Eric Andersen

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Today Is The Highway (1965), 5/10
'Bout Changes And Things (1966), 6/10
More Hits From Tin Can Alley (1968), 5/10
A Country Dream (1968), 5/10
Blue River (1972), 7/10
Stages, 7/10
Be True To You (1975), 6/10
Sweet Surprise (1975), 6/10
Midnight Sun (1979), 5/10
Tight In The Night (1985), 5/10
Movin With The Wind (1985), 5/10
Ghosts Upon The Road (1988 - Plump, 1995), 7/10
Memory Of The Future (1999), 6/10
You Can't Relive The Past (2000), 6.5/10

Eric Andersen virtually invented the modern singer songwriter. In an era when most folksingers were either writing chronicles of daily life a` la Woody Guthrie or singing anti-Establishment anthems a` la Bob Dylan, Andersen displayed a fluent romantic vein. His art triumphed with Blue River (1972), that ranks among the masterpieces of the era. Stages, originally recorded in 1973 but only published eight years later, is equally stunning, as is the later Ghosts Upon The Road (1988).
(Translated by Ornella C. Grannis)

Eric Andersen is perhaps the first modern singer songwriter. His introspective and philosophical songs had little in common with the folk singers of his time. Barely influenced by Woody Guthrie - the myth of that moved all the others - and virtually unconditioned by the success of Bob Dylan, Andersen remained at the edge of the great mass phenomena of that period.

Born in Pittsburgh, Andersen began his musical growth in the college town of Cambridge (next to Boston), then moved to Greenwich Village in 1964 and immediately recorded Today Is The Highway (Vanguard, 1965). This first album rendered homage to the tradition of Guthrie and Pete Seeger (Dusty Box Car Wall, Plains Of Nebraska, Today Is The Highway), although some love ballads (On My Bedside, Everything Ain' t Been Said) showed a maturity that even Dylan was yet to reach.

With the affirmative album ' Bout Changes And Things (1966), Andersen continued in the romantic vein with delicate introspective poems (Violets Of Dawn) and protest songs without the anger (Thirsty Boots),. The tender Close The Door Lightly When You Go stands above the rest, perhaps destined to remain his most famous song.

Unfortunately this rich vein dried immediately after. Two insignificant albums came out, the excessively arranged More Hits From Tin Can Alley (1968), and To Country Dream (1968), a nod towards Nashville.

Andersen's reputation is entrusted above all to Blue River (Columbia, 1972), a concept album of love songs that remains, together with Joni Mitchell's Blue and few others, one of the milestones of folk avant garde. Blue River is a collection of compositions for small chamber ensemble, stylistically situated between Leonard Cohen and Donovan: the most delicate Is It Really Love At All, the classical Florentine, the anxious serenade Sheila, the country ballad More Often Than Not, the piano and bass experiment Wind And Sand. The record winds up with the title-track and Round The Bend, two powerful gospels dripping with universal pain. Illuminated and resigned, the former restless romantic of the highways finds his true vocation in the serene folk wisdom expressed on Blue River.

Victimized by recording industry swindles, Andersen's career declined little by little, in spite of the sweet Moonchild Riversong, from the album Be True To You (1975), and the gloomy Sweet Surprise, from the album Sweet Surprise (1976). The album Stages (1973) disappeared mysteriously before its release.

In the 80s Andersen moved to Norway. In Europe he released Midnight Sun (Wind And Sand, 1979), Tight In The Night (Wind And Sand, 1985), and Movin' With The Wind (EMI, 1985).

After years of begrudged silence, Eric Andersen finally released Ghosts Upon The Road (Gold Castle, 1988 - Plump, 1995), a record conceived in the intimate vein of Blue River - a great return to the scene, a rare occurrence in the history of rock. Belgian Bar is a rhapsody in the style of Warren Zevon, while the fist shaking diatribe Too Many Times rests on one of his most glorious melodies. The ethereal lullaby Spanish Steps (with traces of Tex-Mex by way of Dylan's Desire) and the modest parable Six Senses Of Darkness express the metaphysical longing of all his music, the same longing that transforms the monumental title-track into an all-consuming romantic autobiography, confirming the stature of this most refined and lyric poet. This record has the prophetic tone of a sage who studies the present, and reads in it the fine characters, minutely inscribed, of the future.

Two years after he released a record co-written with Jonas Fjeld and Rick Danko (of the Band), Danko Fjeld Andersen (Rykodisc, 1990). The trio later recorded Ridin' On The Blinds (Rykodisc, 1997).

In 1991 Columbia finally found the tapes of Stages, the album that should have followed Blue River (that Andersen suspected had been intentionally destroyed by the record company). Tender caresses like Moonchild River Song and melancholy waltzes like It' s Been A Long Time are in the same lyric tradition as the mythical masterpiece that preceded it. Wild Crow Blues leaps out in an ironic saloon-style boogie. Baby I' m Lonesome is a standard melody modestly sung by a tenor on the verge of tears, while the rhythm section seems to imitate the ticking of a clock, the guitar hisses like the wind and the organ climbs baroque chords. Andersen seems to reflect the early, very suffused Leonard Cohen in the lyric portrait Woman, She Was Gentle, with the spectral unfolding of the music, and that almost metaphysical "la la la". The stream of consciousness in Dream To Rimbaud pushes the limits of the psychedelic trip and the Indian raga.

At the apex of his own philosophical-musical abilities, Andersen intones Time Runs Like A Freight Train for eight and a half minutes, as if in a dream, barely musical, in a sonorous evanescent trance. This is a slow, nostalgic dedication to the flowing of time, gently rocked by a few meager strokes of guitar, bass and Hammond organ. Stages is brimming with poetry of the human condition. If the record had been released in its proper time, most likely it would have established Andersen as one of the greatest songwriters of all time.

Memory Of The Future (Appleseed, 1999) and You Can' t Relive The Past (Appleseed, 2000) are records of gloom and pessimism. The second in particular is a strong statement, its title track written in collaboration with Lou Reed; it plays as a requiem for passing friends Rick Danko and Townes Van Zandt.

Eric Andersen e` forse il primo cantautore moderno. Le sue canzoni introspettive e filosofiche avevano poco in comune con i folksinger dell'epoca. Poco influenzato dal mito di Woody Guthrie che muoveva tutti gli altri, e poco condizionato dal successo di Bob Dylan, Andersen rimase in margine ai grandi fenomeni di massa del periodo.

Nato a Pittsburgh ma cresciuto musicalmente nella cittadina universitaria di Cambridge (Boston), Andersen si trasferi` al Greenwich Village nel 1964 e registro` quasi subito il primo album, Today Is The Highway (Vanguard, 1965), che, per la verita`, rendeva omaggio alla tradizione di Guthrie e Pete Seeger (Dusty Box Car Wall, Plains Of Nebraska, la stessa title-track), nonostante alcune ballate d'amore (Come On My Bedside, Everything Ain't Be Said) mostrassero una maturita` che neppure Dylan aveva ancora raggiunto.

Andersen continuo` nella vena romantica sull'album dell'affermazione, 'Bout Changes And Things (1966), fra una delicata poesia introspettiva come Violets Of Dawn e un contributo alla canzone di protesta, Thirsty Bots. Su tutto si staglia la tenera Close The Door Lightly When You Go, destinata a rimanere forse la sua canzone piu` celebre.

Purtroppo la sua vena si affloscio` subito dopo. Spuntarono due album insignificanti come More Hits From Tin Can Alley (1968), arrangiato in maniera eccessiva, e A Country Dream (1968), che sembra ochieggiare a Nashville.

Avalanche (Warner, 1968) was more eclectic, with the saloon ragtime An Old Song (with a conversational coda), the raunchy Jeff Beck-ian blues-rock Louise, country singalong Good To Be With You, guitar-driven flamenco-tinged ballad Foolish Like The Flowers, the clownish ragtime Avalanche, and the eight-minute For What Was Gained.

Eric Andersen (Warner, 1969) chiuse il decennio.

Ma la sua fama e` affidata soprattutto a Blue River (Columbia, 1972), un concept di love songs che rimane una delle pietre miliari del folk d'avaguardia con Blue di Joni Mitchell e pochi altri. Blue River e' una raccolta di composizioni per piccolo ensemble da camera che si situano fra Cohen e Donovan: la delicatissima Is It Really Love At All, la classicheggiante Florentine, la trepida serenata Sheila, la ballata country More Often Than Not, con apici di sperimentalismo in Wind And Sand, per soli pianoforte e basso. Culmini del disco sono la title-track e Round The Bend, due gospel marziali intrisi di dolore universale. Illuminato e rassegnato, l'ex irrequieto romantico delle autostrade trova la sua vera vocazione in questo folk della saggezza."

La sua carriera si spense poco a poco, fra una dolcissima Moonchild Riversong (1975), su Be True To You (1975), e una tenebrosa Sweet Surprise (1976), su Sweet Surprise (1975), vittima di loschi complotti discografici (l'album del 1973, Stages, scomparve misteriosamente prima di essere pubblicato).

Negli anni '80 Andersen si ritiro` a vivere in Norvegia. In Europa pubblico` Midnight Sun (Wind And Sand, 1979), Tight In The Night (Wind And Sand, 1985), e Movin With The Wind (EMI, 1985).

Dopo anni di (risentito) silenzio, Eric Andersen pubblico` finalmente Ghosts Upon The Road (Gold Castle, 1988 - Plump, 1995), un disco nella vena intimista di Blue River, un grande ritorno sulle scene come raramente e` successo nella storia del rock. Belgian Bar e' una rapsodia marziale nello stile di Warren Zevon, mentre la vibrante arringa di Too Many Times si appoggia a una delle sue melodie piu' gloriose. Le cantilena eterea di Spanish Steps (con tracce del Dylan texmex di {Desire}) e la parabola dimessa di Six Senses Of Darkness esprimono l'anelito metafisico di tutta la sua musica, lo stesso che trasforma la monumentale title-track in una struggente autobiografia romanzata, confermando la statura di questo raffinato e liricissimo poeta. Tutto il disco ha un tono quasi profetico, da saggio che guarda in faccia il presente e vi legge, miniato in caratteri fini, il futuro.

Due anni dopo e' uscito anche un disco condiviso con Jonas Fjeld e con Rick Danko (della Band), Danko Fjeld Andersen (Rykodisc, 1990), a cui ha fatto seguito un altro album.

Nel 1991 la Columbia ritrovera` finalmente i nastri di Stages, l'album che non fece mai seguito a Blue River (e che Andersen sospetta fosse stato volutamente distrutto dai discografici). Tenere carezze come Moonchild River Song e valzer malinconici come It's Been A Long Time sono dello stesso filone lirico del mitico capolavoro. Soltanto Wild Crow Blues si lancia in un ironico boogie da saloon. Baby I'm Lonesome e' una melodia da manuale, cantata dal suo tenore in punta di piedi con il tono di chi sta per mettersi a piangere, mentre la sezione ritmica sembra imitare il ticchettio di un orologio, la chitarra sibila come il vento e l'organo s'inerpica in accordi barocchi. Sembra di riascoltare il primo, soffusissimo, Cohen nel lirico ritratto di Woman, She Was Gentle, con quel "la la la" quasi metafisico in quell'incedere spettrale della musica. Il flusso di coscienza di Dream To Rimbaud si spinge fino al limite del "trip" psichedelico e del raga.
Al culmine delle proprie capacita' filosofico-musicali, Andersen canticchia Time Runs Like A Freight Train come in un sogno, per otto minuti e mezzo, appena appena musicale, in un evanescente blackout sonoro. Sono lente e nostalgiche dediche al fluire del tempo, cullate da pochi, sparuti rintocchi di chitarra, di basso, di organo Hammond. Poesia della condizione umana. Se il disco fosse uscito ai suoi tempi, avrebbe probabilmente fatto di Andersen uno dei grandi della canzone d'autore di sempre.

Memory Of The Future (Appleseed, 1999) e soprattutto You Can't Relive The Past (Appleseed, 2000) sono dischi tetri e pessimisti. Il secondo, in particolare, forte della title-track che e` una collaborazione con Lou Reed, sembra quasi un requiem per gli amici scomparsi (Rick Danko, Townes Van Zandt).

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