Bruce Cockburn - Inner City Front

Wednesday 1st January 2003
Bruce Cockburn - Inner City Front
Bruce Cockburn - Inner City Front

STYLE: Roots/Acoustic
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: True North TND288

Reviewed by Tony Cummings


In his excellent sleevenote Nicholas Jennings observes, “The best artists – not flavour-of-the-week pretenders, but ones who view art as life’s work – know that reinvention is a necessary part of the creative process.” On this gem from 1981 we see Bruce embracing change with a passion. It was a tough time for the Canadian singer/songwriter. His marriage of 10 years had dissolved and the singer switched to urban living in Toronto. With the changes his music took on a harder edge with electric guitar and enhanced political sensibilities replacing the acoustic introspection sometimes evident on his early albums. The chilling first line of the song “You Pay Your Money” really sets the mood – “Woman cry – chase man down street crying, ‘No Chuckie, no, please don’t.’” And it's not just inner city turmoil reflected on this fine album. On “Broken Wheel” he spells out his new found political agenda like the hard-nose war correspondent he looks like on the front cover picture: “Can’t be an innocent bystander in a world of pain and fire and steel,” he intones while “All Quiet On The Inner City Front” contains the chilling lines, “Turn on the tube but there’s nothing new/The usual panic in red, white and blue.” Spiritual concerns lace the album, too. Take, for instance, the song “Justice”. It asks tough questions: “What’s been done in the name of Jesus?/What’s been done in the name of Buddah?/What’s been done in the name of Islam?/What’s been done in the name of man?” all sung over a languid neo-reggae groove. Bruce's faith comes through most poignantly on the magnificent “The Light Goes On Forever” which, along with his jazzily wistful “The Coldest Night Of The Year”, have been restored, as bonus tracks, to the album on which they belong. “Loner” poetically traces the sense of being in a world with all its pain and ugliness yet mystically separated from it by the lover of our souls. “In the elevator and the empty hall/How’m I ever going to hear you when you call/I’m always living and I always die/On the event horizon of your eyes/I’m a loner/With a lover’s point of view/I’m a loner/And now I’m in love with you.” There are one or two uncomfortable musical moments on ‘Inner City Front’. For instance, Bruce is ever so slightly flat on “The Strong One” and “Broken Wheel”. But with great packaging this is a classic re-issue.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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