Bob Norman,
Love Lust & Lilacs
(Night Owl, 2000)

Love Lust & Lilacs is the first I've have heard of Bob Norman, and I'd happily keep an ear to the ground for his next album. His voice at first put me in mind of Leonard Cohen (but not so depressing!) and his lyrics made me think a bit of Janice Ian and Chris Rea -- but his music is completely his own. The album in entirety is a pleasantly original listening experience, rolling along like a train, taking you on a journey in good company. As the train travels, you are privileged to view the differing landscapes of Bob's life and the songs conjure pictures of startling clarity. It is with a sense of surprise and disappointment that you come to the close of the journey and the day with the mellow eleventh track, "The Gentle Midnight Rain."

"The Land of the Winds" is a stately epic of a song, sorrow and joy flying together; close your eyes and see "where the hawk flies so high, 'till he melts into the sun," the winds whistling over the land, and your "heartstrings may well be torn" by the solemn beauty of this song. I noted it on my first play of the CD and I immediately had to play it again; on the second playing, its haunting blend of Mexican-tinted music had the pull of familiarity about it, and it is now one of my favourite tracks.

"The One That's On My Mind" is my other favourite. It's an upbeat tune with a country/rock feel; strong backing vocals by Linda LoPresti add appreciable depth to another memorable track. It is perhaps a pity she does not feature more prominently, although she does duet with Bob in "The Camera Doesn't Lie," which gives a different viewpoint of a family photo album. Her voice provides an excellent contrast to Bob's folky tones.

Love Lust & Lilacs is a combination of two song titles on the album: "Love or Lust" and "Lady With the Lilacs," both laden with imagery and adept rhyme. Snippets of the songs linger in the mind and it is refreshing not to be subjected to dismally trite and predictable or repetitive lyrics.

Like browsing languidly through a picture album on a quiet day, this CD provides snapshots of a folksinger's life, both public and private, that are diverting and enjoyable. It is easy to listen to the lyrics, and yet, having acquainted yourself with the details, it is also easy to play in the background. You quickly find yourself singing the odd snatch of song that has left an indelible imprint in your subconscious mind. In my CD collection, this one's a keeper!

[ by Jenny Ivor ]
Rambles: 16 June 2002