It's well-known that Roy Harper was left by his wife before the writing and recording of this album, and it certainly shows in the mood and subject matter of the songs. However, this isn't simply a mopey self-pity party. Harper is a true artist, and even when dealing with emotional relationship trauma he doesn't provide the stock, trite response that most musicians tend to churn out like they don't even care. Yes, Death or Glory is Roy's painful recoil in response to being burned badly by a catastrophe in his life, but he's still Roy, and there's much more to this album than sad love songs. The genuine emotion imbued in these songs because of Roy's state at the time of writing them lends this album a truly unique place in his astoundingly good catalogue and it's one of his very best records in the last 30 years.
The album opens with the torrential title track. In 2006, the production does sound a tiny bit off--Harper has favored a plugged-in acoustic sound since the mid 80's. I really prefer the sound of a miked acoustic since it sounds more natural, and the plugged-in sound bothered me at first, but has since really grown on me (probably because the writing is so good). Roy's equally-talented son Nick backs him up with some wicked lead guitar. This song has some great energy and rocks pretty hard for an acoustic-powered tune. I really love the poem excerpt in the middle. "The War Came Home Tonight" has some great political commentary that is oh-so relevant today. "Duty" is probably my very favorite of Roy's spoken-word pieces--compelling art. "Next to Me" has some awesome fingerstyle guitar that we've all come to expect from Roy.
"The Tallest Tree" and "Miles Remains," both tribute songs, are two of the album's most classic tracks. "Tree" was written for Chico Mendes, the Brazilian environmental activist. It's a great, positive, upbeat number with some great acoustic lead by Nick. "Miles Remains" is a genre-defying tribute to Miles Davis. Spacey and mostly instrumental, "Miles Remains" is a live favorite and a great use of space as music. "The Fourth World" is my favorite track of the album. It's a scathing indictment of the powers that be that's pulled off as only Roy could. Nick's acoustic lead cuts like a blade, and Roy's lyrics and fiery singing cut even deeper. The version on this CD includes better drums. Even though it's acoustic, this song rocks, and it rocks hard. "One More Tomorrow" is one of the most heartfelt and sad songs on the album, really summing up Roy's emotional state in a touching way.
A couple tracks don't stand as far out as others--"Evening Star" and "On Summer Day" aren't as musically interesting (although the lyrics are typically strong). "The Methane Zone" is really the only track that's not that great--the guitar sound just doesn't fit, and the lyric isn't quite as funny as many of Roy's earlier intentional throwaways.
Overall, though, this album is another Roy Harper classic. The singing is heartfelt and unique, the backing is tight and sometimes blazing, and the poetic writing is beautiful and worthy of much analysis. This album is highly recommended as one of his best 90's recordings alongside Once. Hope you check it out!