I had the opportunity of meeting this man on a recent trip to Milan. An Italian music-journalist friend of mine introduced me to him. I admit that at the time I knew little of the man or his music but meeting Eric and spending only a few hours with him on the streets of a sun-drenched Milan in spring made me realise that this was an intensely artistic and creative person. His eyes were constantly darting around, absorbing all that was going on around us. His use of language was different and seemed a lot more poetic in outlook, even when he was talking of the mundane such as his love of ITV programme a Touch of Frost! Otherwise we spent a good few hours talking about music, about Bob Dylan, the Band, Lou Reed, beat poetry, bookshops in London and Jewish humour.
Songwriter Tom Paxton discovered a young Eric Andersen and invited him to New York where he quickly became entrenched in the Greenwich Village folk-scene. Here he absorbed the music of the times, becoming friends with both Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs. He played the Newport and Cambridge folk festivals and was the only solo artist to play the Festival Express train which travelled Canada (along with the Band, Janis Joplin and Grateful Dead).
His career has been hit by bad luck over the years. He had a record contract with Brian Epstein who then unfortunately took an overdose, thus voiding the contract. He also had the acetates of his unreleased album on Colombia disappear when a new regime was brought into place at the company. In many respects he is probably the unluckiest folk-singer out there, and they seem like an unlucky bunch to start off with – they certainly sing as if they were.
This collection was compiled from various sources and various albums between 1969 and 1980 and has been released by a relatively unknown Australian label. It is a great way to discover this man’s substantial body of work. With 17 songs at clocking in at 77 minutes it is far from an expensive and pointless collection.
The collection has a range of styles but seems to focus on the ballad. ‘Sign of a Desperate Man’ is a country-tinged song which absorbs the classic folk themes of the perennial underdog fighting a world which no longer understands. ‘Wind and Sand’ has a beautiful piano backing which serves as the perfect backing for Andersen’s frankly beautiful harmonies. ‘Blue River’ is perhaps his most famous song and is a duet with Joni Mitchell. It is a beautiful song which entrenches itself in your mind and won’t leave it for a few days to come. You’ll find yourself humming to the moving tune at the most unexpected moments.
‘Time Run Like a Freight Train’ is another killer ballad. It is no wonder that Bob Dylan has described Eric Andersen as being, “A great ballad singer”. ‘Sweet Surprise’ has a rockier feel to it than some of the other songs and sounds like the bastard love-child of the Byrds and Townes Van Zandt (ie: great country rock). The collection also includes a live track to give the listener a flavour of his shows, ‘Thirsty Boots’. All in all there are few duff tracks on here.
If you’re a fan of your typical folk artists then there is no reason why you should not enjoy this collection. It is the best starting point in discovering his music . Once you’ve absorbed this collection, you’ll be wondering why on earth this man is not spoken of in the same breath as some of the other folk greats. It is criminal that this man is not more revered by the music industry and the music press. Definately an artist to discover and eventually to make others discover. This man deserves to be more than a mere footnote of musical history.