Review Summary: This music puts you in a specific time and place which is what any amazing songwriter should do.
The 60’s folk scene in the United States was a fruitful and widespread movement. The US of course was in a state of unrest with the Civil Rights movement experiencing its peak combined with the public backlash of America’s involvement in Vietnam. When the growing folk movement mixes in with the politics of the time, protest music emerges. Protest music at its best fills the listener with frustration and passion. Phil Ochs’ I Ain’t Marching Anymore
does exactly that. Phil Ochs’ musical career was solid, but was mostly spent in the shadow of massive folk artists such as Bob Dylan. Unfortunately, his quality of being overlooked lead to depression, alcoholism, and his eventual suicide. This album alone should put Ochs in the conversation of the great folk artists of the 60’s.
I Ain’t Marching Anymore
starts with the fiery title track with Ochs’ lyrics depicting America’s numerous involvements in multiple wars questioning “Now look at all we’ve won with a saber and a gun / Tell me is it worth at all.” His songwriting is poetic and captivating along with his fierce guitar playing makes this song extremely impactful. “Draft Dodger Rag” is another track about Vietnam, but with a different approach. Ochs in this song wittingly lists off all the fake reasons why he isn’t fit to fight in the war. He revisits this subject matter once again later in the album with “The Men Behind the Guns” but with a more solemn tone illustrating the ugliness of war and how the young men fighting the war are often forgotten.
Ochs tackles other song topics on I Ain’t Marching Anymore
such as racism, particularly in the south. “Here’s to the State of Mississippi” is a moving ballad directly addressing the people and government of Mississippi. Ochs calls out Mississippi (and most of the south) for being ignorant, corrupt, and intentionally stagnate with lyrics such as “And here's to the laws of Mississippi / Congressmen will gather in a circus of delay / While the Constitution is drowning in an ocean of decay / Unwed mothers should be sterilized, I've even heard them say / Yes, corruption can be classic in the Mississippi way.” Ochs also covers America’s horrible history of the death penalty on the track “Iron Lady.” On this song, he vigorously sings about men being sentenced to death by electrocution while also pointing out how “a rich man’s never died upon the chair.”
The only instruments featured on I Ain’t Marching Anymore
are guitar and Phil Ochs' voice which may sound like this album could get repetitive, but Ochs changes pace and moods really well throughout the duration of the album. All of Ochs performances on this album are executed wonderfully. Ochs creates a presence on these songs that can’t be ignored. The guitar playing is dynamic, his singing is very full, and the songwriting is powerful. When I listen to this album, I feel like I need to get up and fight for something. I want to be in the middle of the protests. I want to be changing the world for the better. I want to eliminate ignorance and violence. I Ain’t Marching Anymore
shows how impressive one person with one guitar can be.