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All Children Believe In Heaven

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Album Review

The fourth release from Canadian artist Bocephus King is easily his most ambitious work to date. It's also his most successful, a stunning tour de force that echoes Leon Russell's fusion of country, blues, and gospel. Opening cut "St. Hallelujah" sets the template that the rest of the tracks will follow: it's a complicated mélange of mournful guitar, country & western shuffling drums, a wryly embittered lyric, and unusual production touches (in this case, gurgling Erasure-esque synth pulsations throughout the ten-minute track). King had presented himself as an erudite wordsmith on previous recordings, but he outdoes himself on this album, spilling rhymes as complex and with as bitterly religious a sense of metaphor as Bob Dylan used to offer. Comparisons to Dylan should not be offered casually, but this one is warranted: All Children Believe in Heaven is King's Blonde on Blonde, sprawling and inspired, perhaps too much so for its own good. The productions are busy and bombastic, the lyrics inscrutable in their particulars but not in their overall message. That message — that anyone promising miracles or salvation in this hopelessly diseased and drug-dependent world is a snake-oil huckster — is relentless to the point of wearying, but the music is vibrant and diverse enough for it not to detract. King is able to integrate swatches of Philly soul ("Hollywood") and loungy exotica ("Lullaby Blues") into his fabric without them seeming out of place — "Americana" in its truest sense. "Wreck of the Century," the lead single, is best of the lot in its epic avalanche of sound and neatly summarized refrain. Another highlight, the gospel-rock thriller "Jesus the Bookie," is miles beyond anyplace Lyle Lovett ever wandered within the genre; the subsequent titular instrumental that closes the disc is necessary just to let everyone blow off their accumulated steam. All Children Believe in Heaven is an astonishingly powerful listen, a potential soundtrack for an unmade Jim Jarmusch film, suggesting that Bocephus King could be as canonized as Dylan and Springsteen if his visionary material weren't so desperately obscure. Indeed, this album was completed in 2003 but did not hit the U.S. at all until 2005, an unfortunate burial of what should easily have been one of the year's most highly regarded albums.

All Children Believe In Heaven, Bocephus King
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