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Old 07-14-2008, 09:03 PM   #1
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Default Rolling Stone reviews: DQ


Don Quixote
Gordon Lightfoot may never seem to be doing anything all that unusual–his melodies tend to be simple, his subjects seldom original, his voice is nice enough but rarely lends itself to anything fancy, and in fact the whole genre he works in is anything but new. But Lightfoot, unlike virtually all other folk artists who started out successful in the early Sixties, has managed to mellow so gracefully (and without any need for a current comeback, or any gratuitous shots at rock and roll) that he's at his absolute strongest right now, as Don Quixote and the album before it bear witness. Even though–or perhaps because –what he does isn't nearly as unusual as the fact that he does it so well.

Lightfoot's music has gotten so tight and polished, all the while sustaining a deceptive sense of effortlessness, that the weaker strains of his early days have virtually disappeared. His sentimentality now seems genuine but controlled, and it is less dominant than in the past. He has learned how to avoid sounding self-indulgent in love songs, or affected when he sings about being on the road. His key to sidestepping the obvious pitfalls of his subject matter is the tough, quietly understated masculinity he's able to maintain throughout whatever situation he cares to describe. The toughness is something of a surprise, coming hand-in-hand with a relatively gentle sound, and the incongruity undoubtedly accounts for a good part of his mystique.

The rest of his appeal must certainly stem from his considerable gift for songwriting, which is easy to underrate. He combines the kind of voice that never seems to do his material justice with deceptive simplicity, a highly sophisticated ear for clever rhyme structures, and a unique knack for elevating subjects that could easily have been mundane. And, prolific as he's been over the past ten years, Lightfoot has never degenerated into hackdom. His writing, like the rest of what goes into his recordings, has improved steadily with age.

Starting around the time of his first and only hit single ("If You Could Read My Mind"), Lightfoot has assembled three albums of unassailable quality. The first, originally called Sit Down Young Stranger but retitled for the hit it contained, linked the excesses of his earlier work with a toned-down, more studied new sound that marked an enormous improvement. The next album, Summer Side Of Life, had a first side that should have been minted in gold, although side two never quite measured up. While Don Quixote is too evenly paced to match the best moments or dazzling versatility of its predecessor, it has no such noticeable lapses either. It is consistently good, beautifully produced, as well-played as ever (Lightfoot has added guitarist Terry Clements to his fine bass-guitar team of Rick Haynes and Red Shea), and a fitting next step in a career of steady improvement.

Certain structural strains from the past two albums tend to repeat themselves here, such as his use of the opening cut to present the album's dominant image of a romantic, mysterious traveler (here he's Don Quixote, last time the hitchhiking minstrel of "Ten Degrees And Getting Colder"), and the long, ambitious conclusion ("The Patriot's Dream"). In between, he seems to have shifted away from the straight storytelling he handles so well, using more mood pieces than usual (up for "Alberta Bound," down in "Looking At The Rain," and somewhere in between with the slow, dreamy "Christian Island"). The album has its closest thing to weak moments with the slightly mawkish "Beautiful" and melodramatic "Susan's Floor," which Lightfoot didn't write (Shel Silverstein did). But they are more than made up for by "Ode To Big Blue," a terse little ecological-style number about a whale.

"Ordinary Man" has a fine melody and sounds like a possible single. So does "Second Cup Of Coffee," indirectly telling a story of broken marriage with a typically clever refrain about reaching for the bottle versus reaching for the phone. It's the kind of song that sounds so immediate and familiar that you're certain you must have heard it before, the only question being where. But still it's as original as everything else he does, fresh and unique behind a familiar-sounding facade. I just don't know how he does it.

The fact is I can't quite figure out how he does any of it, really, but I do know that his material never wears out, just gets more interesting all the time. Gordon himself keeps getting better and better, and that's one knack I hope he never loses. (RS 107)

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Old 07-14-2008, 10:33 PM   #2
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Default Re: Rolling Stone reviews: DQ

Originally Posted by RM View Post

The fact is I can't quite figure out how he does any of it, really, but I do know that his material never wears out, just gets more interesting all the time. Gordon himself keeps getting better and better, and that's one knack I hope he never loses. (RS 107)

omigosh - talk about stating the obvious..

His belief in his music, himself, his lyricism and musicality that stands the test of time, a voice that adapts and breathes with the lyrics to suit the age of the poet, the humility of the soul, the life of trying to be all but finally giving in to the life of many facets to a life that make him The Man...

He's never gonna lose it..never..
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Old 07-15-2008, 08:46 PM   #3
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Default Re: Rolling Stone reviews: DQ

I sometimes wonder why anyone bothers to do album reviews. People will buy what they like and certainly no one wanted to buy Gordons albums "more" for a review.

If they didn't buy the album then it would be they're not a fan of he or ther music. I guess everyone needs a hobby to call a job.
"A knight of the road,going back to a place where he might get warm." - Borderstone
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Old 07-16-2008, 07:56 PM   #4
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Default Re: Rolling Stone reviews: DQ

I respect all opinions on this one, but in an otherwise very on-the-money way of praising Lightfoot as a truly unique, yet somehow, familiar "how DOES he DO that?" effortless (seemingly) eminantly listenable, tight, perfecting artist review; to describe the song "Beautiful" as slightly "mawkish" chaps my hide.

Its not just because of personal issues I allready mentioned in the "songs that make you cry" thread, but "Beautiful" imho is one of Lightfoot's most eminantly listenable, attainment of apparently effortless, melodically outstanding, best illustrative examples of what the reviewer was in fact describing among Lightfoot's very best unique qualities his music posesses.

To me its one of his gold standards of music to listen to with a loved one that truly captures the feel of love as "comfortable as a pair of favourite jeans" - or as Gord puts in other work - " hand in glove" . Otherwise - I found the article to be for the most part very accurate in recognizing what is so hard to put your finger on about his music - the unique, genre-defining, state-of-the-art,everything that folk could and should be, polished, tight, deeply moving, with the "everyman" easy-but masculine register that other writers have commented on too, somewhat mysteriously good music where the artist can actually sing well, write well clever phraseology that adds to the identity of the singularly mesmerizing "Lightfoot sound".

Is it overstating to call it that "Lightfoot feeling ?" I don't think so. "you've got that feelin' in your soul" - as Gord wrote in "Is There Anyone Home". So - whats my point ? Da**ed if I now, other than this review is remarkable perceptive where others have failed or shortsheeted Lightfoot seemingly because he COULD sing VERY well and WRITE very well and PLAY very well, and nothing frustrates the insufficient pundits' mental processes more than not being able to categorize and in turn stereotype and intrinsically therefor be guilty of prejudice by definition - his music is so GOOD and so DIFFERENT it defies even the "pro's" (reviewers/pundits) atempts to describe it, and in their inability, fall to the level of failing to admit that the music DOES tug at your heartstrings, and The Man does it in an understated quietly TRUE masculine way, as this reviewer recognized in a rare moment of singularly lucid analyses, that Gord is not intimidated or afraid of gentle, soft, loving music and lyrics, and having it come out as without question, sounding like a MAN, reflecting genuine masculinity in his music.

That, versus false machismo e.g. The Fabulous Thunderbirds' "Tough Enough" - even though I like that song.... which is almost humorously a false "jock-hall" attempt at bravado and testosterone-brandishing version of "manliness". Gordon projects more genuine "manhood" in his commonly gentle songs of the type the best fathers teach by example - nothing to do (necessarily) with football, fishing, hunting, or any "pre-requisite affectations" to "qualify" for manhood, but rather not fearing being strong enough to be gentle, brave enough to smile and speak quietly, and tough enough to love, speak of love, teach to love, and avoid facades that stand in the way of a woman loving a man.

All of these seemingly random and non-sequiter thoughts are admittedly thinking outloud at the readers expense, but claiming the right to self-expression, I feel all these things are typified best in the one song the reviewer gave lowest points to - Beautiful. The song is... truly... Beautiful. And I am not embarrassed to say it. After loving the same woman for 28 years, raising a wonderful daughter, and claiming most of the same friends I had 30 -45 years ago, I am not so insecure of my own masculinity as to say that the song is a "maudlin' gooey paen to women" - paraphrasing some of the critiques I have heard of it.

The fact that -apparently- more woman like it than men ( I think) does not in any way worry me as a man that it is one of my favourite songs of all time, and certainly of Gord's - and captivated my wife and I in a way that helped DEFINE manhood for me.

Over-the-top commentary of mine - probably, but my heart is in it, and I hope the intrinsic values of what I am saying are considered moreso than my imperfect delivery thereof. All things considered, the review is one of the most accurate I've read that is illustrative of MY view of Lightfoot's music by coincidence, and of course why I like it by and large. Thanks for the walk down Rolling Stone memory lane, RM
~ geo steve
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