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The Charity of Night

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Audio CD, February 4, 1997
$12.24 $0.01

Editorial Reviews

Why doesn't Toronto's Bruce Cockburn have the same high-level critical reputation and midlevel cult following as Richard Thompson? After all, they're both dazzling, Celtic-Islamic rock guitar pickers and the writers of vivid if gloomy songs which they deliver in foggy baritones. The big difference is Cockburn's left-wing Christianity, which can be as unrelentingly earnest as Bono's. Cockburn lightens up a little bit on The Charity of Night; he adds Laurie Anderson-like, film noir monologs to four songs and allows nakedly romantic feelings to emerge in two quietly pretty love songs. The prominent presence of bassist Rob Wasserman and vibist Gary Burton give a jazzy elasticity to Cockburn's usual folk rock. Cockburn's reputation among his fellow musicians is reflected in guest appearances by Bonnie Raitt, Bob Weir, Patty Larkin, Ani DiFranco, and Jonatha Brooke--maybe the public will catch up this time around. --Geoffrey Himes

From the Label

Imagery of night and darkness, shadow and storm pervades Bruce Cockburn’s twenty-third album (and first on Rykodisc), The Charity of Night. Held in high regard for his “poetic, innovative, often provocative songwriting,” Cockburn’s lyrical introspection sometimes leads him to the more secret corridors of the heart and soul. He also believes that, on this album, he is at something of a turning point. For a man with thirteen gold and three platinum records in Canada, as well as ten Juno Awards (the Canadian counterpart to the Grammy), that’s quite an assertion.

1. Night Train
2. Get Up Jonah
3. Pacing The Cage
4. Mistress Of Storms
5. The Whole Night Sky
6. The Coming Rains
7. Birmingham Shadows
8. The Mines Of Mozambique
9. Live On My Mind
10. The Charity Of Night
11. Strange Waters

Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 4, 1997)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Rykodisc
  • ASIN: B0000009QT
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,846 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By o dubhthaigh VINE VOICE on March 11, 2003
Format: Audio CD
Bruce is from Ottawa, although a major part of the early days and his management company are focused on Toronto. Celtic-Islamic? What?!!?
Cockburn's guitar sryle is blues-jazz based with a strong roots element to it, but I've never thought of him as Celtic, and certainly where Islamic came from, Allah only knows. Can he please be called quintessentially Canadian, which should mystify the great labelizers of the music world enough to give Cockburn the room he needs to create extraordinary music.
Those quibbles aside, this is rightly one of BC's absolute gems, particularly this far into his career. There is a wild range of emotions running through these songs, and Bruce's fretwork (I still can't believe celtic-islamic) is dazzling, Allah and Ossian be praised. The chugging train rhythm of the opening track sets an authentic roots tone to a deeply personal statement, and back up vocals from Jonatha Brooke and Ani De Franco give this CD an urgency.
"Pacing the Cage," written in the dismal environs of Philadelphia, is as dire an assessment of fate as I have ever heard. It absolutely breaks your heart. "Coming Rains" rejoycefully rebounds the spirit, and "Birmingham Shadows" is one of those brilliant Cockburn epics, part poem, part lyric that hint at a love, perhaps illicit, at least dangerous, yet determined to flourish and become consummated regardless of the potential for oppression. "Mines of Mozambique" returns Cockburn to the political arena. Throughout these 9 songs, Cockburn presents intoxicating landscapes and passionate human dramas. He is far and away one of the very greatest of North American writers and a crafter of melodies that live with the listener a very, very long time.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Teri Dunn on June 2, 2000
Format: Audio CD
I thought I'd stop by and read a few reviews of one of the most remarkable documents/CDs I have ever listened to, and I find comments about Bruce Cockburn's musicianship (no debate there) and mixed reactions to the song's contents.Listen again, intently. "The Charity of Night" is intense and ambitious. It's got vivid pictures of far-off places and uncertain times. It tells stories. It captures pain, regret, doubt, loneliness, fear ... and hope, lust, redemption, humor, compassion. This guy is so loaded with emotion and passion and sincerity and integrity and dedication to detail that no wonder sometimes "there's a pounding in my head, I'm swollen up with unshed tears." Thank God he's got his guitar and the songs come out of him. Listen again, intently, ride along, and feel, feel and see.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Meier on December 8, 1999
Format: Audio CD
Several of Bruce's previous efforts have fallen flat, but this CD brings him back to the forefront. The songs are well crafted, and the production is excellent. The instrumentation is fabulous. The guitar/vibrophone duet on "Mistress of Storms" is such a good blend of sound, I often replay this track two or three times in a row. The sparcity of the playing on "Pacing the Cage" helps to accentuate the lyrics. Overall, the tracks are very rich and buttery. You won't regret picking this CD up.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Nigel Parry on June 12, 2000
Format: Audio CD
23 albums down the road, and Cockburn pulls out "The Charity of Night". Most singer-songwriters go downhill as they get older, Cockburn - like the water into wine story - is unarguably turning out to have saved the best for last.
"Charity" offers an even mix of love, political, human condition, and instrumental songs, four songwriting genres that Cockburn excels in. From the first track to the last on "Charity", there are no duds, and the album as a whole is conceptual, opening up the idea of Night as sanctuary, challenging us to consider the space between dusk and dawn in a different light, rather than merely dismissing it as 'just darkness.'
The album is rock/folk (in that order), but the profound jazz influences, the moody talking story songs, the excellent instrumentalists and backing singers (Ani DiFranco, Jonatha Brooke, Patty Larkin, Bob Weir, etc.) make this a musically deeper album than others in the same genre.
"Charity" gradually builds via a series of steady ebbs and flows to the last song, a masterpiece called "Strange Waters", which rumbles like musical thunder into eternity.
Fans of classic Cockburn will be delighted.
People who have never heard of Cockburn, who stumble onto this album looking for the two-bladed sword of quality music delivering lyrics that actually say something about something, will be relieved to have finally made his acquaintance.
This is one of the best albums I own. Sure, I'm a Cockburn fan, but I like a lot of other good musicians too, and this is as good as he gets.
According to a poll of hardcore Bruce Cockburn fans in Spring 1999, this album was no.1 of the 24 that had been released by that point.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By benjamin on July 7, 2004
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Although you can't judge a CD by its cover art, the cover art of Bruce Cockburn's _The Charity of Night_ actually says a good bit about its contents. The album, like its cover, is layered and complex, containing scattered, multi-faceted shards of beauty. The angel on the cover holding a gun reflect's Cockburn's own marriage of spirituality to politics, while the moon/yin-yang in the background illumines the night, the stars being something like a trace that dances across the sky, recoiling back into the night.
Cockburn is a rare breed among artists. His command of the English language is, quite literally, stunning; I know of no lyricist who ascends anywhere close to Cockburn's eloquent prose:
"Ice cube in a dark drink shines like starlight
Starlight shines like glass shards in dark hair
The mind's eye tumbles out along the steel track,
fixing every shadow with its stare
Night train..."
This poetic depth, however, is by no means divorced from existential weight, spiritual wrestling or the voice of clear, moral vision. They all blend seamlessly in Cockburn.
He is an equally gifted guitarist, able to oscillate with perfect balance between the tender ("Live on My Mind"), the contemplative ("Pacing the Cage"), and the spiritually bristling ("Night Train" and "Strange Waters", the latter of which works off of the lyrics of Psalm 23 but inverts the lyrics in a rather haunting way). The lyrics and music mesh perfectly - a tribute not only to Cockburn's creativity, but to his time-honed *song*-writing skills as well.
This album was the first album I ever bought by Cockburn, and although I have been a fan ever since, this album remains my favorite by far. It bristles with a raw, human energy all its own.
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