You've Never Seen Everything
The Music Box's #1 album for 2003
First Appeared at The Music Box, July 2003, Volume 10, #7
Written by John Metzger
Released 33 years ago, Bruce Cockburnís self-titled debut was full of rather typical singer/songwriter fare. It didnít take long, however, for him to begin distancing himself from the rest of the reflective hippie flock. Much like Joni Mitchell, Cockburnís songs often have drawn as much from jazz as they do from folk, and each outing has proven to be both more challenging and more rewarding than the last. Itís no wonder that he never caught on in America where cheap pop hooks and mass-marketed, cookie-cutter bands rule the airwaves.
The recently released Youíve Never Seen Everything is Cockburnís 27th recording, and it may be his most demanding yet. Backed by musicians that include jazz pianist Andy Milne, bass player Larry Taylor (Tom Waits, Canned Heat), percussionist Stephen Hodges (Tom Waits), and vocalists Sarah Harmer, Jackson Browne, Sam Phillips, and Emmylou Harris, Cockburn unleashes a sonically adventurous stream of songs that are as mesmerizing as they are unsettling. For certain, Cockburn has been marching in this direction for some time; both Charity of Night and Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu wrapped a similar combination of jazz, folk, and world beats around his literate lyrics. But the music on his latest effort makes those outings sound like pop standards.
Throughout Youíve Never Seen Everything, sounds spin, swirl, and collide ó not with breathtaking beauty, but with sheer horror. Lyrically, this is the angriest and most overtly political album that Cockburn has crafted in 20 years, and the music, while lush and sophisticated, burns with controlled fury. His deep-seated anger at the plight of the world, at appointed presidents, at greedy corporations, and at money-grubbing men fills most of the songs, culminating within the grisly details and harsh ambience of the title track. Itís this nightmarish, kaleidoscopic display that haunts the listener long after the album is finished playing.
But thereís hope here, too, though at first, itís difficult to see because itís buried deep within the mayhem of its surroundings. Further examinations find that on songs like Donít Forget about Delight, Open, Messenger Wind, and Put It in Your Heart, salvation through love and beauty comes rushing to the surface in a giant wave. Indeed, thatís the very point of the title track as well as the album. Sometimes we canít see the forest for the trees for we are so confined within the frustration and misery of a dark, cruel world that we "never see the light falling around."
Like much of Cockburnís catalog, Youíve Never Seen Everything is not an easy album to digest. Because of that, itís not likely to fare well with most critics, particularly those hoping to dash off a quick review, nor will it likely find a home within the music collections of those looking for quiet background music. For certain, it requires a significant investment of time in order to appreciate it fully, and because of that, this isnít for everyone. For those willing to take the time, however, their patience will be rewarded with an album that echoes the strange dichotomy of life in which we currently find ourselves.
Of Further Interest...
You've Never Seen Everything is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box