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Blue River
Eric Andersen

Columbia KC 31062
Released: June 1972
Chart Peak: #169
Weeks Charted: 11

Eric AndersenWell, 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.

Eric Anderson - Blue River
Original album advertising art.
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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.

Bonus Reviews!

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.

One so wants to like Eric Andersen, at least one who became what they call aware during the Sixties folk craze. That voice! If Dylan's growth could have been arrested at a certain point -- well, that's part of it, and so is the technically botched but insightful, instinctive harmonica playing. Eric has always rewarded his fans' hopes by writing about one decent song per album. This time he has done somewhat better.

The mild hype that preceded this one called it his best album ever, and it may be. It could, and should, be a lot better still. One problem is that the best song on it, "More Often Than Not," is the only one Andersen didn't write -- David Wiffen did. Andersen's version exudes the resignation that song calls for, but don't close the gates until you hear Fred Neil sing it. "Sheila," a junkie's lament that uses one of those good old folk-melody rewrites, is the most striking of Andersen's songs, although "Blue River," with Joni Mitchell singing counterpoint in the background, and "Round the Bend" perhaps represent the thing Andersen does best at the moment -- to incorporate gospel and rock influences into ornate folk-like songs that fumble toward rousing choruses. On the other hand, "Is it Really Love at All" sounds like something Paul Williams might have written for the Carpenters, and "Pearl's Goodtime Blues" called for Andersen to do two things he can't do: write a chop-licking, leering rocker and then sing it.

Further reading on
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Eric Andersen Videos

This album is quite good as Andersen's albums go, and not bad alongside the current batch of other people's albums. I'll continue to listen to it after this review is dropped into the editorial maw and I no longer have to listen to it. That's saying a lot these days.

- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 12/72.

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.

Blue River is undoubtedly Andersen's greatest album and stands alongside anything that the singer-movement produced during the 70s. * * * *

- Allan Orski, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

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