Greg Copeland

Diana and James

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A mere 26 years have passed since Geffen Records released the Jackson Browne-produced debut album by Greg Copeland, Revenge Will Come, including Copeland's best-known composition, "El Salvador," a song that took on the administration of President Ronald Reagan and its Vietnam-like policy of support for the right-wing regime in that Central American country. (The song was covered by Peter, Paul and Mary.) The rest of Revenge Will Come was a rocking singer/songwriter effort, with Danny Kortchmar's guitar leading driving songs like "Full Cleveland." Unfortunately, the album, which sounded at the time like an auspicious beginning to Copeland's career, did not sell. Copeland returns, again under Browne's aegis, with Diana and James. (Browne is the executive producer this time, and the disc is being released by his Inside Recordings label.) The rock style is gone, replaced by country-folk arrangements and a sound that will be practically unrecognizable to the lucky few who bought Revenge Will Come. "The Only Wicked Thing," for example, has a Western swing feel, while "I Am the One" sounds like old-timey country. "Typical" boasts a pedal steel guitar that makes it sound like traditional country, and "Palace of Love" is a Mexican-flavored ballad sung as a duet with violinist Carla Kihlstedt. The tunes, all written by Copeland, constitute a song cycle about the necessity of love as a bulwark against life's vagaries, told in imagery that mixes rural references and Los Angeles scenes. Copeland sings them in a wheezy croak that lends gravitas to the sentiments. He remains a thoughtful writer, even as he remains in the shadow of his mentor, Browne.

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