Release Date: 17th January 2020
Label: Pipe Records
Formats: CD, DL
A musician with whom we may be more familiar from his covers of Springsteen songs, (in fact he’s probably either fed up or slightly embarrassed or more likely humbled by his label as ‘the Welsh Springsteen’) Martyn Joseph turns his attention to the relative obscurity of the Phil Ochs catalogue.
The familiarity of hearing Martyn’s own material and interpretations of the Springsteen catalogue gets cast aside as for many of us, Phil Ochs is an unknown presence. A musician who died by his own hand over forty years ago, yet his presence lives on in his music of which Martyn Joseph speaks so eloquently.
It’s a totally apt match though. The Ochs songs are packed with significant phrases and words. Insightful and inspirational, two watchwords that accompany Martyn Joseph on all his work. No frills, just a man, a guitar and some songs and empathy with which Joseph is totally in tune.
“I’ve got something to say and I’m gonna say it now.”
Although acknowledging the idiosyncratic Ochs guitar style, Joseph showcases some nifty and neat picking on The Ballad Of William Worthy and in adopting a more rhythmic strumming technique across the album, there are the odd moments when there’s a quick hint of the acoustic troubadour style Dylan (check out Knock On The Door).
So fourteen songs are cherrypicked as the selection places topical subjects against humour, love and individual stories. The title track, Days Of Decision, is perhaps one of the key tracks where there’s almost a feeling that “the times are a -changin’” is going to emerge.
“they’d better decide as they’re running out of time.”
And there’s a very personal That Was The President, a song Joseph has conceded “that floors me every time” in the “bullets of false revenge” take on the assassination of JFK that’s delivered with a dare we say Springsteen-ish vocal.
“it seems as though a friendless world has lost a friend”
An album packed with significant moments and shrewd observation and comment that could and should open some doors to the music of a man whose influence on his peers has been significant yet remains under that radar. It’s particularly the case in our modern times when so many of Ochs’ words ring poignantly true
Watch the video performance of When I’m Gone from the album here: