Posts Tagged ‘Slice O Life’

Ten Days Too Late

May 12, 2009

I’ve proven who I am so many times
The magnetic strip’s worn thin
And each time I was someone else
And every one was taken in
Powers chatter in high places
Stir up eddies in the dust of rage
Set me to pacing the cage

Bruce Cockburn

Pacing the Cage

Finally a new episode of the podcast is up today. In it I continue the discussion of Slice O Life by Bruce Cockburn and even play a song from the album.  I also talk about baseball and play a song by the very talented Andy Mckee. Expect to hear more of his work on upcoming episodes of the show. As always you can find the podcast on iTunes, here, or over there–>

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Huge Orange Flying Boat

May 10, 2009

As the echoes of our passing fade all there is to say.

Bruce Cockburn

Time Me At The Crossroads

Welcome to Part III of my multi-part review of Bruce Cockburn’s Slice O Life.  You can read Part I and Part II by clicking. I also apologize for the lack of a podcast. I am having some issues elated to my account (no fault of libsyn) and can’t post anything right now. I will be back with them in the very new feature. I appreciate your patience.

This final section begins with a brief story about the pan handlers of Bruce’s current hometown, Kingston.

We’ve reached a portion of the set that contains three classics, beginning with the timeless Wondering Where The Lions Are. Since this is a solo show Bruce enlists his audience to echo the refrain.  I’ve said a lot about this song in a past post and my opinion remains unchanged.  It’s a song that I never grow tired of hearing.

If a tree falls in the forest, does anybody hear. If you are familiar with this song, then you know it is often more spoken than sung.  The history of the environental movement is a bit of a mystery to me, but I have to think that this song represnts what was once great fervor about saving the rainforests.  When’s the last time you saw a commercial abotu saving the rainforests?  It’s been awhile for me.

Celestial Horses contains one of the few problems on this CD. There is a noticeable buzz in the song, which is a bit distracting, but isn’t a huge issue.  The song itself is quite beautiful in this venue.  It actually reminds me of a few Paul Simon songs, like Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War.  Yet it is unmistakeably Bruce Cockburn.

Most artists who play music similar to Bruce would never get as angry as If I Had A Rocket Launcher.  Of course, it does happen from time to time, and when we remember that Bruce came up in the rabble rousing milieu that was the 1960’s.  In this format the song has the feel of a solitary voice yelling at the wall of meaningless violence.

Child of the Wind is a straight ahead folk song.  There is beauty in simplicity.  I could hear Joel Plaskett playing this song.  Bruce has been widely covered, perhaps most famously by The Barenaked Ladies, which is a testament to his influence and skillful songwriting.

The concert portion of the album wraps up with Tie Me At The Crossroads. It’s been a great ride.

The album has a bonus section of soundcheck material.  It’s interesting to listen to and to get a slice of backstage chatter. The three tracks each have something a little different to offer.  I actually sumbled across a fascinating debate about the legacy of Kit Carson after listening to the song again.

Overall I greatly enjoyed Slice O Life. Bruce Cockburn is such a talented musician that even when he is alone for two hours he can create a transcendent experience.  His voice has changed a bit over the years, which is not a bad thing, and his guitar playing remains exemplary.  Although this concert is a collection of songs spanning is career I think it’s worth commenting on the content of his compositions.The quality of his lyric writing is perhaps unsurpassed in Canadian music.  He merges spiritual, political, emotional, social, and natural themes and creates compositions that paint pictures and tell stories.  If you aren’t a Bruce Cockburn fan this album might convince you to change your mind. Particularly if you appreciate strong acoustic guitar playing and entertaining songs.  This is obviously a must for all Bruce Cockburn fans. Bruce Cockburn has a reputation for outstanding solo concerts, and this album does not disappoint.

We’ve Even Got A Bearded Folk Singer

May 9, 2009

Dark things drift across the screen.

Bruce Cockburn

Put It In Your Heart

Welcome to Part II of my review of Bruce Cockburn’s new live album, Slice O Life.  Part I is here, and Part III will arrive tomorrow.

My friend Dave sent me a tab for Pacing the Cage and said “this looks pretty easy.”  Certainly in the context of Bruce’s other compositions this one is simpler.  yet it is as beautiful as any of his songs.  I’ve proven who I am so many times, the magnetic strips worn thin.  I marvel at his ability to capture narrative in these songs.  It is very difficult to write a compelling song that tells an authentic story.  Bruce manages to encaspulates bits of his life into entertaining and memorable songs without sounding contrived.

Before we get into the instrumental The End of All Rivers, Bruce talks about playing a fraternity hayride in 1960’s Boston.  He was, and still is, the bearded folksinger.  I first heard The End of All Rivers in that CBC Radio 2 podcast.  With remarkable skill Bruce has infused this piece with the sense of being on a river.  The melody moves like a current through the song.  This is a song that deserves silent and awestruck appreciation.

Soul of a Man starts out with a bluesy solo before becoming even more bluesy.  This is no surprise since it’s a Blind Willie Johnson song. The blues have stood the test of time despite representing a fairly narrow range of possibilities.  Now perhaps that is true of all music genres, but as this track demonstrates, a blues song from 80 years ago remains fresh in the hands of a skilled musician.  The same might not be said about other songs.

Bruce ventures into flamenco-esque territory with the beginning of  Wait No MoreFold me into you, you know were I’m dying to be. This is an appropriate choice after the previous songs, as we are treated to another blues-infused piece.  The solo features some spanish flavour, but would also fit into a psychedelic song.  Wait No More is a sonic trip.

One of the best features of this album is that these performances are so different from the album versions.  Many bands give more or less a carbon copy of their music when playing live, which is fine if you are in the audience, but not so special on an album.

Bruce tries out a brand new song, apparently for the first time in front of an audience. It’s a very slow tune called The City Is Hungry.  It is reminiscent of Robbie Robertson in some ways. It’s likely this song will change quite a bit before it arrives on an album, if it does at all. Live albums are rife with songs that later disappeared altogether.  That is one of the best feature of many live discs. This one definitely has the feel of a work in progress, as Bruce wanders a bit around the fretboard.  New songs are often a bit directionless at first.

We’ve reached the final song for today, Put It In Your Heart.  The pace has picked up and the crowd reacts appreciatively.  With the cut and paste nature of this album it’s hard to know which songs go together, so it’s possible this song isn’t a change of tempo for this audience.  It is for us though. I suggest listening very carefully to the guitar in any Bruce Cockburn song. At first you might think you can hear everything, but on closer inspection you will notice things happening that didn’t seem to be there before.  He often includes momentary inflections and intentionally stray notes. Put It In Your Heart is a deeply passionate song.

Look for Part III tomorrow as we roll through a bunch of the classics, hear a bit of his sound check and I give my final analysis.

What Would I Do That Was Different?

May 8, 2009

Sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime

Bruce Cockburn

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.