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Bruce Cockburn
DANCING IN THE DRAGON’S JAWS — DELUXE EDITION
(TRUE NORTH/ROUNDER)

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When Canada’s pre-eminent singer-songwriter first released this album, in 1979, he was about to move into more electric, fusion-oriented, politically engaged music. That new phase would involve plenty of hits and misses, but this session crystallizes the best of all that came before. Cockburn’s shimmering, rhythmically driving acoustic-guitar picking has never sounded so good, and his personal poetry, colored by mystic Christianity, is at the peak of its craft and subtlety. The results include the biggest hit of his career, the reggae-tinged "Wondering Where the Lions Are."

But in retrospect, you’ll find better songs here. "Creation Dream" marries flashy, free-flowing guitar work with visionary lyrics and soulful singing that still sounds fresh. The bleary-eyed reverie "Incandescent Blue" and the soothing, anthemic "No Footprints" also hold up well. This remastered version sounds noticeably crisper and more vivid than the original, and like all the Cockburn reissues Rounder is currently releasing, it includes bonus tracks from the vault. The prize here is a staggering, polyrhythmic solo acoustic-guitar instrumental called "Bye Bye Idi." The title is a sardonic nod to departing Ugandan dictator Idi Amin; the music foreshadows Cockburn’s foray into Malian guitar music some 20 years later.

BY BANNING EYRE

Issue Date: January 9 - 16, 2003
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