"Many of my favorite artists are in the midst of re-releasing remastered discs -- Cocteau Twins, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Cure, Depeche Mode, Peter Gabriel, etc. The results certainly improve the record, but so far it has not awakened anything new for me in the work.
This has changed with the release of the Innocence Mission's "Birds of my Neighborhood". The original release was the first without the band's drummer, and took on a far more acoustic and intimate sound than their earlier recordings. However, the remastering done here brings it to a new level. The guitars and vocal are clean and crisp, sounding as if the trio is playing in your living room. You can hear clearly the sounds of a home-made recording, which draws the listener in even further than the initial release.
This album is a joy to listen to, and it gives me hope that earlier Innocence Mission albums will see the same treatment and return to market. Do not let this release go by!"
Lyrical and Musical Depth Worth Your Time and Money
Chip Webb | Fairfax Station, VA | 08/12/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Innocence Mission's music seems to polarize listeners. Some find it too spare, repetitive, and boring. For others of us, the band offers an oasis of reflective calm and peace fueled by thoughtful, poetic lyrics; musical simplicity appropriate for the band's songs; and Karen Paris' wonderfully childlike, ethereal voice. The band arguably was at its most accessible to a mainstream audience with the release of Glow (1995), one of the best releases of the decade by any band. It took another four years for the band to follow up with Birds of My Neighborhood (1999). While Birds intentionally brings up childhood memories, as Glow did, it uses them for the more somber purpose of highlighting present-day issues faced by the songs' speakers. (I have reviewed both Glow and another Innocence Mission album, Befriended , elsewhere on Amazon.com.)
The present day always seems to be a time of loss and/or struggle in Birds. Friendships and family relationships are given prime importance throughout the album, and the holy grail for the speakers on their quest in the midst of adversity is the ability to get beyond themselves and love other people. Evidently, the songs were composed during (and heavily influenced by) a time when Karen and her husband, lead band musician Don Peris, were having trouble in starting a family. Consequently, most of the songs are considerably downbeat.
Fortunately, as always, the considerable melancholy is counterbalanced by an incredible sense of hope and joy that appears from time to time in unexpected places. (I had heard that Birds was their darkest and most melancholic album, but I would give that award to Befriended.) Sometimes these virtues arise from other peoples' actions; for example, in "July," one friend's cheer brings the speaker out of his or her dark mood. The Innocence Mission touchingly by default assumes the best possible motives on peoples' part, and always holds out hope for even someone who has harmed another person to do good in the end. (See, e.g., "She May Turn Around.")
But the hope and joy are ultimately grounded in the band's Christian (and, more specifically, Roman Catholic) faith. The sight of snow makes the speaker, concerned with another person's troubles, conclude, "I think we will be made clean like the snow,/I think we will become new like the snow" ("Snow"), echoing Isaiah 64 in the Old Testament Scriptures. In the midst of trevail, consuming the bread of the Eucharist makes one person shine from within ("You Are the Light"). A saint "lost in the snow" might provide help, and "My Father [i.e., God] will bend His ear to the ground" to hear the troubled ones who call upon him ("Birdless"). God himself makes the shelters where "[b]irds of every wing will fly within" and also will stop "the raging sea" and "trouble" from overwhelming the speakers ("I Was in the Air"). And this refuge extends potentially to everyone: "The world at night/Has seen the greatest light./Too much light to deny" ("July").
If there's any disappointment lyrically, it's that Karen and Don have not woven their substantial imagery throughout the album. Birds and/or bird analogies are present in a few songs, but not enough throughout to warrant the album's title. And while the album starts in winter and evidently ends in spring, winter imagery is not carried throughout the album.
Because the album is so spare musically, and filled with such a large amount of melancholy lyrically, it may take a while for it to sink in to listeners. But the majority of this album is so beautiful, and so full of goodness, that you should check your heart if you aren't moved. The Innocence Mission has a funny way of doing that to you. Composed of two gifted poets (Karen and Don) and three excellent musicians (Karen, Don, and Mike Bitts--not to mention a fourth in former member Steve Brown, who makes a guest appearance here), the band --and Birds of My Neighborhood-- are worth your attention and hard-earned cash. Some people complain about the brevity of this and other Innocence Mission albums, but even though Birds is under 40 minutes in length, there is depth here that most bands with much longer albums will never match. "
Tender & Deliberative: A Pearl
Richard E. Young | In Any Town, USA | 05/24/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Innocence Mission's Birds - A Tender & Lovely Gem.
Birds is certainly not meant to be Glow Part Two.
Fans have noticed that the Birds album has a wintry-snowy sensation ascribed to it. I would like to add that the CD has a feeling of transitions to it -- change is leading to growth & greater self-awareness. Birds is a meditative work.
The lyrics are similar to intimate little sonnets written in a personal daily diary. In addition, the stark atmosphere of Birds underscores the fragile, but intimate, nature of these lyrics. This disc is a fine example of modern-day Folk-rock.
Birds -- a tender and deliberative pearl.
August 21, 1999 -- Evaluation Tweaked "
Summer Day Dreams
Ryan T. Zeulner | Orange County | 03/08/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As a fan of the Innocence Mission, this older album is right on track. Very pretty pictures and melodies painted with a light guitar and airy and sometimes shrill vocals. Good for a nap in the hammock"