Andersen, Eric : Waves
Does forgotten art die? Not if Eric Andersen can help it. A masterful and groundbreaking singer-songwriter himself ('Blue River,' 'Violets of Dawn,' 'Thirsty Boots'), Andersen recognizes that a great song unremembered can be washed away forever in the flood of new and mostly disposable music that drenches us each day. His desire to keep 'fresh and new' the songs of his early Sixties Greenwich Village compatriots Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Phil Ochs, Fred Neil and others in the transition from traditional folk music to a more poetic and personal style of songwriting led Eric to record last year's 'The Street Was Always There' and now 'Waves,' the second volume in his 'Great American Song Series.' Like it's predecessor, 'Waves' gathers timeless songs by many of Eric's 'friends and acquaintances' and presents them in contemporary but intimate arrangements to a new audience that may never have heard them and to a previous generation that has yearned to hear them again. The range of writers and material that Andersen has chosen to cover reflects the creative explosion of the Sixties: Tim Buckley's shimmering, ethereal 'Once I Was' is followed by the folkish elegy 'Ramblin' Boy' by Andersen mentor Tom Paxton; Happy Traum's metaphorical trad-folk, 'Golden Bird,' is preceded by an understated reading of Lou Reed's bittersweet Velvet Underground ballad, 'Pale Blue Eyes.' Other songs remembered and revived by Eric: Phil Ochs' wise overview, 'Changes'; Fred Neil's bluesy 'I've Got a Secret'; a jauntily rocking rendition of Tom Rush's 'On the Road Again'; and the dreamy 'Coconut Grove,' written about Fred Neil's Florida hideaway by the Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky. There are also two forceful, snarling anti-war/anti-imperialism songs - Dylan's 'John Brown' and the late Richard Fariña's 'Bold Marauder' - and a pair of Andersen's own early signature songs, 'Today is the Highway' and 'Thirsty Boots,' the latter a live bonus track featuring Eric and Judy Collins trading verses, with harmonies by Tom Rush and Arlo Guthrie, that previously appeared on the 'Judy Collins Wildflower Festival' CD. As on 'The Street,' 'Waves' includes a newly written Andersen title track ('Hymn of Waves') summarizing the spirit of these two volumes: 'Light the fire and take it to the people/The word will spread like flames.' Again joining Andersen (vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, harmonica) in his invocation of eternal songs and songwriters are his longtime producer and arranger Robert Aaron (bass, keyboards, woodwinds, percussion), leader of international hip-hop star Wyclef Jean's band; fellow Appleseed artists The Kennedys (Pete plays typically incisive and illuminating guitar throughout, Maura sings backing vocals on 'Bold Marauder'); Greenwich Village alumni Happy Traum (banjo, on his own 'Golden Bird') and Jim Glover, friend and sometime singing partner of Phil Ochs and half of the '60s Jim & Jean duo (backing vocals on 'Changes'), daughter Signe Askeland-Andersen (backing vocals on 'Ramblin' Boy') and an attuned core of funk/jazz/rock session players. In it's review of 'The Street,' the knowledgeable British music magazine Mojo wrote, 'The power of these interpretations comes from Andersen's knowledge that he and his comrades on the storied '60s folk scene crafted songs beyond time or classification . . . Each piece is illuminated by Andersen's intimate understanding of it's strengths.' Without repetition of material or arrangements, 'Waves' should earn the same reaction. About ERIC ANDERSEN: In the four decades since Eric Andersen was discovered by Tom Paxton in a San Francisco coffeehouse and dispatched to New York's Greenwich Village to join the blossoming singer-songwriter scene of the early Sixties, he has gone from new kid in town to international Grand Master status at the art of meaningful, personalized contemporary songwriting Although Eric temporarily diverted his own steady flow of original compositions while recording his two recent 'Great American Song Series' volumes of songs by other seminal Sixties singer-songwriters, the most recent CD of his own songs, 2003's 'Beat Avenue,' showed him at the peak of his creative powers, with one disc of torrid, frequently rock-powered songs and a second disc that included a 10-minute country blues and a successfully experimental 26-minute title track that cinematically recreated Eric's experiences among San Francisco's Beat community of artists on the day of President John Kennedy's assassination. Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., Eric grew up in Buffalo, NY, where he taught himself guitar and piano and formed folk groups to perform the political songs of Woody Guthrie and the Weavers. His immersion in the poetry and books by Beat Generation writers Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Gregory Corso magnetized him into hitchhiking to their West Coast haunts in 1963. The 'no rules' outlook and rootless freedom of the Beats have remained Eric's inspirations, both in his world-wandering lifestyle and his poetic, sensual songs, with their motifs of love, lost innocence, and the flow of travel and time. Despite a career studded with heartbreaking near-misses - he was almost signed by Beatles manager Brian Epstein shortly before the latter's death; the mysterious disappearance of the follow-up album to his breakthrough 1972 album 'Blue River,' eventually rediscovered and issued in 1991 as 'Stages: The Lost Album') - Andersen has resolutely blazed his own creative trail across almost thirty original albums and more than forty years of performance and travel. He influenced such songwriters as Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, took part in the legendary 1970 trans-Canadian train tour as the lone solo performer amongst the Grateful Dead, The Band, Janis Joplin and numerous others (a trip captured on the recent 'Festival Express' film and DVD), briefly joined Bob Dylan's 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue, hung out at the New York's Chelsea Hotel with future punk poetess Patti Smith, and has constantly expanded his own musical and poetic vocabulary to encompass blues, jazz, country and other genres, as heard in his collaborations with Lou Reed and the late Townes Van Zandt, among others. One particularly fertile partnership blossomed in 1990 when Andersen, bassist/vocalist Rick Danko (formerly of The Band and now deceased) and Norwegian singer-songwriter Jonas Fjeld performed an impromptu gig in Woodstock, NY. The trio subsequently recorded the award-winning 'Danko/ Fjeld/Andersen' CD, which Bob Dylan has called 'one of my favorite albums of all time' (reissued as 'One More Shot' by Appleseed in 2002 with a bonus disc of a 1991 live performance) and 1994's 'Ridin' on the Blinds.' Although no one sings Andersen like Eric, his songs have been covered by a wide array of artists, including Judy Collins, Fairport Convention, Linda Ronstadt, Peter, Paul & Mary, and The Blues Project. In recent years, Andersen has performed at a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame tribute to Phil Ochs and 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 2003, Eric traveled to San Remo, Italy, to receive the country's most prestigious songwriting award, the Premio Tenco, with friend and co-recipient Patti Smith. Last year, a lengthy concert, interview and career retrospective devoted to Eric was aired on XM Satellite Radio's 'The Village' channel. In addition to recording his own music, Andersen 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 CD saluting Billie Holiday. Eric is currently writing a book of short stories and novellas, preparing to record the original songs he has been crafting while recording his 'Great American Song Series' of other songwriters' material, and maintaining his near-constant touring schedule in the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan.