al stewart

E r i c... A n d e r s e n

beach full of shells
Eric Andersen
Beat Avenue


“Very few songwriters have built a body of work as consistently strong as Mr. Andersen’s. Beginning in 1965 with Today Is the Highway, he has recorded a series of albums that, taken together, constitute a kind of poetic autobiography, a sonic journal of his movement through the last four decades in the United States and Europe. . . . Since 1989, Mr. Andersen, who is now 60, has explored the grip the past holds on the present. Each of his albums since then – Ghosts Upon the Road, Memory of the Future and You Can’t Relive the Past – describes characters who inhabit a landscape of alluring and sometimes dangerous specters . . . Mr. Andersen’s new album, Beat Avenue, a double CD, wanders that thematic terrain as well, to similarly compelling effect. The first disc consists of 12 songs in which the singer looks back in anger, amusement and regret both at his own reckless youth (‘Stupid Love’) and at a pre-9/11 innocence (‘Before Everything Changed’). . . . ‘Salt on Your Skin,’ ‘Run Away’ and ‘Shape of a Broken Heart’ are romantic memoirs that Mr. Andersen delivers in a whispery rasp, as if he were recalling dreams and scanning them for any meaning they might have. . . . For the songs on that disc Mr. Andersen fashions a sound that recalls the raucous Gypsy rhapsodies of Bob Dylan's Desire. (Beat Avenue, in fact, is dedicated to Mr. Dylan.) Eric Bazilian’s electric guitar veers between driving rhythms and searing leads, while the violin of Joyce Andersen (no relation) soars over the top. Female singers, including Phoebe Snow and Mr. Andersen’s daughter Sari, provide a sensual counterpoint to Mr. Andersen’s brooding vocals. The second disc of Beat Avenue includes the 26-minute title track on which Mr. Andersen . . . recounts a poetry reading and party he attended in San Francisco on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. As Robert Aaron conjures a jazzy musical backdrop on keyboards, tenor saxophone and trumpet, Mr. Andersen, who was 20 at the time, recollects the simultaneous shattering and realization of many of his dreams. He had moved to San Francisco to meet the Beat poets he idolized, and he is wonderstruck to be in the presence of Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Neal Cassady and Michael McClure. But his joy is inextricable from the murder in Dallas earlier that afternoon. Mr. Andersen’s best work has always drawn on the complex emotions summoned by scenes like that. Love comes, but it is never what one expects. Moments of the deepest joy and ease are often merely the prelude or aftermath to cataclysm. And, as Beat Avenue well demonstrates, the past refuses to dissolve safely into memory but exerts a pull that one can never fully escape.”
– Anthony DeCurtis, The New York (Sunday) Times

“. . . Andersen’s most ambitious album, a 90-minute tour de force that encapsulates his musical and lyrical concerns over a lifetime. The music is often dense rock dominated by a rhythm section led by guitarist Eric Bazilian of the Hooters. Equally dense is Andersen’s highly poetic versifying, which he sings in his gruff baritone. Andersen is world-weary in these songs, roaming the globe haunted by the past and fearful of the future…The title track is a Beat poem . . . [that] conjures up the sound and feel of the early ’60s in San Francisco and pinpoints a moment when history changed. . . . This isn’t folk music of the type with which Andersen is generally associated, and it can be demanding of the listener, but it is also a compelling transformation of memory into art song." 
All Music Guide

“Eric Andersen was one of the major creative forces behind the folk revival of the 1960s. Yet while Andersen’s name is well known to serious music fans, fewer actually know his music, largely because Andersen’s early penchant for exploring other non-folk genres made him hard to pigeonhole and market. However, Andersen remains a distinctive talent, and that talent imbues the music on his excellent 2003 2-CD set, Beat Avenue. Over the course of the album, Andersen skillfully ventures into plaintive backwoods folk, tuneful folk-rock, blues, acoustic storytelling and even a remarkable 26-minute piece of semi-spoken word jazz-pop fusion. It’s a striking disc from an artist who deserves far wider recognition.”
Chicago Tribune


“It’s always been something of a mystery that folk singer-songwriter Eric Andersen never achieved the mainstream recognition that many of his peers enjoyed…his best work zigzags brilliantly between melancholy romance and dark, brooding intensity. The two-disc Beat Avenue keeps to that same path, with mostly excellent results. Kicking off with the pulsating, electric-guitar-driven ‘Ain’t No Time To Bleed,’ Andersen signals right away that we're in for a big dose of the muscular, brawny side of his songwriting. Songs such as ‘Before Everything Changed’ and ‘Song Of You And Me’ bring to mind Fred Eaglesmith at his most densely rocking; likewise, ‘Rains are Gonna Come’ slams home its apocalyptic imagery in a wash of heavy percussion and stormy riffage. A smattering of ballads, most notably the fiddle-driven ‘Shape Of A Broken Heart’ and the Celtic-tinged ‘Still Looking For You,’ offer refuge from the carnage. The second disc is a beast of an altogether different nature. A single, 26-minute track centered on a personal account of the day John Kennedy died, it showcases Andersen’s deep lyrical debt to the Beat writers. Incidentally, Andersen found himself to be commiserating with Ginsberg, Cassady, Ferlinghetti and other Beats on the night of that fateful event. It's all laid out here against the backdrop of a smoky, atmospheric jazz vamp, sung-spoken by Andersen in his huskiest baritone.”
No Depression 

“Andersen has rarely gotten due credit for bringing enough of the sensual and personal into the head-driven sixties Village folk bag to push it toward singer-songwriter variations that could last. Even his epic new rap-and-track saga of hanging with the Beat poets on the day JFK died manages to escape the nostalgia trap.”
Village Voice
. . . With Beat Avenue, Eric Andersen continues his musical evolution. His sophisticated writing is about his life’s experiences, tales, rivers, trains, and the people he’s met along the way. Mystical at times, he remains creative and unpredictable. If Van Morrison’s legendary Astral Weeks is the greatest poetic album of classic rock, then I must confess that Eric’s Beat Avenue is the finest folk album ever recorded. This 2-CD set is quite powerful, evoking images like never heard before in the 26-minute title track. It grabs at your heart and tugs at your soul. His gruffer sounds are tantalizing and the lyrics are deep in meaning. But is it folk, or is it rock and roll laved with jazz idioms? It’s 90-some minutes of musical and lyrical magic. It’s blues, too. After 40 years of recording, many musicians grow stale; Eric gets more vivacious. This is a must-have CD for any serious collector.”
– Eden Daily News (syndicated)
“Whoever coined the saying about old dogs and new tricks never anticipated this powerhouse two-disc song cycle. Fueled with an apocalyptic, post-9/11 urgency and driven by far more musical muscle than one expects . . . the collection could stand as a companion piece to Bob Dylan's Love and Theft. The opening ‘Ain't No Time to Bleed’ sets the tone with a wailing duet vocal by Phoebe Snow and slashing guitar from Eric Bazilian, while ‘Song of You and Me,’ ‘Great Pyramid,’ and the relentless ‘Rains Are Gonna Come’ sustain the hard-driving dynamic. For fans of Andersen's balladry, ‘Shape of a Broken Heart’ and ‘Under the Shadows’ (with vocals from daughter Sari) evoke the open-hearted spirit of his 1972 classic, Blue River. Yet nothing in a career that stretches almost 40 years anticipates the 26-minute title track, an atmospheric, phantasmagoric meditation on the day President Kennedy was killed. Half-spoken, half-sung, it sounds like a cross between Lou Reed and Robbie Robertson while recalling an era when freeform FM radio rewarded such experimentation. With the project taking the sort of risks that one doesn't expect from an artist turning 60, this is easily the most ambitious music that Andersen has ever made, and some of the best as well.” Editorial Review
“Dylan isn't the only ’60s folk vet still worth hearing. On disc one of Beat Avenue, Andersen sings like a man whose salvation hangs in the balance, displaying go-for-broke energy on hair-trigger rockers like ‘Ain’t No Time to Bleed.’  The second disc features the 26-minute 'Beat Avenue', which combines electronic and acoustic riffs over Andersen's rambling saga of his youthful misadventures among the Beat poets in San Francisco.  While not for all tastes, this ambitious epic underscores the vitality of a vastly underrated troubadour.”
Mother Jones