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Hymns of the 49th Parallel

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Audio CD, July 27, 2004
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Hymns of the 49th Parallel + Recollection 2 CD Set + A Wonderful World
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Over the last twenty years, k.d. lang has lent her superb voice to an astonishing range of material, from Nashville standards to Tin Pan Alley torch songs, from cow punk tunes to sultry, adult pop- most recently her Grammy-winning gold album with Tony Bennett, "Wonderful world." With Hymns of the 49th Parallel, the Alberta native brings it all back home, metaphorically speaking, exploring the work of her favorite Canadian-born songwriters: Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn, Ron Sexsmith & Jane Siberry. On this lovingly assembled disc she juxtaposes classics from iconic artists who were her inspirations with equally brilliant material from contemporary performers who remain her fellow travelers.

Was it homesickness that compelled longtime Los Angeles resident k.d. lang to fashion her one-woman campaign for north-of-the-border nationalism, or just plain good sense? All Canadian content has long been a mainstay of the Canadian Broadcasting System, but few have selected their material with such a fine hand and a high aesthetic. The expatriate singer has taken great pains to create a sophisticated homage to her Canadian roots, elegantly reinterpreting 11 songs penned by some of her more illustrious countrymen (and women) such as Jane Siberry, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Leonard Cohen. The idiosyncratic chanteuse turns Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" into an aching monochromatic lament, exploring new tributaries of pain that didn't exist in the original, while recasting Neil Young's "Helpless" into a haunting anthem of memory and comfort, all the while sounding anything but helpless. A gorgeous love letter to her brethren, complete with an intelligent and understated orchestration. --Jaan Uhelszki

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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
listen  1. After the Gold Rush 4:00$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  2. Simple 3:02$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  3. Helpless 4:17$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  4. A Case of You 5:11$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  5. The Valley 5:30$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  6. Hallelujah 5:01$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  7. One Day I Walk 3:24$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  8. Fallen 2:56$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  9. Jericho 3:45$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen10. Bird on a Wire 4:28$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen11. Love Is Everything 5:43$0.99  Buy MP3 

Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 27, 2004)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B000267J10
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (211 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,029 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

313 of 319 people found the following review helpful By Texas Brian on August 1, 2004
Format: Audio CD
The first rule of reviewing is, you have to let something be what it wants to be.

With that said, k.d. lang has released a career milestone with Hymns Of The 49th Parallel. After touring with Tony Bennett doing Louis Armstrong-based covers from an American songbook, k.d.'s idea was to get in touch with her Canadian roots by covering songs from Canadian songwirters.

The result is an intimate and warm record perfect for quiet reflection. Like the citizens of that country, the music is powerful but extremely understated, incisive and brilliant. From Neil Young to Leonard Cohen to Joni Mitchell to the vastly-underrated Jane Siberry, lang's voice provides a soothing glimpse into the stillness of the Great North.

There have been two major complaints: 1) "This CD is boring," and 2) "Why did she cover THIS song? She should have covered this one!"

This is a very mellow, muted disc, designed to be a gentle acoustic recording. it makes for a great listening experience, but for the listener looking for a Top 40 hit, it's not here. What is here are her flawless vocals and sparse arrangements like your own private sessions in her living room. (You have to let the disc be what IT wants to be.)

Finally, lang chose the songs from her compatriots based on what she connected to. This isn't supposed to be an Encylcopedia Brittanica of Canadian songwriting, and to expect that is shallow. What lang has done is to seek out outstanding lyrics and melodies that share common themes -- love and nature -- that speak to her and allow her to express them. (You have to let the disc be what IT wants to be.)

This is a disc for a) k.d. lang fans, and b) anyone who wants a silky voice gently giving life to songs of depth and meaning. "Hits" fans beware.

Kudos, k.d.
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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By R. D. Waters on September 15, 2004
Format: Audio CD
Over the years I have found a certain special connection with particular k. d. Lang recordings. "Ingénue" and "Drag" in particular come to mind. They are works made up of carefully selected songs that make up a greater whole. For me "Hymns of the 49th Parallel" falls into the same category. It is a stunning work from beginning to end.

Jane Siberry's "The Valley" is probably my personal favorite. While Siberry's own recording is amazing, Lang's big-boned-gal voice gives "The Valley" an additional anthem-like boost. The chorus haunts me daily as I walk through the office halls or get into my car. It is moving and powerful.

Lang's take on Joni Mitchell's two classics, "A Case of You" and "Jericho", are also exceptional. The choice of "A Case of You" in particular was appropriate. Mitchell's song about her birthplace of Canada fits beautifully into Lang's collection of songs by Canadian artists. "Jericho", my personal favorite from "Don Juan's Reckless Daughter", is another standout. Lang handles Mitchell's bittersweet lyrics carefully and confidently. The song positively soars and I can promise the stereo volume always gets turned up in our house when this track starts.

When I first saw Leonard Cohen's "Bird on a Wire" listed on the CD jacket, I thought, "Oh, no, not another cover of that song!" Who can count the number of cover versions of this classic Cohen song? Regardless, Lang makes her own memorable contribution. Another outstanding cover is her version of Cohen's "Hallelujah".

There is no song on this collection that I do not like in one way or another. It is the recording as a whole that makes this CD worth owning. Much thought on song selection and excellent musicianship went into "Hymns of the 49th Parallel". Lang has never sounded better.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By kd fan on February 7, 2005
Format: Audio CD
The beauty of this album is it's sparseness. I can not convey enough how risky and brilliant this is. From obscure tracks like Fallen to the more familiar (Case of You, Hallelujah) she studies the song and plants her thumb firmly on the core. And not in a "studied" way, but in a literate, passionate, loving way. To say she takes Case of You to astral heights is not granting it full due. I have never heard a Joni Mitchell cover taken so gently in one's hands, yet experienced so fully. Her voice was made for songs such as these.

And I can not serve Love is Everything properly, you simply must hear it's melancholic words and her treatment to know what that heartbreak feels like.

This album touches me in ways, subtle, longing, and sweet that few albums have. And k.d. deserves much credit for challenging herself and her audience with such art.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Pen Name on December 21, 2004
Format: Audio CD
The cover-image of this CD is a photograph of a snowy Winter scene. It's an appropriate image, for the music on this CD is as subtle and complex as a snowflake, and just as bracing when it hits the right spot.

I'm listening to the CD as I'm typing this review, and am amazed how, once again, it is a different track to that of previous listens that leaves me breathless this time. This album is the dictionary definition of a 'grower', and every listen offers something newly arresting and alluring. It keeps calling you back, and, despite initial ambivalence, you keep being glad you go back. I wasn't at all sure about this CD when I first got it, but I'll happily end 2004 declaring it my album of the year.

Disregard the comments on here that complain about some of the song choices being obvious - there is nothing obvious about this album. The choice of songs is impeccable, with each song being invested with an emotional quality that evokes all that was good about the original recording, yet investing it with something more. I'm not sure how to express what that "more" is - but it's a combination of emotion, realness, and authenticity, so striking that it keeps pulling you up short. This album is in an entirely different league to the (frequently justifiably) much maligned 'covers album'. On the back of kd lang's versions of these songs I have revisited my old Leonard Cohen, Ron Sexsmith, and Joni Mitchell albums, and bought new Jane Siberry and Neil Young CDs - and it's remarkable that I prefer the versions here. That *is* a compliment. This woman isn't covering these songs, she's (re)interpreting them. Volume II must, surely, be forthcoming?

This album asks for your time, and it deserves your time. It doesn't reveal its emotion readily, or give up its heart easily, but when it does - and it will - you'll be glad you trusted it.

"So take a lesson from the strangeness you feel...", indeed.
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