Sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime
Lovers In A Dangerous Time
With 46 seconds of applause we being our journey into Slice O Life, Bruce Cockburn’s live solo album. I have been excited about this disc since I first heard about it, and now I own it. This rather epic affair is the first commercial recording of Bruce playing on his own. He has previous live albums with his many bands, but has waited a long time to treat his fans to this special type of performance. These performances come from the same tour as the CBC Radio 2 concert I previously reviewed.
The liner notes that these concert performances are presented mostly intact, with very little polish. I appreciate the honesty in that approach to a live album. Many groups overdub their mistakes in the studio, but any fan of live music knows that events rarely transpire free from error. Bruce truly wants the fan to experience his live performance in its full existence. I find it very genuine.
He opens with World of Wonders, which immediately reminds the listener that this is a transcendent talent. I stand there dazzled with my heart aflame. There is so much going on in the instrumental bits of this song it’s hard to believe he is playing alone.
Lest we forget that Bruce has written some of the most timeless music of the last 30 years he treats us to Lovers in a Dangerous Time. This song continues to move me many years after I first heard it. In fact as I was listening to my iPod on the way to the store to buy this album, the original version of this song came on. This live version is just as passionate and beautiful, perhaps more so. I wonder what effect many years of laying and reflecting on these songs has had on Bruce’s experience.
The makers of this disc decided to include some between song chatter as individual tracks. His story about almost becoming a mercenary was repeated on the CBC concert. This is a much longer and more drawn out version of it and includes some banter with a talkative audience member. It’s amazing that a man who became a recognized activist for improving the life of the poor and suffering actually considered getting involved in supporting armed rebellion. Although I might change my mind about that when we get to If I Had A Rocket Launcher.
The mercenary story leads to See You Tomorrow because the friend of a friend plays a role in the song. There is something unique about playing a solo live show. In a band setting the attention gets spread around from player to player based on the ebb and flow of songs. When you play alone you are completely exposed to the attention of your audience. For some people I am sure this is a highly desirable situation. I always felt quite naked when doing that, and preferred the safety of having a band. Perhaps it is the result of my own feeling of musical inadequacy. I wonder how Bruce feels about it.
Last Night of the World is a song that helped launch me back into Bruce Cockburn after I had ignored him for awhile. For some reason this track just speaks to me. The chorus of If this were the last night of the world/what would I do?/what would I do that was different/unless it was champagne with you speaks to the romantic apocalyptic in me. This version isn’t as sweet as the album cut, but it has more meat. The crowd reacts gratefully to Bruce’s emphasis on we all have to be pried loose. I share the sentiment.
How I Spent My Fall Vacation starts with the sweetness of a Spanish interlude and settles into the usual beauty of a Bruce Cockburn composition. The lyrics in this song are very descriptive. I don’t think Bruce has written an autobiography but perhaps he should. Or maybe he should just write a book with stories from his imaginative, I’m not sure which would be more compelling.
I remember watching Bruce play at Live 8. A lot of the crowd were quite sure what to make of this older gentleman and his fancy guitar work. I was sitting at home absolutely riveted to a man I admired for his musical prowess and convictions.
On the back of the album there is a picture of four guitars lined up around a processor rack of some sort. Yet for Tibetan Side of Town we are treated to a quick tuning. This is another wordy track. The guitar work is incredible as he solos his way through basically the entire song.
This concludes Part I of this review. Look for Parts II and III in the next couple of days. Yes it’s that long! I will also be talking about Bruce on the podcast once it goes up.