CD Review: Eric Andersen-The Cologne Concert
The Cologne Concerts, Eric Andersen’s second live album in a career which spans five decades, represents the best of what live recordings are about. It is a document of a work of art rather than a rehash of already recorded songs. The question with most artists on the release of a live album is: what can this contribute to the artist’s body of work? The answer on this album is found in its quality and the artistry of the interpretations of songs old and new. The collective quality of this album makes each song reflect in a way that causes them to sound like a new and fresh experience.
The Cologne Concert is unique on many levels for Eric Andersen as an artist. He continues to produce important and vital music that gently dances between the sublime and the dangerous. While his lyrics are distinctly visual and reflective, a few simple lines can cut across the borders of light and darkness and into the heart of the spirit in the same way many visual artists only aspire to. His songs feel like musical expression of a 19th-century impressionistic painter. It’s a style of writing uniquely his own. His journey through styles and eras of his career include pilgrimages into country, folk, blues, jazz, beat poet reflections and rock.
The Cologne Concert doesn’t feel live in terms of quality or energy. It’s an intimate chamber concert of contemplative poetry and performance that creates the mood of being transported to some quiet shelter sitting in front of a fire while this poet spins out words and melodies that comfort and stimulate . This is partially due to the excellent quality of the recording, brought to you courtesy of Meyer Records in Germany, which specializes in often-overlooked American roots artists. The recording is clear and so warm that it defies the digital icy pitfalls often found in today’s live recordings.
Peformance and song selection are consistent throughout. Eric’s wife, Inge, hauntingly accompanies him on harmony vocals. Like gentle strokes along the edge of the portrait, her voice frames Eric in a vocal caress which adds texture and soul to each song. Michele Gazich’s violin brings texture and mood to the mix in a way that supports and enhances both the singer and the song.
Most important for an artist as prolific and as recorded as Eric Andersen is song selection for a live album. This set of songs does not represent a career retrospective as much as it does a journey through the interplay of soul, spirit and all of the moods created by the world outside of the poem. From the reflective “Time Run Like A Freight Train,” to Tom Paxton’s classic and simple, “Last Thing On My Mind,” the songs are those of leaving, parting, redeeming the past, living in the present and noticing the streams of song which flow through our lives. Indeed, this is perhaps what Eric’s calling to the song has been about: To bring us an awareness of the poetic possibilties inherent in our present everyday lives.
With two new songs, the beautiful, “Sinking Deeper Into You,” and the unconventional “Dance of Love and Death,” each piece is a strand that is consistent with the other and placed in just the right place.
Hopefully, an album of new material will surface soon from Eric Andersen. Meantime, this album is well worth the experience for both the long-time fan and anyone new to the music and songs of Eric Andersen, not only as a collection of songs, but as a collective work of art.
Eric will be hosting a Webcast on June 8th at 8:00 PM(EDT). The show, which will be available for 30 days after, includes John Sebastian, Happy Traum, Joe Flood and Inge Andersen. The Cologne Concert has also been released in vinyl.
(The above pastel painting of Eric is by Jules Halfant circa 1966 courtesy of the collection of Rachel Halfant)