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As If Love Was a Sword (b-sides)

  • reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Sep
As If Love Was a Sword (b-sides)
Sounds like … the classic, poetic folk of veterans like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, and Cat Stevens, from the singer/songwriter best known as the lead singer of Burlap to Cashmere.At a glance … these half-formed, demo-quality b-sides may appeal to fans of Steven Delopoulos' classic folk, but casual listeners should stick with the Straightjacket album.Track ListingAs If Love Was a Sword (alternate version)Do What You're Gonna DoLonely SkyBuried ChildDark CityGospel PloughCruxify the SoulWork to Be Done (album version)Rain Starts FallingAs If Love Was a Sword (album version)

We last heard from Steven Delopoulos in late 2007 with the independent release of his sophomore solo effort, Straightjacket, an album both brilliant and frustrating. Working in favor of the former Burlap to Cashmere front man is a rich, classic folk style that evokes legends like Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, and Cat Stevens. But the album's lyricism, though poetic and rife with spiritual imagery, was often impenetrable, leaving many listeners wondering, Okay, what was that about?

A little over a year later, made available As If Love Was a Sword, an "exclusive" collection of b-sides available to download for whatever you want to pay. How exclusive is it? After four months, there's still no news or information about these rarities at Delopoulos' official site.

Like most albums of this kind, As If Love Was a Sword is a serving of leftovers for those who enjoyed the meal the first time around. Of course, leftovers are rarely as good as when they were first served. And these tracks are a little more hit-and-miss than a typical b-sides release.

The title song appears twice here, both the original bombastic waltz from Straightjacket and a warmer, gentler version reduced to acoustic guitar, synth strings, and just 1:40 in length. The prophetic vision of heaven remains powerful—"All the wandering sheep will be found/And the mountains will tumble away"—but it feels more like an interlude or a demo than a full song. Same could be said of "Lonely Sky," "Dark City," and "Rain Starts Falling"; they sound like undeveloped idea fragments for better songs. As such, the songs are finished before they even get started.

The more fully formed tracks are considerably better, of course, though the best of them, "Work to Be Done," is nothing new, coming directly from Straightjacket. "Do What You're Gonna Do" is beautifully performed folk-pop, reminiscent of Burlap's "Eileen's Song," and the melancholic "Buried Child" is another standout. But the bluesy gospel of "Gospel Plough" has a rougher quality and sounds a bit too spontaneous, and "Cruxify the Soul" includes an informally delivered spoken word tribute to a musical mentor within the song—both are clearly demos that didn't make the final cut.

All of this isn't to say that these so-called b-sides can't be appreciated by fans of Delopoulos' impressionistic folk. It's all delicately performed with the singer/songwriter's considerable talents on display. Plus, it's hard to fault these tracks too much when they're available for virtually free. As such, while non-essential, these leftovers are likely still worthwhile to fans in search of a second helping of Straightjacket.

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