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|3.5 great||GreenRiver | December 31st 11|
Released shortly after the transitional In the Falling Dark, Circles in the Stream seemed to serve as the final chapter in Bruce Cockburn's promising yet inconsistent early career. Recorded live in Toronto, the record brings together some of Cockburn's best songs from this period, including the beautiful meditation "All the Diamonds in the World," the bluesy "Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long," and "Lord of the Starfields" from his previous release. And while there isn't anything drastically different here, many of the tracks are more assured and fully realized than their studio counterparts, with Cockburn's guitar and voice front and center -- solo or backed by subtle bass, percussion, and piano or marimba. There are also a scattering of new tunes that mix nicely with the older material, with the Native American tribute "Red Brother, Red Sister" and the instrumental "Deer Dancing Round a Broken Mirror" the true standouts. Strong performances and a good selection of songs help Circles in the Stream succeed not only as a good live album, but also as a decent retrospective of Cockburn's first seven years.
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