Gordon Lightfoot Album Reviews

by Richard Hogan - Circus

        When the dust had settled upon the pockmarked plains of the Canadian Folk Invasion, Gordon Lightfoot shouldered his 12-string and rode away.   He was the only real contender to survive, a lively combination of the woodsy Ian and Sylvia sound, the sure-fire attack of the Kingston Trio, and the writing flair of a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Tin Pan Alley.  What's more, his twisted love songs like "I'm Not Sayin'" expressed an attitude you could call masochismo: Lightfoot had melody, poetry, plus the rough vulnerability of James Dean in a rodeo role.   The boots were leather but the doe-eyed face begged for abuse.  With Lightfoot's drive and Warner's backing, how could he miss?
        Lightfoot generally has done well by his record company, which has allowed him in the course of nine albums to pool his studio skills with those of Randy Newman, Van Dyke Parks, John Sebastien and Ry Cooder.  On stage Lightfoot and his band may come across like Gordon and the Denim Mounties, but in the studio there's a slick assurance which nearly obscures the writer's remarkable compositions.  The ambitious production of "Endless Wire" makes the record sound so good the song topics can slip by your ears.  Lead electric guitar...prominent drums...even keyboards which, combined with Lightfoot's rhythm guitar-as-autoharp, seem to chime like a carillon.  It's all very controlled and it'll be great on the radio, but sound-baskers shouldn't overlook the desperate, introspective words and mood-swing musical accompaniments by a Paperback Cowboy whose career trail has no more Pike's Peaks to pass.
        Lightfoot's turned his eyes and his conscience around on himself.  His husky voice tells of a marriage gone sour, the kids in school overseas, memories of nights spent drinking and, he'd have us believe, wenching till daybreak; and of the dreams which link these strands of experience into a jumble of fragmentary images.  Just as Lightfoot's public persona is a mixture of pose and character, the strolling layers in his verses often can't tell living from sleepwalking. They inhabit songs with titles like "Dreamland."  "Daylight Katy" lives nine lives in her midnight world."
        In the sleeve photo Lightfoot wears smoked glasses, as if to cover the sensitivity his eyes can't disguise.   His lyrical expressions of guilt-shadowed sexuality wear the disguise of cryptic sea-images.  This haunted hitmaker may really be the tormented narrator of "Endless Wire", confronted suddenly with a chance for love:

              Down in the dark of a burnt-out soul
              There's a few good secondhand dreams
              Deep in the dark of a heavenly night...
              Where the sea runs green.

        Then again, he may really be the glib Gordon Meredith Lightfoot, hired minstrel to the mass modern court.
        Or maybe he's both.