At once a departure and a return, The Charity of Night represents a change from the folk rock stylings of his previous two albums, having more in common with earlier jazz-inflected works such as Night Vision. Shades of light and shadow play through the album's theme of reflection and memory: Cockburn recalls many events of his past, taking stock and coming to grips with them. It's a very cohesive album in subject, with only the anti-land mine "Mines of Mozambique" seeming out of place (though it's a worthwhile song on its own). The centerpiece of the album is the title song, a realization that facing the past can be more difficult when memories are exposed in the cold hard light of day, but the refuge and peace darkness can provide is "the charity of night." In fact, most of the album's events happen at night and this theme is echoed in the haunting booklet artwork by Bill Sienkiewicz, graphic novel illustrator for comics such as The Sandman. Musically the sound is very organic, with solid bass and drums provided by Rob Wasserman and Gary Craig. Guest Gary Burton provides shimmering vibraphone on three of the cuts, adding to the jazz texture. Other guests include Bonnie Raitt, Ani DiFranco, Jonatha Brooke, and Patty Larkin. The album culminates with "Strange Waters," a summation of Cockburn's life-long spiritual search, where he asks the question "if I loose my grip, will I take flight?" Acclaimed by fans and critics alike, this album is an essential part of the Cockburn catalog.
The Charity of Night Review
by Rob Caldwell