Bruce Cockburn - Live (True North)

Wednesday 1st January 2003
Bruce Cockburn - Live (True North)
Bruce Cockburn - Live (True North)

STYLE: Roots/Acoustic
RATING 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
LABEL: True North TND290

Reviewed by Tony Cummings


Any reader who has attended one of Bruce’s masterful performances at Greenbelt will know that Bruce is quite capable of transfixing an audience with just the wizardry of his guitar and that rough hewn voice. Yet as this album, recorded at an Ontario entertainment complex in August 1989, shows, give him hand picked sidemen (Fergis Jemison Marsh, chapman stick/BVs; and Michael Sloski, drums/percussion/BVs) and you get the full breadth of dynamics these wonderful songs deserve. Nearly half of the songs on this set are drawn from his classic mid-‘80s albums ‘World Of Wonders’ and ‘Stealing Fire’ and the sleevenote’s observation that the collection has “a strong political edge” is a breathtaking understatement. The righteous anger heard here on the bonus track “If I Had A Rocker Launcher” or his withering denouncement of the greed and blindness of the International Monetary Fund “Call It Democracy” are amongst the most highly charged political songs ever commercially released. If such impassioned pleading for the poor and oppressed are a little strong for your sensibilities (one can’t imagine what the smug Republicans of the Nashville CCM scene would make of “Call It Democracy”) there are other themes and textures here. Take “See How I Miss You” with its dazzling, rapid-fire fingerpicking from one of the GREAT guitarists or a fluid version of “Rumours Of Glory” with a shuffling rhythm which, oddly, the sleeve claims to be a reggae beat. There is a definite reggae groove though on “Broken Wheel” played with slashing guitar chords and sharp, jagged rhythms while his spiritually quizzical “Wondering Where The Lions Are” is again captivating. Only the familiar crowd pleasing closer “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” fails to thrill this reviewer. Having just been reminded on TV’s The 100 Greatest Films just what a wretched and mediocre movie The Life Of Brian actually was, to have this facile debasement of crucifixion agony used by a professed Christian as his happy song is for me deeply disappointing. But with so many magnificent moments on this beautifully remastered package, this is still an essential purchase.

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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