Bruce Cockburn has produced over two dozen studio albums along with a dozen live and compilation albums and has sold over nine million units worldwide during his 56 year career. His songs cover a wide range of subjects including simple life observations, spirituality, religion, politics and ecology. His musical delivery varies between simple blues and folk arrangements on acoustic instruments to fully electrified hard rocking blues rock. Rarities is comprised of 16 cuts that were either previously unreleased or limited releases only appearing on specialty boxed sets or on tribute albums.

The opening cut is the “Juan Carlos Theme” which begins with a military parade drum beat intersected by a South American sounding melody that evokes historic visions. The song was unreleased and was “from the soundtrack of the 2001 film, ‘The Man We Called Juan Carlos.’” “Water Walker follows” and also begins with a drum beat leading into an earthy feeling with a repetitious base rhythm that Cockburn vocally dances on. The cut is the title song from the soundtrack for the 1984 film of the same name. “Avalon, My Hometown” was written by blues legend, Mississippi John Hurt and appears on Avalon Blues: A Tribute To The Music Of Mississippi John Hurt in 2001. It’s a guitar driven dialogue about “Avalon being always on my mind.” Avalon is the island paradise from the Arthurian legend, where “Excalibur” was forged and King Arthur was taken after being critically wounded.

“Wise Users” is a slow melody accompanied by Hugh Marsh on violin as Cockburn admonishes the planet controllers’ to use Gaia’s existing resources wisely. It was originally recorded in 1996 and appeared on Honor: A Benefit For The Honor The Earth Campaign. “Going Down the Road” is the age old story of a family sustaining industry like mining and fishing being depleted or replaced requiring migration to an unfamiliar location or occupation. It was another unreleased demo that appeared on the “soundtrack of the 1970 film ‘Goin’ Down The Road.’ The Whole Night Sky” Is an example of Cockburn’s fluid storytelling getting delivered with an equally mesmerizing melody embellished by his guitar. It first appeared on The Charity of Night in 1996. The seventh cut is “Grinning Moon” which is another previously unreleased demo from 1995.

“Song For Touring Around the Stars” comes from a previously exclusive album released in Japan only, titled Mental Sound Sketches in 1993. The lyrics were written by Paroles: Kenji Miyazawa. Cockburn arranged the song with its Japanese sounding melody on guitar and piano interspersed with an occasional Buddhist or Shinto bell ring. “Come Down Healing” is another previously unreleased demo from 1995. Cockburn plays a frantic guitar as he delivers sometimes familiar lyrics by alternating between recitations that become an ascending song. Selection number ten is “Mystery Walk” which is another short track that was previously unreleased from the 2001 film titled “The Man We Called Juan Carlos.”

“The Trains Don’t Run Here Anymore” follows and was co-written by Cockburn and William Hawkins. In 2008 it appeared on the “True North” label’s album release Dancing Alone: Songs of William Hawkins. It’s a beautiful melody performed on a 12 string guitar with the aid of a cello. “Ribbons of Darkness” was written by Gordon Lightfoot and originally appeared on a tribute album titled Beautiful: A Tribute To Gordon Lightfoot. “Turn, Turn, Turn” is a direct quote from the Bible in Ecclesiastes chapter 3, verses 1-8. Pete Seeger wrote the title and refrain and recorded the song in the late 1950s. The Byrds popularized it when they had a hit with it in 1965 during the folk rock craze. Cockburn’s version was originally released in 1998 on Where Have All The Flowers Gone: The Songs Of Pete Seeger.

Number fourteen is “Honey Babe Let The Deal Go Down” and was written by the “Mississippi Sheiks,” a “country blues” group from the 1930s. The song is performed with a full band along with a slew of backing vocalists’ and first appeared on Things About Comin’ My Way: A Tribute To The Music Of The Mississippi Sheiks in 2009. “Twilight on the Champlain Sea” was exclusively released in Japan in 2006 on the Life Short Call Now album. It features a full band along with backing vocals by Ani DiFranco. The sixteenth selection is “Bird Without Wings” and is a solo performance by Cockburn with only an acoustic guitar. It’s a previously unreleased recording from 1966 documenting the genesis of his now fifty-six year career.

There are few performers that can excite and hold an audience just as effectively with both a three to six-piece band or simply their voice and an acoustic guitar. The reason for this is the power of his lyrics and their impeccable delivery whose impact cannot be exaggerated. “Rarities is available on November 25, 2022 on all digital platforms.”

For further information about recordings or upcoming concert appearances go to http://brucecockburn.com/
The Review 9/10

– Turn, Turn, Turn
– The Whole Night Sky
– Wise Users
– Water Walker
– Going Down the Road

The Big Hit

– Wise Users

Beatsway
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Publisher: Bob Gersztyn