Phil Ochs Albums Ranked

Philip David Ochs (/ˈoʊks/; December 19, 1940 – April 9, 1976) was an American protest singer (or, as he preferred, a topical singer) and songwriter who was known for his sharp wit, sardonic humor, earnest humanism, political activism, insightful and alliterative lyrics, and distinctive voice. He wrote hundreds of songs in the 1960s and 1970s and released eight albums. Some of Ochs’s major musical influences were Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Bob Gibson, Faron Young, and Merle Haggard. His best-known songs include “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”, “Changes”, “Crucifixion”, “Draft Dodger Rag”, “Love Me, I’m a Liberal”, “Outside of a Small Circle of Friends”, “Power and the Glory”, “There but for Fortune”, and “The War Is Over”. Here are all of Phil Ochs albums ranked.

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10. The War Is Over: The Best Of Phil Ochs (1988)

“These are songs that I came to know, and sing again and again at odd moments in the day. The stories in the songs are delightful, with beautiful orchestration. French horn! Timpani! The songs with a drum kit, tight! I love a few of these songs the way I love Broadway musical tunes.”

9. There But For Fortune (1989)

“A folk poet. His style is very direct, without much embellishment. Others have covered his work with more compelling results. In some ways, his work reminds me of the writing career of Laura Nyro, in that other recording artists made her compositions popular or enlarged them. Ochs is proof that lyricists/writers are not always the best performers/interpreters of their own material.”

8. Tape From California (1968)

“The lyrics are masterful, and Phil’s performance is brilliant. The song Joe Hill is much more informative than the more well known version by Joan Baez. Ramblin’ Jack Elliot does some great finger pickin’ on this song too. The song White Boots in a Yellow Land is a powerful anti-war song, and is still valid today.”

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7. Greatest Hits (1970)

“Most people view Ochs through the prism of his early protest music, compare him unfavorably with Dylan, and don’t like to talk about what happened to him later on. Well as much as I respect his early topical work, for me his most powerful music begins when he began examining his own troubled psyche, peaking with the album previous to this eerily titled “Rehearsals for Retirement” that features a mock Phil Ochs tomb stone on the cover.”

6. Live Again! (2014)

“An excellent addition to the Phil Ochs oeuvre. This is a live recording of an excellent solo night at The Stables in East Lansing MI (26 May 1973) where Phil performs 18 songs from the entire arc of his career. He is in fine form and fine spirits here. Bonus track: Ewan MacColl Ballad of the Carpenter from The Quiet Night in Chicago 17 March 1974.”

5. Phil Ochs In Concert (1966)

“This album is pretty well current as ever it was. It only needs a few name changes, example ‘Cops of the World’ for the war in Iraq.’Love me, I’m a Liberal’ nails not only American liberals but Britain’s New Labour. Phil’s verbal intros are as much a memorable a feature of this album. His songs shift perspective and tone and reveals his awesome capacity for shifting from picturesque observation to savage observation (as in Bracero).”

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4. Rehearsals For Retirement (1969)

“”Rehearsals for Retirement” is probably Och’s most personal album. Considering his demons, then, this may be somewhat harrowing an experience for some listeners. Owing to later events, one senses the “retirement” he’s singing about wasn’t only referring to a possible career change. The music, however, is the best of his career–ranging from beautiful to rocking.”

3. All The News That’s Fit To Sing (1964)

“The cuts on this album are the very definition of Protest Songs (with a couple of love songs thrown in). At a time when Bob Dylan was leaving the directness of “masters of war” to paint profound pictures with his lyrics, Phil Ochs sharpened his own words into direct and savage weapons against the wrongs he saw in the world. Far from apologizing for his directness, he would go on to make yet another Classic album (“I Ain’t Marching Anymore”) which would be even more direct than this one.”

2. Pleasures Of The Harbor (1967)

“Listening to this was one of the most eye-popping moments in recent memory. For me I mean. I always had a very specific idea of Ochs. I thought of him as the poor man’s Dylan – protest songs, some sweet melodies and sad ones too, and some nice acoustic guitar. As a matter of fact it got to the point where I just mentally glossed over his work when anyone would mention it or when it would come up on lists.”

1. I Ain’t Marching Anymore (1965)

“It’s a really solid album through and through. It just sounds much much more assured and beautiful than his debut a year before. The songs are consistently gorgeous and topical yet timeless. In songs like “That’s What I Want To Hear” it’s amazing cuz, the concerns aren’t dated at all. And his tribute to John F Kennedy – “That Was A President” is truly beautiful if a bit too hero-worship for my taste. And songs like “Draft Dodger Rag” is hilarious and incredibly catchy.”