar, keyboards, melodica, woodwinds) are special guests (the afore-mentioned) Wyclef Jean, former Lovin' Spoonful leader and longtime solo artist John Sebastian, fellow '60s Village songwriter Patrick Sky (whose 'Many a Mile' is covered on this CD), Pete Kennedy of the roots/pop duo The Kennedys on guitar, longtime Woodstock based folk musician (and another Village graduate) Happy Traum (acoustic guitar), and a supporting cast of top-flight sidemen. The CD booklet includes three sets of liner notes by Andersen, Aaron, and wellknown journalist Glenn O'Brien, as well as numerous historic photographs of the songwriters whose work is brought back to the public ear on this CD. The release of 'The Street Was Always There' will be supported by a national US tour by Eric in Fall 2004. About ERIC ANDERSEN Eric Andersen has always been recognized as a special talent. The late Robert Shelton of the New York Times presciently described an early Andersen composition as 'typical of the new language and poetic patterns of what will one day be called 'an Eric Andersen song'.' Almost four decade later, in a New York Times feature on Andersen's provocative 2003 Beat Avenue 2-CD set on Appleseed, Anthony DeCurtis affirmed that 'very few songwriters have built a body of work as consistently strong as Mr. Andersen's.' The unique qualities of 'an Eric Andersen song' have been captured by almost two dozen original albums (including four solo albums and a collaboration with the late Rick Danko and Jonas Fjeld issued in the last five years by Appleseed), and his compositions have been recorded by artists ranging from Judy Collins, Peter, Paul & Mary and Linda Ronstadt to the Grateful Dead, Fairport Convention and the Blues Project. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1943, Eric grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., where he taught himself to play guitar and piano. In his teens, he formed folk groups to perform the political songs of Woody Guthrie and The Weavers and immersed himself in the writings of Rimbaud, Baudelaire, and the 'Beat Generation' writers and poets Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso. Eric heeded the adventurous 'no rules' outlook and rootless freedom of the Beats, which still inform his creative outlook and lifestyle, and hitchhiked West in 1963 to meet and mingle with his idols and inspirations in San Francisco and Berkeley, an experience partly recounted in the 26-minute title song of 'Beat Avenue,' his 2003 double-CD. After his 'discovery' as a performer by the touring Tom Paxton, one of the earliest of the new York-based urban folksingers to write his own material, Eric relocated to New York and started writing and recording his early classics - 'Violets of Dawn,' 'Thirsty Boots' and 'Come to My Bedside.' In a career studded with some heartbreaking near-misses (almost signed by Beatles manager Brian Epstein before his death, the mysterious loss of the follow-up album to his breakthrough 1972 'Blue River' on Columbia - eventually rediscovered and issued in 1991 as 'Stages: The Lost Album),' Andersen has blazed his own creative path, influencing such songwriters as Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, briefly joining Bob Dylan's 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue, undertaking frequent national and international tours, and constantly expanding his own musical and poetic vocabulary to encompass blues, country and other genres, including collaborations with Lou Reed and the late Townes Van Zandt. In recent years, Andersen has performed at a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame tribute to Phil Ochs and at a celebration of Joni Mitchell in Central Park, appeared on the Bravo cable TV channel's series of artist interviews, and contributed a chapter to 'The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats: The Beat Generation and American Culture' (Hyperion, 1999). In addition to recording his own music, Eric has contributed tracks to tribute albums dedicated to Pete Seeger ('If I Had a Song: The Songs of Pete Seeger, Vol. 2' on Appleseed), Beat writer Jack Kerouac ('Kicks, Joy, Darkness' on Rykodisc), and to an unreleased tribute CD to Billie Holiday. Andersen has been in the entertainment news recently for his participation in the 'Festival Express' film, a newly released documentary of a legendary 1970 trans-Canadian train tour featuring Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, The Band, Buddy Guy (among others), with Eric as the lone solo artist on the bill. Eric is interviewed in the film, soon to be released on DVD, about his experiences on the tour. A special concert, interview and career retrospective about Eric has been airing on XM Satellite Radio's 'The Village' channel, almost four hours devoted to Eric's musical past and present.
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