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Old 07-14-2008, 09:13 PM   #1
RM
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Default Rolling Stone reviews : Sundown

I loved these things.

Sundown
---------

Sundown is a fine album which weaves conventional folk and pop strands into a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The polish of Lightfoot's singing has tended in the past to undermine the seriousness of his songs, inviting the listener to appreciate his records mainly as aural artifacts rather than explore their contents. But most of Sundown's 12 songs are so evocative that they prohibit such easy perusal.

Lightfoot's singing is almost crooning—a style which under-states and redeems the rhetorical and sentimental conventions intrinsic to all formal songwriting. Producer Lenny Waronker has outdone himself helping Lightfoot achieve a balance between surface and substance, by providing a varied instrumental palette, richly acoustic and adorned by some excellent string charts from Nick DeCaro.

Lightfoot's reflections are those of a mature man, capable of strong romantic and political emotions, tempered by a suave sexuality and an elegiac mysticism. "Somewhere U.S.A." is a lovely evocation of romantic complications experienced during the daze of travel. "High And Dry" also celebrates travel and uses the image of a ship and its different skippers to affirm continuities. The six-minute "Seven Island Suite" is the album's most ambitious cut, and presents an elusive apocalyptic vision. More incisive are "Sundown," an ominous assertion of sexual jealousy, and "Circle Of Steel," a protest song about the antagonisms of welfare and poverty.

The album's last and most powerful cut, "Too Late for Prayin'" is perhaps Lightfoot's finest creation. A modified hymn, somewhat reminiscent of Paul Simon's "American Tune," "Too Late" is both a prayer for our spiritual restoration and a lament for its absence. It is the work of a master craftsman whose endurance and prolificacy have yet to receive just recognition in the United States. (RS 156)

STEPHEN HOLDEN
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Old 07-15-2008, 08:42 PM   #2
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Default Re: Rolling Stone reviews : Sundown

I'm sure everyone here would agree there's not one bad song on Sundown. Especially Seven Island Suite & Too Late for Prayin'.
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Old 07-17-2008, 10:44 PM   #3
geodeticman.5
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Default Re: Rolling Stone reviews : Sundown

RM - thanks for posting this; I like 'em too, good memories.

Great review; this one I could not agree more with on almost everything. If I am not mistaken, other pundits spoke of this and COTS as Gord's "Broad-Brimmed" period, certainly among his finest of this sub-genre he cut a swath with himself, with success I'd add ( duh, ya think ? LOL) so to speak, imho. I think that designation is in keeping with the comment about the voice of the "mature man .. [with] suave sexuality....strong romantic and political emotions" seems in keeping with "Broad-Brimmed" as another "spoke" of this period wheel.

I don't know about the suave sexuality; I'll leave that to the swooning ladies , but clearly his lyrics are more....mature in nature than previous albums.

I also find it interesting that speaking of IF... previous albums and the more polished voice of them was [sic] so good that the writer is correct; it did tend to be so polished that it distracted....somewhat.... from the powerful messages and lyrics' conveyances. I know what they're saying, but I wouldn't go that far. I guess an erudite
professional writer can't just say what comes to mind for me regarding the UA period - "I don't like it as much" (as a body of work, compared to his Warner years), howsomever.... there were some manificent works IN the UA period we all know and have individual lists of course. It goes without saying many like the UA period better, and I can think of some good reasons as devil's advocate.

I have thought of this in other threads where, to me, the mixture of controlled vibrato from ODR - COTS imho were a brilliant use of his voice that WAS otherwise almost TOO good. Sundown wouldn't have the power and... masculinity ? that it does if he were to have sung it all in tight clear and pure vibrato. In other words, that ain't no choirboy song...LOL .

A friend once said in High School around '75, when I played Gord's Gold I second LP (Warner originals) for him, and he was not familiar with Lightfoot other than the huge hit songs from Sundown, he listened to "Beautiful", and "Softly" (OK from the UA re-recording LP 1 on the latter), which, I'd say are illustrious of, as the reviewer intoned, his more [perfect] voice songs, I'd wager, and his first comment was something very much like "Damn, his voice is SO good....., its like perfect. I had no idea he did stuff that sounded like this after getting to know who he was by Sundown "....

LOL I gotta tell you I just caught a potential Freudian-slip above what with the talk of the sexuality in Sundown..., I initially keyed in erroneously and with no intention "Sindown" , not "Sundown" ROFLMAO...no it is not sinning .... just funny that came out of my less-than-perfect keyboarding ..... hehe).

My friend might not have known it was the same guy were he to have heard Sundown, followed a few minutes later by the two above songs... . So then I played some more "important work"of Gord's, notably CRT as I recall, and asked him about the lyrics and his thoughts on it.

Mind you this friend was by no means a characiture of a totally-consumed-by-sports-and-girls with a vacuous mind, rather, despite being voted things like best-looking senior guy, most likely to succeed, most popular, basically BMOC with a good mind as well as his pick of dates for prom....I say that only euphemistically, and I do NOT wish to thoughtlessly relegate the ladies reading this to being spoken of as a coveted prize trophy awarded to the guy who scored the game ball last Friday night's b-ball, but instead attempt to paint a picture of this guy as a listener.

So, he was intelligent, thoughtful, but was not accustomed to rallying with the no-Nuke's of the day, or plight of the Native North Americans, be it Innuit or Alluit (sp?) up North, or Mohican et al in Ohio, where we were. Point being, you're wondering by now, is that he was in fact distracted by Gordon's remarkably good voice that , when he chose the vibrato throughout the song, or sang in his "most trained" voice, what the reviewer above may have been somewhat true about casual listeners' being potentially distracted by "aural artifacts" ( I like that, sounds like my teeth LOL) and missing the powerful lyrics of especially the more "important" songs.

I also think, which I believe our senior member Watchman would perhaps agree, that the SONG (the)"Watchman's Gone", am I mis-stating the title ? - could easily have been a hit single I think. I think the song would've been a very successful single, albeit competing with the two songs on the table strongly holding their own allready, with what I believe was artful timing .

- I think the single Sundown played to #1 before they released Carefree Highway, tell me if I am wrong. A third ? Why not.... Watchman the song had imho the same powerful , roughcut "Broad-Brimmed" set to his jaw, evoking memories now to me of subsequent songs in times yet to come back then, such as in Endless Wire the song, and Baby Step back.

And... arguably back in the supposedly distracting "perfection" of his vocals in vibrato and clarity of the UA period, there are some "don't mess with me, son" intonations lyrically and by style as well (short read: skipping vibrato) in songs such as, oh I don't know - "Crossroads" - to me a quintessential working man's song, of which there were many others that the UA period fans remember all better than I .

I like the way Festus said it in Gunsmoke on TV regarding unbridled male chest-thumping, or pride, and he** with the man-haters who would deprive or deride a man for his true, deep-down, no-foolish pride in his overall sense of self as masculine, and it being displayed autonomically, not intentionally or with hubris either, well as Festus' ort of wisdom anyhow - "He's proud of bein' a growed-up man, just like them there Rooster's up on the roof a-struttin' around with his spurs a janglin' like a tough cowpoke a-swaggerrin' into the saloon; ain't a thing wrong with it"

LOL Well thats a bit extreme a comparison but Gordon simply stated I believe cut three "more masculine" albums 73 - 76 even, comparitively I think, to other albums which I surely do not infer were deficient in any way whatsoever; just in juxtaposition side-by-side, different.

Lastly - I like the way the reviewer hit on the head what Gordon in concert has called his "more etheral songs" and/or a "walk down shrink alley" by saying a few of the songs were mystical and elegiac" - shades of "Is There Anyone Home". Also - I'd agree that "Too Late for Prayin' " is a contender for one of his best works, my recnt yardstick being that I have watched the youtube vistory of this song conservatively 5 times more than any other.

And with so many incredibly good vistorys done thus far, thats saying alot. Thanks again RM for posting the walk down memory lane - and of a reviewer with a head on their shoulders.

Last edited by geodeticman.5; 07-17-2008 at 11:00 PM.
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