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10 Jun 2017

Eric Andersen "Blue River'1972 US Folk Rock












Eric Andersen  "Blue River'1972 US Folk Rock
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Originally recorded in 1971 and composed during a time of intense creativity, anguish, and physical and mental exhaustion, Eric Andersen's ode to despair and cry for renewal is widely acknowledged to be his masterpiece. Along with Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks and Joni Mitchell's Blue, it is a defining moment for the singer/songwriter genre. Andersen delivers these nine country- and gospel-flavored songs as if in a trance; a fragile and flowing analog warmth threads them together. All the airy, spacious lyricism of Norbert Putnam's delicate production is now before the listener, and the musical experience, even for those who know the album well, will be a revelation. The smallest details--Grady Martin's gut-string guitar on "Faithful," Weldon Myrick's steel guitar and Joni Mitchell's intricately phrased harmony on "Blue River," and Farell Morris's barely audible but finely textured vibes on "Florentine"--arise as if for the first time. Columbia has also unearthed two unreleased tracks--a soulful reinterpretation of the early ballad "Come to My Bedside" and a Cajun vamp-up of Hank Williams's "Why Don't You Love Me Like You Used to Do?" If it's a crime that an album this moving ever went out of print, it's also a triumph that it has returned meticulously remastered and elegantly annotated and presented. --Roy Kasten..................

With mid-'60s gems like Violets of Dawn, Thirsty Boots, and Close the Door Lightly, Eric Andersen became the archetypal, literate romantic before the likes of James Taylor and Jackson Browne had even cut their first records, but at the same time seemed to lack direction from album to album. With his eighth album, Blue River, recorded in Nashville in 1972, he found the perfect setting for his gentle, poetic songs. After nearly seven years of dabbling in folk, folk-rock, pop, and country, Andersen found a smart, sympathetic ear in producer Norbert Putnam. Putnam, whose production here is rarely extraneous, utilizes subtle touches of bass, drums, accordion, and organ along with Andersen's own guitar, piano, and harmonica to frame the material. The record, Andersen's first effort for Columbia, also featured his best collection of tunes to date.
Blue River, with its themes of uncertainty and struggle, is by no means a casual record, although songs such as the bittersweet "Is It Really Love at All" and the title track, featuring Joni Mitchell's ethereal supporting vocal, will draw the listener in with their sheer beauty. Andersen, then in his late twenties, was dealing with questions of love, life, and desire with a maturity matched only by a handful of songwriters at the time. Never overly precious or maudlin, nearly every cut resonates with eloquence and grace. Although continuing to grow as a writer in the years to come, Blue River remains Eric Andersen's masterwork and one of the true classics of the genre.......by Brett Hartenbach.........

This classic album was the early culmination of Andersen's rise to prominence in the sixties with its thoughtful, poignant, and philosophic look both within Andersen himself and in the world as he saw it during a period of personal difficulty and inner turmoil.Eric Andersen is nothing if not a consummate writer, performer, and interpreter of classic folk melodies and subjects, and he delivers on his considerable promise. Certainly both earlier and later professional efforts by Andersen indicate just how talented and durable his abilities as a writer and performer he is. Here he is in superb form, with original songs ranging from the opening stunner "Is It Really Love At All" to "Wind And Sand" to other wistful interpretations like "Florentine" and the very wry "Faithful", which Linda Ronstadt did a terrific cover version of years later. My personal favorites here are ""Blue River", a haunting and evocative song about life simply led, and "More Often Than Not", an unusual (to say the least) take on life as a road-traveling performer. One often hears albums described as a collection of songs, but this is truly a song cycle that has a special mood, atmosphere, and timbre of its own. This is a special album by a monumental talent who has never gotten the wide acclaim and popular recognition his unusually gifted abilities seem to deserve. Buy this CD and I guarantee you will soon find yourself referring to it reverently, as most "folkies" do.........By Barron Laycock........

It's great to see the reissue of this classic 70s album. Now a new generation can hear and appreciate the quiet power of such songs as "Blue River" and "Wind and Sand." This is a prime example of the folk-country collaborations that were gaining popularity then. This CD misses the original linear notes that would give the music some perspective............By Rabbit Warren........

What does an old folksinger, with seven precious albums, two record companies, and his best days seemingly behind him, do in today's highly competitive market? He goes to Columbia, of course. With Tom Rush, Tim Hardin and John Hammond taking the plunge before him, Eric Andersen has now joined the ranks of the disenchanted to seek his piece of the musical popularity pie.
Well, we all know that Columbia knows how to promote their artists, and if they play their cards right this time, it looks like they've got a winner on their hands.
First of all, with or without his beard, Eric is gorgeous, even more beautiful than James Taylor. But more importantly, he writes such lovely songs and delivers them so gently. A few years ago, I used his Tin Can Alley album to fall asleep to every night. Add to this his recent tour with the New Riders and the widespread airplay his album is receiving, and it's easy to see how Eric could possibly becmoe the next heavily-hyped, here today, gone tomorrow superstar. I hope not.

His new album, Blue River, is, in a word, pretty. The songs, the arrangements, and the vocals are all very low-keyed, and they help to achieve a satisfying and relaxed effect. They are mostly love songs, Eric's specialty, and although the lyrics tend to get a bit emotional at times, they merely describe situations he's probably been in and feelings that he's had. And if we can't accept an artist's honesty on his own terms, what are we left with? David Crosby, and how he almost cut his hair? No thanks.

There are no songs here that will rise to the sensitive heights of "Thirsty Boots" or "Violets of Dawn." But cuts like "Wind and Sand" and "Faithful" almost do and many of the others leave you humming, too. The copied Band arrangment of "Pearl's Goodtime Blues" (complete with a "Rag Mama Rag" chorus) is distressing, but somehow the coaxing quality in Eric's voice makes you forget where the song came from.

Unlike a few of his early Vanguard albums, this is not a brilliant album. But I've had a special place in my heart for Eric Andersen, an dif you just take it for what it is, Blue River is nice enough.

- David N. Bromberg, Words & Music, 9-72...................................

I was ready to discard this but because it was so pretty I suffered second thoughts, which is too bad for both of us. In 1967, Andersen sounded like early electric Dylan, so now he sounds like... James Taylor. He's honest enough to back himself with a girlie chorus, but that's as far as his honesty goes. If I'm liable to run into noodleheads like Andersen walking down some country road, I'll feel safer in Central Park. C

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

Recorded in Nashville with some of the best country studio pros providing simple, sympathetic backing, Blue River was deemed a minor classic of the singer/songwriter school from an artist whose roots go back to the founding days of folk rock. Reminiscent of James Taylor, a bit too wide-eyed, pretty, and mawkish to sustain the test of time -- or even the movement -- it delivers a resonant, pleasing sound, but little of substance (e.g., "to give my foot another chance to try another shoe"). The best of the bunch is "Sheila," and it's been done better a number of times by a number of others. On the other hand, the sound is excellent -- warm, open, and clean. C-

- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991...............

Always an expressively poetic songwriter, Eric Andersen displayed a greater sense of musical focus on this release, thanks in part to producer Norbert Putnam’s tasteful blend of folk, country and rock instrumental textures. Anderson offers beautifully drawn character portraits and acute observations about the human heart, matching them with bittersweet melodies. His wistful tenor is in strong shape, adding to the battered romanticism captured in “Is It Really Love At All,” “Faithful” and “Sheila.” “Wind and Sand” and “Round the Bend” probe the bonds between families and friends with a sensitive, empathetic touch. The upbeat “Pearl’s Goodtime Blues” sketches Janis Joplin in vivid, loving strokes. Two songs especially stand out in this set: “More Often Than Not” (an ode to human endurance with the scruffy charm of an outlaw country classic) and the title song (a gospel-rock number reminiscent of the Band, featuring Joni Mitchell on background vocals). Blue River remains Andersen’s most fully-realized album, as well as one of the best singer/songwriter releases of its era.......................

Eric Andersen has maintained a career as a folk-based singer/songwriter since the 1960s. In contrast to such peers as Tom Paxton and Phil Ochs, Andersen's writing has had a romantic/philosophical/poetic bent for the most part, rather than a socially conscious one, though one of his best-known songs, "Thirsty Boots," is about the Freedom Riders in the early '60s. (The song has been recorded by Judy Collins and others.) After emerging from the Northeast folk-club circuit, Andersen began to record in 1965 with Today Is the Highway. His second album, 'Bout Changes & Things, contained some of his most accomplished writing, including the highly poetic "Violets of Dawn," "Thirsty Boots," and "I Shall Go Unbounded." All were sung in Andersen's flexible tenor (he shaded toward a baritone later) backed by rapid, intricate fingerpicking. In the late '60s and early '70s, Andersen experimented with country, pop, and rock music, settling on an amalgamation by the time of his masterpiece Blue River in 1972. This was also his most commercially successful album, but Andersen, like friends Leonard Cohen and Townes Van Zandt, was always too serious-minded for the mainstream. In the '70s and '80s, he recorded sporadically while playing folk clubs around the U.S. and especially in Europe, where he took up residence. His later material, including 1989's Ghosts Upon the Road, recalls his work in the '60s as it ruefully reflects on that decade. The '90s saw Andersen collaborate with friends like Rick Danko and Jonas Fjeld on Danko/Fjeld/Andersen, as well as release a solo album, 1998's Memory of the Future; Andersen also oversaw the release of Stages: The Lost Album, and a 1999 reissue of Blue River. You Can't Relive the Past. Beat Avenue, from 2003, was an ambitious double-CD while 2004's The Street Was Always There was a nostalgic look back at the music of the New York Greenwich Village scene of the early to mid-'60s. 2005's Waves was another album of covers, but with broader material. Andersen released Blue Rain, his first live album, in May 2007. That same year, the compilation So Much on My Mind was issued. The set drew on both catalog tracks and live performances and was issued on Columbia, Arista, and Warner Brothers. Andersen continued to tour and take part in significant cultural events. In 2008, he performed at the Andy Warhol Week Celebration at the Gershwin Hotel (Debbie Harry played the same evening) and received an "Andy" award -- other recipients included Lou Reed, Ultra Violet, Billy Name, and Holly Woodlawn. The following year he performed on the BBC program Greenwich Village Revisited, hosted by Billy Bragg; other guests included Carolyn Hester, Roger McGuinn, and Judy Collins. Andersen also took part in the international celebrations centering around the 50th anniversary of the publication of William Burroughs' Naked Lunch. He contributed an essay entitled "The Danger Zone" to the volume Naked Lunch @ 50: The Anniversary Essays, edited by Oliver Harris and Ian MacFadyen and published by the Southern Illinois University Press. In 2011, Andersen issued his second live offering, The Cologne Concert, through Meyer Records. Along with deep catalog material, the set offered a pair of new songs in "The Dance of Love and Death" and "Sinking Deeper Into You." In May of 2012 he became a member of the newly created European Beat Studies Network under the auspices of William S. Burroughs scholar Oliver Harris. That fall, he was commissioned by Catherine Camus to write original material for the centennial celebration of her father Albert Camus' 100th birthday in Aix en Provence, France. Andersen delivered a song cycle entitled The Shadow and Light of Albert Camus, recorded and released through Meyer in 2014. On September 3, 2015 Andersen took part in a V.I.P. charity concert in Grand Hall at Newstead Abbey Park, the ancestral home of the poet Lord Byron in Ravenshead, Nottingham, U.K. (in Sherwood Forest). Andersen played music he set to Byron’s verse and offered entirely new compositions in the poet's rhyme style. This project was written and developed over the previous two years. Andersen later recorded the songs and issued them as Mingle with the Universe: The Worlds of Lord Byron in the spring of 2017. ~ William Ruhlmann.....................

Credits
Accordion – Kevin Kelly (2) (tracks: A5)
Acoustic Guitar, Lead Vocals, Piano, Backing Vocals, Harmonica – Eric Andersen (2)
Arranged By [Woodwind & Strings] – Glenn Spreen* (tracks: A1)
Backing Vocals – Deborah Green Andersen (tracks: A1, A4, A5, B4), Florence Warner, Joni Mitchell (tracks: A5), Temple Riser (tracks: B1), The Holidays* (tracks: B1), The Jordanaires with Millie Kirkham, La Verna Moore, and Sonja Motgomery [sic]* (tracks: B4)
Bass – Mark Spoor (tracks: A1, A5, B2), Norbert Putnam (tracks: A2, A3, A4, B1, B3, B4)
Celesta – David Briggs (2) (tracks: B4)
Dobro – David Bromberg (tracks: B3)
Drums – Jim McKevitt (tracks: B2), Richard Schlosser* (tracks: B3)
Drums, Percussion – Kenneth Buttrey* (tracks: A2, A4, A5, B1, B4)
Electric Guitar – Andy Johnson (tracks: A1, A5, B2, B3), Eddie Hinton (tracks: A2)
Guitar [Gut-String] – Grady Martin (tracks: A4, B1)
Organ – David Briggs (2) (tracks: A2, A4, B4)
Organ, Harpsichord – Glenn Spreen* (tracks: B1)
Percussion – Gerry Carrigan* (tracks: A1)
Piano – Deborah Green Andersen (tracks: A1, A4)
Producer – Norbert Putnam
Steel Guitar – Weldon Myrick (tracks: A5)
Vibraphone – Andy Johnson (tracks: A1), Farrell Morris (tracks: B1)

Tracklist
A1 Is It Really Love At All 5:25
A2 Pearl's Goodtime Blues 2:25
A3 Wind And Sand 4:31
A4 Faithful 3:18
A5 Blue River 4:51
B1 Florentine 3:34
B2 Sheila 4:42
B3 More Often Than Not
Written-By – David Wiffen
4:55
B4 Round The Bend 5:40

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