CD Review of Join the Parade by Marc Cohn
Recommended if you like
Van Morrison, James Taylor,
Jackson Browne
Marc Cohn: Join the Parade

Reviewed by Jeff Giles


ven in the modern era of inflated gaps in artists’ album-release cycles, nine years is an eternity – perhaps literally in the case of Marc Cohn, who has changed labels, gotten married, and, oh yeah, weathered a brush with death since releasing 1998’s Burning the Daze. For a worldwide superstar – Clapton, perhaps – disappearing for nearly a decade would be a serious, but not insurmountable, promotional obstacle. For a guy like Marc Cohn, who most people remember for a 16-year-old single (if they remember him at all), it’s akin to starting all over again.

Give Cohn credit, then, for picking up right where he left off. Parade offers not a single concession to his time away, or trends, or even the 21st century; like his previous efforts, it’s a subtle, painstakingly crafted collection of classic singer/songwriter tunes, making up in depth what it lacks in instant gratification. An album, in other words – remember those things? They had two sides, and you were supposed to spend six months to a year losing yourself in the grooves, and searching for clues about the artist’s personality in the liner notes?

No? Doesn’t ring a bell?

Yeah, probably not. But even if Cohn is a man out of time, he thankfully isn’t out of songs – and even if Parade doesn’t offer his most immediately charming work, it does invite repeated listens, and listeners who heed that call will find that these tracks are among the deepest and most beautiful of Cohn’s career. There are some half-steps here – “If I Were an Angel” reads like the kind of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ breakup letter that tends to earn lifelong enmity from women, and “Life Goes On” feels like it strains too hard for profundity – but it’s hard to dwell on the mistakes when they’re surrounded with songs like “Let Me Be Your Witness,” “Live Out the String,” and the quietly thunderous title track.

The album’s unwavering faith in the listener’s patience is bound to go unrewarded in many instances, but that’s beside the point to everyone but Decca’s accountants; Cohn is to be commended for fashioning a comeback release that so resolutely sidesteps its baggage – the weighty expectations of fans, the indifference of the wider marketplace – and simply carves out 47:04 of richly rewarding listening space for anyone who takes the time to find it. If there’s a flaw here, it’s just that the record seems so tiny next to all the years it took to finish it; it’s hard not to feel as if something this long in the making should somehow actually sound like 3,200 days and change.

Removed from that unfair context, though, Join the Parade is just another shyly glinting jewel in Cohn’s slowly growing collection, and one of the most honestly enjoyable AAA releases of the year. If Van Morrison’s Moondance is a cherished member of your record collection – or if you’ve wondered where Marc Cohn has been all these years – get your hands on Join the Parade without delay.

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