Greatest Hits (1970-2020)
True North Records
A Mastercraftsman’s Work over 50 Marvellous and Interesting Years.
Living in the UK, as I do I wasn’t aware of Canadian Legend, Bruce Cockburn for 45 or more years of this magnificent retrospective; which is probably why I’ve become besotted with this album over the last week.
While Cockburn’s voice is instantly recognisable; each and every one of these tracks are inherently different and document how the singer and songwriter has not just evolved over that half century but experimented and seamlessly switched genres with ease as the years have gone by too.
The package starts with Going to the Country from his 1970 debut album; and beautifully charts a trip from Ottawa to Montreal in a sparkling solo acoustic style; and is followed by Musical Friends where Cockburn takes on the role of a full on band on a song that sounds very ‘New York’ to me.
Two very different songs from the same album set the scene for what is to follow, with Cockburn; unlike many of his contempories; resting on his laurels constantly repeating himself.
For me; and I suppose many who receive this Double Album as a Christmas present; there are surprises around every corner; not just with the songs but the accompanying photographs which seem to chart Bruce metamorphizing from his Elton John period via John Lennon until he becomes the handsome theologian we now know him as.
Obviously with thirty songs representing half a century of songwriting; everyone will like different periods; but quite a few songs have really caught my attention; especially the dark Bluesy duet with Kathryn Moses, Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long, the dreamy Wondering Where the Lions Are and the horribly imaginative If I Had a Rocket Launcher which should have been ‘of its time’; but is sadly still relevant about so many conflicts around the world in 2021!
As the first album unrolls and the second disc begins; we find Cockburn dabbling in 80’s and 90’s AOR but doing it in such a way People See Right Through You Waiting For a Miracle and, of course A Dream Like Mine, still sound fresh today.
Obviously not everyone Bruce Cockburn shared a stage or studio with 50 years ago are still on the scene never mind pertinent today, as he himself is …… but latter day songs like Listen For a Laugh, Open and the finale States I’m In could only have been written and performed by someone who has had a life well lived and is comfortable in his own skin.
With so many delights to choose from it’s not been easy selecting a single Favourite Song …… do I go for the prescient Coldest Night of the Year?
Any of the wryly observed Political opus’s, Call It Democracy, Stolen Land or If a Tree Falls?
Cockburn can really dig deep to write a love song too; so the melancholic shuffle Anything, Anytime, Anywhere has to be in the running as does All The Diamonds in the World from way back when in 1973; but a song from Cockburn’s Electro-AOR period in 1981 has stood the test of time; and somehow sounds like a soundtrack to the 21st Century …… The Trouble With Normal when played very loud is far and away the biggest surprise here for me; and therefore my Favourite Song.
Even though I have Bruce Cockburn’s last three releases; this retrospective has been illuminating from start to finish and really and truly showcases a Mastercraftsman at work over 50 marvellous and interesting years.
Released December 3rd 2021
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