After visiting Central America, Bruce Cockburn recorded Stealing Fire, part of which passionately and eloquently details what he'd seen while in Nicaragua and Guatemala. With the opening track, the terse rocker "Lovers in a Dangerous Time," Cockburn conveys both a sense of urgency and uncertainty. There's a brief calm as the second half begins, before a triad of songs written about his time spent in Central America brings the record to a sober conclusion. These three tunes, which, like the majority of the album, sport a tight, worldbeat, folk and rock flavor, are the true highlights of Stealing Fire, and Cockburn at his very best. The first, "Nicaragua," is part observation, part commentary, and part tribute to the Sandinista-led revolution in that country. "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" follows, and is arguably Cockburn's most powerful merging of personal and political feelings. Written after witnessing Guatemalan refugees being chased across the border by gun-wielding helicopters, "Rocket Launcher" evokes not only the pain and suffering of the people, but the conflict between Cockburn's pacifist leanings, and the vengeful anger and hatred incited by such a horrific sight. The Nicaraguan, road-inspired "Dust and Diesel" closes the record with a portrait of a country whose daily contrast of beauty and violence is summed up by the images of people who are proud, hopeful, passionate, afraid, and tired. Stealing Fire, despite a few less than compelling tracks, is the work of an artist at his peak. It also contains some of the most intensely significant material by a singer/songwriter in the 1980s.
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AllMusic Review by Brett Hartenbach