Just revisited the vinyl last night. Needed to hear the context of this couplet: "You get bigger as you go...bales of memory like boats in tow." For, of all things, a sermon I'm giving. It was good to revisit this early-middle album of his. I saw him around this time at the Paradise in Boston. The late Hugh Marsh, in a canadian military jumpsuit, wailing away at an electric violin. He did "The Strong One" in total darkness at first. Very stark chorded melodies. His skills as a wordsmith would overwhelm a lesser guitarist and he would be called a rock poet, a Canadian Leonard Cohen. If he weren't such a good writer he'd be lumped with guitar virtuousos like Al Dimeola, fellow Berkeley School of Music student.
But here, in Humans, you have the insufficient hope of reconcilliation in marriage "Gonna tell my old lady gonna tell my little girl there isn't anything in the world that can lock up my love again." It fell apart anyway, even though it was "sealed in the presence of the father". Here he has to take his estrangement along with his faith and struggle, much as Amy Grant, another Christian songwriter did later in Behind the Eyes. There are the great challenges to faith expressed in Festival of Friends earlier confronting murder, suicide, the guerillas, pulling cars out of rivers, despair..."at at certain point, you can only die." If art is born of agony, here it is. A quarter century later, I can still count on one hand the songwriters who have risen to his equal in moral vision, in insight and in skill. "I wonder if I'll end up like Bernie in his dream
A displaced person in some foreign border town Waiting for a train part hope part myth While the station changes hands
Or just sitting at home growing tenser with the times Or like that guy in "The Seventh Seal" Watching the newly dead dance across the hills Or wearing this leather jacket shivering with a friend While the eye of God blazes at us like the sun
Musically, he's growing with an ensemble here, further experimentations with Reggae, "something shining like gold, but better." The music is ecelectic, world music before there was a name for it. There's intensity even in the ballads, or should they be called slow laments. I could go on, but you can't learn more about this CD without listening.