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Waiting for a Miracle (Singles 1970-1987)
Bruce Cockburn

Review:

In 1987, Bruce Cockburn released a 2-volume compilation with 31 of the best singles from the 15 albums he had recorded before that point. Along with the older material, two previously unreleased songs were included: "Stolen Land," and the title track for the collection, "Waiting for a Miracle."

This collection is still in print, and is a fairly good overview of the first part of his career. The tracks appear in chronological order, giving a quick tour of Bruce Cockburn's early evolution as a folk-rock recording artist.

It starts with selections from the introspective spiritual musings of his early 1970s blues- and gospel-influenced records. Moving into the late 70s it shows some of the ways he combined a growing social consciousness with influences gathered from other cultures and musical styles during his international travels. By the middle 1980s he added more stridently political songs to his repertoire, some of which are also represented here.

His talents as a songwriter, as a musician, and as a gatherer of other musicians and musical influences from culturally diverse backgrounds can all be clearly heard. This is no replacement for a complete collection of all his works into the "boxed set" format, but no such release is available yet. Even if a boxed set eventually is released, this recording would still be worth having for its careful selection of some of his finest work.

Title track:

Written in Managua, Nicaragua in 1986, "Waiting for a Miracle" is one of Bruce Cockburn's best songs. The lyrics weave a web of links between opposites, and the music follows right along in perfect complement. Together they portray the constant struggle between protest and resignation, between action and inaction, between love and outrage, between hope and despair.

The song's message is one of hope, of course, but there is no condescension here, no perky preaching to "just think positive." By acknowledging the difficulties of this struggle, Cockburn lets the hope and prospect of victory over it sound far more satisfying.

"Waiting for a Miracle" can also be found on Bruce Cockburn's more recent retrospective compilation, "Anything Anytime Anywhere (Singles 1979-2002)."

Title track lyrics:

Look at them working in the hot sun
The pilloried saints and the fallen ones
Working and waiting for the night to come
And waiting for a miracle

Somewhere out there is a place that's cool
Where peace and balance are the rule
Working toward a future like some kind of mystic jewel
And waiting for a miracle

You rub your palm
On the grimy pane
In the hope that you can see
(When you're waiting)
You stand up proud
You pretend you're strong
In the hope that you can be
(When you're waiting)
Like the ones who've cried
Like the ones who've died
Trying to set the angel in us free
While they're waiting for a miracle

Struggle for a dollar, scuffle for a dime
Step out from the past and try to hold the line
So how come history takes such a long, long time?
When you're waiting for a miracle

You rub your palm
On the grimy pane
In the hope that you can see
(When you're waiting)
You stand up proud
You pretend you're strong
In the hope that you can be
(When you're waiting)
Like the ones who've cried
Like the ones who've died
Trying to set the angel in us free
While they're waiting for a miracle

Album track listing (all songs written by Bruce Cockburn):

  1. Going to the Country
  2. Musical Friends
  3. One Day I Walk
  4. It's Going Down Slow
  5. Up on This Hillside
  6. Feet Fall on the Road
  7. Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long
  8. All the Diamonds in the World
  9. Burn
  10. Silver Wheels
  11. I'm Gonna Fly Some Day
  12. Vagabondage
  13. Free to Be
  14. Laughter
  15. Wondering Where the Lions Are
  16. Tokyo
  17. Fascist Architecture
  18. The Trouble With Normal
  19. Rumours of Glory
  20. The Coldest Night of the Year
  21. Wanna Go Walking
  22. You Pay Your Money and You Take Your Chance
  23. Tropic Moon
  24. Candy Man's Gone
  25. Lovers in a Dangerous Time
  26. If I Had a Rocket Launcher
  27. Making Contact
  28. Peggy's Kitchen Wall
  29. People See Through You
  30. Call It Democracy
  31. See How I Miss You
  32. Stolen Land
  33. Waiting for a Miracle

Thanks go to allmusic.com for some of the information on dates, and the track listing. Any errors appearing here are of course my own responsibility.

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