Bruce Cockburn,
Anything Anytime Anywhere:
Singles 1979-2002

(Rounder, 2002)

The subtitle of this CD, essentially a collection of Cockburn's greatest hits, is Singles 1979-2002. It seems hard to believe that fourteen of these songs, neatly packed between two new songs ("My Beat" and the album's title track) as bookends, do date back as far as 1979. But this Canadian singer-songwriter has been making hits since then with his mainstream crossover chart-topper and second song on the CD, "Wondering Where the Lions Are" from Cockburn's seminal 1979 recording, Dancing in the Dragon's Jaw. While there's a discography in the CD booklet that lists nine earlier CDs, none of them are represented on this release.

The songs that do appear here, however, are portrayals of classic Cockburn style. They've been digitally remastered, and it's perhaps that feat that helps even the older pieces, such as "Tokyo" from 1980, maintain the emotions and passions that Cockburn brings to them in his live performances. Some of the songs from the '80s sound a little over produced here and there, but they are excellent examples of his evocative song-writing style. His firm political stances are boldly aired. Included are issues such as the environment ("If a Tree Falls"), anger about Guatemalan refugee camps ("If I Had a Rocket Launcher"), fury about the negative effects of Western economic practices ("And They Call It Democracy") and even survival of native peoples ("A Dream Like Mine"). However, there are true love songs, such as "Last Night of the World," and the new "My Beat" was inspired by Cockburn simply living in the moment while bicycling around Montreal.

Cockburn's writing style tends towards heavy-handed and serious, whether the songs are light-hearted or sober. They have a folk feel even if he occasionally brings in saxophones ("The Coldest Night of the Year," "Listen for the Laugh" and "Waiting for a Miracle"). There are strong backing vocalists, including Patty Griffin on "My Beat," Patty Larkin and Jonatha Brooke on "Night Train," and the Fairfield Four on "Anything Anytime Anywhere."

Cockburn enthusiasts probably will want to add this release to their collections even if they own all of the previous material, if only to obtain the two new songs. For new listeners, it's a good introduction to an artist who's received a lot of radio airplay but still isn't a household name.

[ by Ellen Rawson ]
Rambles: 27 July 2002

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