Life Short Call Now
First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2006, Volume 13, #7
Written by John Metzger
Bruce Cockburnís Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu and Youíve Never Seen Everything werenít concept albums, per se, but each contained its own distinctive musical and lyrical flavors that effectively bound together its contents. Unfortunately, this sort of cohesiveness is precisely what is missing from his latest studio effort Life Short Call Now. Of the 12 compositions that are featured on the affair, three are instrumentals, and their placement essentially separates the outing into a series of mini-suites. Its opening and closing segments, for example, ruminate upon love both personal (the title track, Different When It Comes to You) and celestial (Mystery, To Fit in My Heart), while the middle portion takes direct aim at the neo-con war machine.
Employing a free association rhyming scheme that is drawn directly from Bob Dylanís Subterranean Homesick Blues, Cockburn lashes out in anger on the frenetic Slow Down Fast, and although Tell the Universe is draped in sad, tear-stained beauty, its lyrics are equally biting. Elsewhere, the solitary cry of a trumpet underscores the loneliness inherent in the title trackís road tale, and on Beautiful Creatures, he mourns the disintegration of civility and a string section swells to support the sorrow that hangs heavily in the air. Whether heís singing about relationships, spirituality, or politics, thereís little doubt that Cockburn is speaking straight from his heart, and despite its weighty subject matter, Life Short Call Nowís arrangements are noticeably brighter and more optimistic than the disoriented and frequently horrific refrains of Youíve Never Seen Everything. Still, its jumbled textures undermine the potency of his impassioned and intricate music as well as his poetic lyrics. While itís true that Cockburn once again crafted some exquisite material and made an attempt to place it in a functional order, Life Short Call Now inevitably feels both tentative and transitional. Ĺ
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box