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Old 07-15-2008, 12:02 AM   #1
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Default Rolling Stone reviews : COTS

Remember that time ? Personally, this album holds a special link to the past. It was the only Lightfoot album that I ever received as a gift. A college-days roommate managed a record shop and presented it to me as soon as it had arrived in his store. I didn't even know it had been released. Talk about delighted........

Cold On The Shoulder

For a decade now, Gordon Lightfoot has been a neo-folk hero in Canada. His early records and performances were distinguished by a rugged romanticism that charmed Canadian ears. But aside from Peter, Paul and Mary's cover of one of his best songs, "That's What You Get for Loving Me," Lightfoot remained obscure in the United States until Warner Bros. ace producer Lenny Waronker sophisticated his sound.

On Cold on the Shoulder, the fifth Lightfoot/Waronker collaboration (with time out for a Nashville album with Joe Wissert) all the standard components are present: The strings and/or steel guitars are genteelly laid over the strumming of Lightfoot's 12-string guitar; the rhythm section churns lightly underneath while the singer pours his winter-brandy voice through original songs depicting an ever lonely, ever rambling rustic. Waronker thus retains Lightfoot's folksy base while refining his surroundings to the point where the singer is actually working in the same acoustic pop idiom as the seemingly slicker John Denver.

But really, there's not much more going on here than on Denver's records. Lightfoot's a craftsman, not an artist, and he works within rather narrow confines at that. Eloquence is rare for him and conviction is more a suggestion of his vocal mannerism than anything substantive. Throughout Cold on the Shoulder, and his Warner Bros. albums in general, Lightfoot comes up short in dramatic impact. On Cold on the Shoulder we're left with music of homogeneously rounded monotony, without even a likely change of pace (like the appealing "Sundown" and "Carefree Highway" from his last album, Sundown) until the very last track, the lusty "Slide on Over." On this track, finally, Lightfoot seems to have his eyes open, and he sings with his mind as well as his larynx and nose.

Despite the opinion of some longtime Lightfoot buffs, no corruption of natural talent has taken place here or on Lightfoot's previous Waronker-produced albums. Aesthetically, you can't fault the producer for his city tailoring of the rural Lightfoot sound—dull, pleasant pop is still preferable to dull, austere pseudofolk music. (RS 186)

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Old 07-15-2008, 04:15 AM   #2
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Default Re: Rolling Stone reviews : COTS

great album, but this review doesnt seem to say much about it!
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Old 07-15-2008, 07:08 AM   #3
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Default Re: Rolling Stone reviews : COTS

Three great interesting reviews RM thanks for posting them...
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Old 07-19-2008, 05:55 PM   #4
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Default Re: Rolling Stone reviews : COTS

Brings sophistication to Lightfoot? He's actually saying there's nothing sophisticated about his UA material?? Another nitwit!

I have my own lyrics at home and compared to Gord's 60s lyrics,they're fairly ameteur. Good but not as good as Gordon's by a long shot.
"A knight of the road,going back to a place where he might get warm." - Borderstone
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Old 07-19-2008, 07:55 PM   #5
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Default Re: Rolling Stone reviews : COTS

I think the remarks about Waronker's contribution to Lightfoot's success are completely justified. That topic has been discussed here before, and perhaps "enhanced" would have been a better choice of words than "sophisticated", but Waronker definitely focused on the music first and not commercial success. In fact, when Lightfoot received his (dang....what was the one where Dylan introduced him ?) award, Waronker was included on his list of 'thank-yous'.

Last edited by RM; 07-19-2008 at 08:03 PM.
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Old 07-19-2008, 10:55 PM   #6
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RM - thank you again for posting this review as well.

Rather than a longer opinionated tome of my read on this review like I did on Sundown and DQ's favourable reviews, followed by indignance and an attempt at humour with the "put up your dukes, sh** for brains" I brandished on the Endless Wire blast, this one I'll [I]try[I] to keep short LOL and with better temperament. I will also try to allow as how the man is entitled to his opinion.

Not an artist ? Not any eloquence in Lightfoot on COTS ? I'd challenge "Bud" to give a plausible hypothesis on the rife metaphors, analogues, allegory, and even spiritual/religous possible interpretations of the very complex and thought-provoking quality of just ONE song off of COTS - "The Soul is the Rock" - a song that seems a distant but nevertheless lyrical concept-cousin to "Too Many Clues in this Room".

Comes up Short in dramatic impact ? Again , just one example - "All the Lovely Ladies" - somewhat deeply imbedded in that song are some very strong, and compassionate thoughts/wishes/prayers (as you interpret yourself) for the many profiles in society Lightfoot sends his hopes of "Heaven can be yours, just for now," even just around the bend, even for the heavy rounders with a headache for their pains, afraid to go around the bend" [paraphrasing by memory] and "bless you all who answer to the letter of the law, and those of you imprisoned by mistake" [again by memory] - carry in and between the lines a strong sense of compassion for his fellow man by Lightfoot imho.

In general, despite acknowledging severalqualities past and present of Lightfoot, I think this reviewer finds COTS to be comparitively banal and mindless, though in fairness these are not his words. hmm

OK well I disagree.

I do not think GL was close to working in the same pop idiom as the seeemingly "slicker" John Denver. I am reminded of Denver's purported response to an intervewer's question as to whether Denver was as genuinely concerned and active on environmental issues as he was said to be. Story has it Denver responded by laughing with an evil smirk, crushed his beer can, nd through it out the open window behind the chair he was sitting in,by Denver ostensibly on his own property. True or not, likeable or not on some songs as Gordon to some folks out there, I find the entire approach and results by Denver et al to be resoundingly different than Lightfoot.

I am comfortable with metaphors on voices if they are reasonably descriptive, such as the accurate description I have heard of Don Henley's post-Eagles voice: that of "smokey Bourbon"- seemd dead-on of one of my other favourite performers/writers.

But at risk of revealing my poorly-informed lay understanding of these metaphors and analogies for singer's distinctive voices, I have to say I don't get "winter brandy" at all.
Call me ignorant, unsophisticated, "rural"-needing some city-slickering-up by producers myself. I guess I am in good company.

I think Waronker contributed some wonderful things to my favourite Lightfoot period, that of '70 - '76, '72-'75 if I had to throw the dart closer to the bulls-eye. And I think they were GREAT in this GREAT album of Gord's, one of my strongest short-list favourite albums.

Well, I missed my goal, but I hope I displayed better temperance in this retort to pundit's jabs.... LOL . These negative (generally speaking) reviews only make me stronger in my own conviction of Lightfoot's masterful artistry... and genuinely unique music; far from unsophisticated. To each their own on their liking of songs, artists, and albums. . I dislike the image of Lightfoot reading a few of these, and smiling at'd have to have a thick skin in that business....

~ geo steve
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Old 07-21-2008, 07:29 PM   #7
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Default Re: Rolling Stone reviews : COTS

Just goes to show, Lenny Waronker's contribution to Gord's career can't possibly be overestimated. One of the best producer/artist combinations since Neil Diamond/Tom Catalano and The Moody Blues/Tony Clarke.
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