Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bruce Cockburn: Mummy Dust (1982)

This compilation contains four previously unreleased tracks. For me, the price if this record is justified for the new song, The Coldest Night of the Year. It has some Toronto references and in winter, some days feel like the coldest day ever. I don't like the cover.

Bruce Cockburn: Inner City Front (1981)

In contrast to Humans, I like the photo on the jacket of Inner City Front. It gives Cockburn a tough guy look, surrounded with military men. He's smoking a cigarette and one wonders if he is a mercenary rather than a missionary. Despite the positive reviews, this album is one that did very little for me. I like it, but I think that there are far better Cockburn records.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bruce Cockburn: Humans (1980)

Humans stands as one of Cockburn's most well-regarded records. What strikes me most about reading the review on Allmusic.com is this sentence: "Cockburn's marriage had fallen apart, he'd moved from the country to a gritty inner-city section of Toronto called Cabbagetown..." Perhaps "gritty" was once the proper adjective, but, like most areas of Toronto, things have changed. According to the latest Toronto Life Real Estate guide, the average house prices in Cabbagetown are:

- detached houses: $1,300,000
- semi-detached houses: $719,750

The area is not gritty. In fact, this area is one of the most desirable locations in downtown Toronto. I did not live in Tdot in 1980, so I have no way of knowing if Cabbagetown was once gritty. The area I currently live in was not so long ago inhabited by drug dealers and street prostitutes. Much has changed. But, back to Humans.

The record is really fabulous, but I spend most of my time wondering why on earth they chose that photo for the cover. Was that the best they had? It's not quite as bad as the recent Tony Blair Christmas card, but it is close.

It was around the time that this record was released that I consciously became aware of Cockburn. I knew who he was before then, of course, and had surely heard some songs. But, I remember watching the New Music and there was a clip of him signing Tokyo. Bruce was wearing army fatigues and maybe a beret.

Bruce Cockburn: Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws (1979)

Just when I thought that Bruce had really dumped the religion, out he comes with Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws. The truth is that this album is my favourite Cockburn record, by far. I think it is extraordinarily good, even if I have to ignore nonsense lyrics like:

Love the Lord
And in Him love me too
And in Him go your way
And I'll be right there with you

Of course, the song that everyone knows is Wondering Where the Lions Are. That's a great song, but there are other equally awesome songs on this record. Here's a live version of Lions.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bruce Cockburn: Further Adventures of (1978)

I like this record, but I would consider it to be less interesting than the records that precede and follow it. But, I still like it very much. Highlights for me are A Montreal Song, Rainfall, Laughter, and Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in my Hand. I bought this record some place, though I forget where.

Bruce Cockburn: Circles in the Stream (1977)

Circle in the Stream is a live double album. Speaking of live music and concerts, I should say that I have seen Bruce in concert several times. I can't remember how many times, but it includes shows with a full band and some solo shows. Once, I went with two friends, one of whom fell asleep at the show, I think during Peggy's Kitchen Wall. That was a very strange thing to see. There are some clips --of varying quality--of Bruce performing on Youtube. You should have a look. Here's an audio only version of Free to Be from this record.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bruce Cockburn: In the Falling Dark (1976)

In the Falling Dark is probably Cockburn's best album up to 1976. It is more sophisticated and satisfying. Also, he seemed to have made some effort to curb the overt Christianity of earlier songs. Well, that's apart from the rather peaceful opening number, Lord of the Starfields, which is an obvious prayer to a fictitious supreme being.

Lord of the starfields
Ancient of Days
Universe Maker
Here's a song in your praise

For me, the best song on this piece of vinyl is Silver Wheels. Here are the first two verses:

High speed drift on a prairie road
Hot tires sing like a string being bowed
Sudden town rears up then explodes
Fragments resolve into white line code
Whirl on silver wheels

Black earth energy receptor fields
Undulate under a grey cloud shield
We outrun a river colour brick red mud
That cleaves apart hills soil rich as blood

By the way, if you like Cockburn, you should really check out the Cockburn Project, where you can find all of the lyrics and some notes about the songs.

Bruce Cockburn: Joy Will Find a Way (1975)

My favourite Bruce Cockburn song is probably Arrows of Light, with Joy Will Find a Way finding its way into the top ten, or so. It's odd, because both are overtly religious and decidedly spiritual. The music appeals to me very much, even though the lyrical content of both songs is kind of stupid. Burn, an early political song, appears here, in the midst of songs of praise and a couple of songs that might better appeal to the non-converted. As time passed, Cockburn shed some of the religious sentiments and started to make some more obvious political statements. Still, that the two could live in harmony in his brain is surely a sign of cognitive dissonance. I think this album cover is a bit weird.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Bruce Cockburn: Salt, Sun and Time (1974)

Of course, the title should really be Salt, Sun, and Time. The Oxford comma is a good thing. I say, use it. In 1974, Cockburn evidently discovered or "found" Jesus. Despite the creeping Christian sentiment, I still think these are fantastic songs. All the Diamonds in the World is one of my favourite Cockburn songs, despite the line: "Dying trees still grow greener when you pray." That's simply delusional thinking. In fact, there have been peer-reviewed studies that analyzed the efficacy of praying for the sick, and there was zero effect, because god does not exist.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Bruce Cockburn: Night Vision (1973)

In case you didn't already know, Cockburn is generally regarded as being a folk singer. I guess that's right, though this record has some jazz influences on it. The sound is fuller, darker, and perhaps a little more complex than the previous albums. Already, there are signs of Cockburn's rebirth as a Christian. In God Bless the Children, he sings:

With pain the world paves us over
Lord let us not betray
God bless the children with visions of the Day

I have never been able to reconcile Cockburn's obvious interest in social justice with the stupidity of religion.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Bruce Cockburn: Sunwheel Dance (1972)

They're losing their pawns in Asia
There's slaughter in every square

My favourite song from this record is It's Going Down Slow, though I realize that Dialogue With the Devil (or Why Don't We Celebrate) is a big fan favourite. I like that song, but I am now sure I understand it. I also love the track Up on the Hillside. Sunwheel Dance is a really solid record. Did I mention that I have all of Bruce's releases on CD? That includes some promotional items, live releases, and some CD singles.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Bruce Cockburn: High Winds, White Sky (1971)

I've always loved this jacket photo, which wraps around the gate-fold. It says Canada in winter.

Years ago, I used to be a "human." In other words, I was a member (on various occasions for varying lengths of time) of the Humans mailing list, which is evidently one of the earliest mailing lists created to discuss a specific recording artist. I no longer have time for this chit chat, but it was interesting for a while. I don't even know if the list still exists.

High Winds, White Sky is a fabulous record, with lots of great tracks to choose from.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Bruce Cockburn: Bruce Cockburn (1970)

My copy of this record is a reissue, probably from the early 1980s. The original was a gate-fold. This, alas, is not. I am a big Bruce Cockburn fan, but I have to admit that this is probably his weakest album. I think he has said as much in interviews. The two tracks that receive attention are Musical Friends and Going to the Country, on which you can already hear his unique guitar style. I do enjoy the other tracks, but I find that this is not a record that I play very often.

Classix Nouveaux: La Verité (1982)

The electric drums are a mistake, the production is very dated, and the look is oh so very 80s. But, it's what one would expect from a New Romantic group. I certainly did not buy this record in 1982. I stumbled up it later, probably for a good price. I was never a big fan. The best comment I saw on one of these Youtube videos was: "This band was very popular in Poland in the 1980's."

Clarence Clemons: Hero (1985)

When the change was made uptown
And the big man joined the band

Imagine being able to wear a red leather suit and get away with it. I could not do it.

I own this record because I went through a major Springsteen phase (more on that later). Sadly, this record did nothing for me. Sure, there are backing vocal from Daryl Hannah, who was dating the Big Man at the time. Who knew she could sing? I had no idea she was dating CC. The best track is probably You're a Friend of Mine, a duet with Jackson Browne. Sadly, the official video on Youtube is totally distorted.

Sadly, Clarence passed away in 2011. I think it is awesome that his son, Jake, has joined the E Street Band.

[The] Clash vs. Madonna: Well Hung Casbah (2005)

I remember diving into a bin of records and saw this for $2. It was difficult to resist. I am not a Madonna fan, but I wondered what this crazy mashup would sound like. It turns out that the track is an offence to the memory of The Clash.

The disc is a single-sided promotional copy. 


Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The Clash: Combat Rock (1982)

OK, I will admit it: I was disappointed when this album came out. It seemed overtly commercial to me. Both Rock the Casbah and Should I stay or Should I Go struck me as average tracks and so I did not buy the record right away. When I finally obtained a copy of this record I noted, as so often happens, that there are much stronger tracks than the singles. I think I have made my peace with this record, but it does give me pause to note that this is the only Clash studio recording that I do not own on CD.I am not sure what that means.

But, here is a funny story.

I remember listening to the song Rock the Casbah, either on the radio or on cassette (I often taped records to play on my portable cassette player, much like the one in the video below), and my dad said: "Are they saying what I think they are saying?" I was confounded for a moment, but then I said, the song is called Rock the Casbah. I realized that my dad had thought that they were singing "F%@# the Casbah. That should be listed on one of those misheard lyrics sites.

The Clash: Sandinista! (1980)

When Sandinista! was released, some of the reviewers made the point that had this record been pruned to make it a single or maybe even a double album, it would have been much stronger. I am in that camp. It would have made a really great single record and I think it could easily have been stretched to a double. Evidently, the band asked for fewer royalties to help fund a triple album.

Despite the fact that it might have been better with either 12 or 24 songs, rather than 36, there is something to be said for the vision of a really diverse three record set. They did what they wanted and it works.

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Clash: Black Market Clash (1980)

I wish I had the 10" version of Black Market Clash, but I don't. I do have Super Black Market Clash on CD. This record is a compilation of some tracks that were not released in the USA (and Canada, by extension). Speaking of expensive records, I once saw a copy of Super Black Market Clash on 3 10" discs on sale for well over $100. It might have be more than $150. As much as I would like to have it, I didn't hand over the cash for The Clash.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Clash: London Calling (1979)

It's difficult choosing a favourite singer or favourite band or song or album. But, if I were forced to choose, London Calling would make the list of my favourite albums of all time. Thirty Five years later, this record still sounds amazing. This record has always been in my top 5, mostly sitting comfortably at #1. It also happens to be the first Clash record I ever bought.

London Calling has a truly fantastic cover, featuring what has to be one of the best rock and roll photos ever taken. The graphic for the album name recalls Elvis Presley's debut record. I think this has to be one of the greatest covers ever made. The power of the cover is diminished on the compact disc version, which I also have. It needs to be seen as intended.

Initially, I was drawn to this album on the strength of Train in Vain and the title track, but I quickly realized that the record is packed with excellent songs, an amazing feat for a double album. I mentioned this album previously, when this used to be a real blog. I wrote:

This here music mash up the nation
This here music cause a sensation

The Legacy Edition - 25 Years after London Calling (instead of a Juno rant)

I bought London Calling in 1979, which was a good year for music, at least for me. I know, dear readers, that some of you were too young to remember much of 1979, but that was the year I found XTC, The Clash, Pink Floyd, and a host of others, some of whom have not aged well (but I won't mention those). London Calling, I believe, was the best album to come out that year (followed closely by Leonard Cohen's Recent Songs). After all of these years, I would rank London Calling as one of the top five rock records of all time. It is, beyond any doubt, a rock and roll masterpiece.

The cover picture screams punk - Paul Simonon about to smash his Fender bass. But even on first listen, most Clash fans could recognize the astonishing musical maturation that this album represented. The album opens with the apocalyptic pop title track, London Calling, and moves quickly into reggae, rockabilly, folk rock, more straight up pop and even a hint of the blues. The Clash had moved on to the new territory of postpunk, and they did it fantastically well.

Here's a good quote from Amanda Petrusich:

"The Clash are a rock band, and 1979's London Calling is their creative apex, a booming, infallible tribute to throbbing guitars and spacious ideology. " link

And another, from Adrien Begrand:

"The influence of London Calling on rock music is immeasurable. Not only did it break down barriers for punk rock, achieving mainstream success, in both the UK and North America, but it also proved that it was okay for a punk band to be great musicians, adventurous even." link

So, maybe I should stop rambling and get to some music.