Reviewed by Gary 'pigboy' Swartz
Unfortunately for that aspect of my being that loves to get sucker-punched by a new album, I now have an idea who Dan Bern is (note I didn't say know) and I've already heard some of these songs live (just once, which says something about the kind of impact they had). That said Fifty Eggs will still definitely find a welcome place in my CD collection.
Much of this CD is Bern at his most appealing, like in "Tiger Woods," a song about the joys of metaphorically having "big balls." Some is Bern at his worst (read, trying too hard to be Dan Bern), specifically songs like "No Missing Link" or "Cure For Aids," whose core ideas were probably great lyric lines but as songs get more attention than they deserve.
To my mind, the real gem is "Oh Sister," a song that deserves a lot of attention, hopefully some airplay. In an odd way, it's a love song (don't read something kinky into this) from a younger brother to his older sister, and it casts some affectionate light on an archetypal relationship that doesn't get the kind mythical press that the same sex sibling relationship does (you know, younger brother/sister looks up to older brother/sister). At the same time it is deeply personal. Which seems to be one of Bern's fortes.
Another song that should make you think more than the average song is "Different Worlds," which begins with the observation "When I go by black peoples cars, I always like the music from their radios better than mine" and the thought goes where the title implies. A place a lot of us don't like to let our minds wander (especially us Canucks).
Producer Ani Difranco has kept things sparse, and left the focus on Bern as singer/songwriter. As result, those seeing Bern sans band won't feel deprived and if he opts for accompaniment, one suspects it will remain low-keyed.
See Bern if you get the chance.
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