Original Release - 1974
"On The Beach" is something of a lost masterpiece of the NY catalogue. It was never released on CD until 2003, when NY was re-mastering many of his works. This album was recorded around the same time as "This Is The Night", and is another example of NY's ability to craft a classic album of interesting music and masterful lyrics. This album features many favorites of die hard NY fans: "Walk On", "Ambulance Blues", and "Revolution Blues".
This is hardly the most uplifting album in NY's large catalogue, but it is engaging. My favorite song is said to be inspired by Charles Manson, this song is "Revolution Blues": "Yes that was me with the doves, setting them free near the factory where you built your computer, love". This song had a driving blues back beat, and is one of three songs to have "blues" in the name. The album on the whole has a blusey feel to it, even when its more folk rock or acoustic stylings. NY used many session musicians on this album, and an interesting fact about "Revolution Blues" is that Levon Helm played drums on it.
I also love "Vampire Blues", NY's scathing attack on the oil industry: "I'm a vampire, babe. suckin' blood from the earth. I'm a vampire baby, sell you twenty barrels worth". I think its very creative how NY weaves in a correlation between our country's addiction to fossil fuel, and also addiction in a more personal sense that NY was seeing at the time this album was recorded. With the loss of many great musicians in this time period to overdose, heroin especially, this is a song that works on many different levels lyrically, and I also enjoy the simple, deliberate blues backbeat that accompanies the track.
"Ambulance Blues" closes the album, this is an epic track with topics that range from ex-lovers to Richard M. Nixon: "I never knew a man, could tell so many lies. He had a different story for every set of eyes, how can he remember, who he's talking to? Cause I know it aint me, and hope it isn't you".
After the impressive run that NY had in the late 1960's and early 1970's, "On The Beach" is like waking up in the morning after the craziest party of your life, getting yourself up and down to the beach where you nurse your hangover reflecting on all the actions and events that have led you to this point (good and bad). Its about pushing the negative out, and embracing the twists and turns that life gives you, and ultimately finding that liberation within, that you can carry with you into a future that at least for NY was looking very promising at this point.
Album - A
Vinyl - B-