-- Night Vision (1973) --

Track Listing:
Click song titles to see lyrics, other albums the song appears on, and known comments by Bruce Cockburn on the song. Track lengths are not guaranteed as they occasionally change with format (i.e. CD/vinyl) and release version.

[1] Foxglove (1:29)
[2] You Don't Have to Play the Horses (3:50)
[3] The Blues Got the World... (1:52)
[4] Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long (4:14)
[5] Islands in a Black Sky (7:40)
[6] Clocks Don't Bring Tomorrow -- Knives Don't Bring Good News (6:49)
[7] When the Sun Goes Nova (2:43)
[8] Deja Vu (5:36)
[9] Lightstorm (2:34)
[10] God Bless the Children (4:18)

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Album Info:

Of all the albums i've been involved with, this has been the most exciting for me, and the one i'll probably be able to actually listen to in times to come (thanks to the fine playing of Dennis, John and Pat). The music is both a departure and a return. For various shifts and reenforcements of point of view, i'm indebted to:

Kitty, Gene
Samuel R. Delaney (Driftglass)
Django Reinhardt
L. Durnell, (and my brother)
John (the Alexandria Quartet)
David Wiffen (in spite of himself)
life going round and round
I hope you like it
-Bruce Cockburn

All songs written by B. Cockburn © 1973 Golden Mountain Music Corp. (SOCAN) (BMI) All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

Produced by Eugene Martynec and Bruce Cockburn for True North Productions

Recorded at Thunder Sound between February and May 1973
Engineer: Bill Seddon
Rehearsals and Pre-Production at Tatsi (Toronto)
Digitally Remastered by Vic Anesini, Sony Studios, NY

Pat Godfrey-Keyboards
Dennis Pendrith-Bass
John Savage-Percussion
Bruce Cockburn-Guitars, Banjo, Vocals

Cover Painting: A. Colville (1954)
Inside Photo and Art Direction: Bart Schoales

Editor's Note: The cover art is a reproduction of an Alex Colville painting called "Horse and Train" (1954), Glazed Tempera on hardboard 41.2 x 54.2 cm Art Gallery of Hamilton, gift of Dominion Foundries and Steel Limited. The commentary of the National Gallery of Canada throws a whole new light on why Cockburn might have chosen this painting for the album: Horse and Train

Thus abandoned and solitary in the world, human beings are forced to confront their own freedom, a freedom to choose that is both demanding and deadly serious. One of Colville's best-known works, Horse and Train, goes straight to the heart of this source of human anxiety and raises an essential question: can destiny be altered? A helpless witness to imminent disaster, the viewer of this painting can never know the outcome. Clearly, the train cannot deviate from its track, but the horse has a choice - we think. Is it mesmerized by the light? Is it challenging a foe? Is it aware of the terrible danger? If not, can the engineer stop the train in time? The animal may be driven by instinct, but the human faces an ethical dilemma: Is it worth stopping? How much does the death of a horse matter? Which is more dangerous - to brake and cause a possible derailment, or to keep going and risk a deadly collision? Can we halt time - the little that remains?

The picture was inspired by a poem published in 1949 by the South African writer Roy Campbell. Words by Wilfred Owen serve as the poem's epigraph: "None will break ranks." The poem itself includes the lines: "Against a regiment I oppose a brain / And a dark horse against an armoured train." During his military career, Colville had exhibited an independence of mind that was not always appreciated by his superiors; it is a characteristic he subsequently cultivated, like his opposition to the various forms of 20th-century abstraction. In Horse and Train, the artist seems to be emphasizing the unavoidable need to make choices: despite the apparently hopeless situation and the magnetic power of the train's light over the animal, we are witnessing a confrontation between two freedoms. The horse is free to change direction, the engineer to engage the brakes.

  • 28 May 2002

    Bruce Cockburn gave the following speech when Alex Colville was inducted to Canada's Walk of Fame.

    "I think it was Christmas of '73, I was given a book featuring the work of a Canadian painter whose name was new to me. The paintings were striking - perfectly executed, realistic, but with a depth, a kind of transcendence that spoke to me of a larger reality. One painting in particular jumped out at me. In it, a well-muscled black horse gallops headlong down a railway track, straight at an oncoming train. The horse seems to contain such energy, it's as if it were a charged particle of pure spirit. This sense of spirit, in confrontation with material power, is something any artist can relate to. A sense of impending doom too, I think. I certainly did! Some months later, as we got into working on what was then the "new" album, I kept thinking of the painting, feeling a connection between it and the music we were making. Music which was a little different from the preceding three albums. In part, a reaction against the hemmed-in feelinq of having been filtered and "labelled" by media and music business expectations. We approached the artist about using his work on the cover of that album and he graciously said "yes". The album was "Night Vision", the paintinq "Horse and Train", the painter Alex Colville.

    Known comments by Bruce Cockburn about this album, by date:

  • Circa 1986

    "Sunwheel Dance seemed to finish off a certain thread- I got worried about the typecasting I was getting, ergo, Night Vision, an urban exploration, somewhat tentative it now appears."

    Picture of Terry Lynd (CBS), Bruce Cockburn, Alex Colville 
(artist of painiting used for Night Vision album cover), Bill Bannon (CBS), Bernie Finkelstein.


    Picture of Terry Lynd (CBS), Bruce Cockburn, Alex Colville (artist of painiting used for Night Vision album cover), Bill Bannon (CBS), Bernie Finkelstein.
    -- from the World Of Wonders Tour Program, circa 1986. Submitted by Rob Caldwell

  • November 1999

    Steve Lawson: Was there a parallel between the music and lyrics in that development [use of the electric guitar]?

    BC: The earliest album that has a real noticeable amount of electric guitar on it is Night Vision, which is also a dark kind of record and I hadn't thought about it but I guess that's true, it does contribute to it, though unconsciously - I must contribute to what I was doing. The choice wasn't unconscious the connection was...
    -- from Bruce Cockburn Interview, Guitarist Magazine, November, 1999, by Steve Lawson.

  • December 1995

    "Where Were You in 1974?"
    This question was posed to Bruce in 1994, read y'all about it:

    "The most significant thing I can recall doing that year was doing an album called Night Vision. I hadn't planned on doing an album then but I was producing an album for a Canadian artist who had one album out and was at odds with his record company- they were stuck with the need to make a record and nobody to produce it so they got me.

    The album got put on the shelf because the artist had a drinking problem, but I had put a band together- it was the first time I'd worked with an actual band since the '60s, when I was playing in garage bands- to do that album. When the artist became incapacitated for a period, we decided to learn a bunch of my songs and go into the studio to do Night Vision. It was a complete accident.

    It was the beginning of a whole bunch of things. Prior to that, for three albums, we had gone into the studio and built it around me and added people as needed for each song. With this one it was an actual band and part of it became the first band I toured with. That album was more urban in nature than ones I'd done before, and more humorous.

    I actually stopped listening to pop music during this period. I'd played in a bunch of bands in the '60s- everything from questionable R&B to questionable psychedelia- and I really got sick of the whole thing after awhile. There was a great hunger on my part, and I felt it would probably be shared by other people, for something kind of quiet and to the point, instead of long, meandering solos. That feeling did seem to be shared by a lot of people."
    -- from Gavin's Woodpile, December 1995. Submitted by Rob Caldwell.

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    This page is part of The Cockburn Project, a unique website that exists to document the work of Canadian singer-songwriter and musician Bruce Cockburn. The Project archives self-commentary by Cockburn on his songs and music, and supplements this core part of the website with news, tour dates, and other current information.