fans waited a long time for this one. Her last studio album on which the majority of the songs were new and original compositions was 1987's Don't Hold Back
, and one must go back to 1984's Watch Out!
to find an album on which she expressed her political views in her own songs across an entire disc. On Edge
is the writer of eight out of 13 tracks, and she is back to talking about the issues she has supported throughout her career. The leadoff track, "Fired Up!," explores the way in which "our society fails" children; "Planet Called Home" takes a historical look at global decline and what can be done about it; "1000 Grandmothers" naively but winningly posits the potential political power of little old ladies; "Kids Are Gonna Love" supports interracial and homosexual love; and "I Ain't Afraid" worries about the threat posed by religious extremists.
Politics also enters into some of Near
's cover choices. She reclaims Cheryl Wheeler
's anti-gun anthem "If It Were Up to Me" from the distortion it received at the hands of Garth Brooks
' Chris Gaines character, discusses AIDS in "Love Don't Need a Reason" (by Michael Callen
, Peter Allen
, and Marsha Malamet
), and reflects on the environmental cycle in Harry Nilsson
's "Think About Your Troubles." Employing a relatively spare production, she manages a variety of musical styles, from the rock of "If It Were Up to Me" and a cover of Timbuk 3
's "Standard White Jesus" to the a cappella of her own "Uh Huh" and the Latin American sound of her cover of Paul Simon
's "Further to Fly." There are even songs such as "Fired Up!" that recall the piano-based music of her earliest recordings. Edge
is a varied collection in terms of both its music and its subject matter. A few of the original songs are not fully realized, but much of the material is strong and written in the songwriter's characteristically forthright style, while the covers are well-chosen. After a long time, Near
has produced an album to rank among her early recordings, and with an unsatisfactory election result (from the viewpoint of her and her supporters) coming in the same season as the record's release, it couldn't have appeared at a better time.