Gordon Lightfoot Album Reviews

By Steve LaCrosse

        The album kicks off, as have many of his concerts, with a previously unreleased composition, "If It Should Please You."  As the author's lyrics and the album's title suggest the selected material in it's largely rerecorded form represents the best of Lightfoot's later compositions.  This collection includes his unlikely radio hit "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald" as well as a body of work for which the artist can be proud.  For the most part the new recordings are augmented by very little sweetening
(ie: additonal instruments or voices) beyond those present in the very capable Lightfoot touring company.  Therefore when we "settle on back" to listen, the mood which evolves is very similar to the excitement one experiences at a Lightfoot concert.
        It is certainly not difficult for Lightfoot's fans to find more than a few of their favorite songs highlighted in this collection.  In spite of the fact that it is often difficult to warm up to a well known favorite song when a subtle change has been made in the lyric (as evidenced in "Hangdog Hotel Room"), this situation can also bring a new vitality to the listener's experience.  Certainly the longevity of Lightfoot's career supports the belief that there was nothing wrong with the original versions of the songs that had kept us so enchanted. The artist felt that given the opportunity he should and could improve upon his work. 
The most outstanding feature of these recordings is that Lightfoot has paid particular attention to his diction while he sang the vocals live in the studio.  It is also clear that he felt fondly enough of his earlier material such as "The Pony Man" "Christian Island" and "Alberta Bound" to polish themonce more for our listening pleasure.  The most improved performance award should be assigned to  this album's new rendition of "Cherokee Bend."  As prolific as Lightfoot has remained over the years, it is easy to see how this compelling historical masterpiece of racial injustice could be overlooked.  This new version provides a long overdue reexamination to this, one of Lightfoot's many topical manuscripts.
        Lightfoot proves once again that he still deserves the romanticist's mantle that he so ably earned many years ago with this album's presentation of the rerecorded performances of "All The Lovely Ladies" and "Shadows."  "Endless Wire" and "Hangdog Hotel Room"  both stand as improved records with regard to their clarity and exemplify the Lightfoot band's ability to have fun with a syncopated rock beat.
        The CD is also noteworthy in that it contains four tracks (transferred in their original performance format) two of which are not available on the vinyl release of GGII.  Buyers will find these songs making their CD debut: "It's Worth Believing" "Baby Step Back" "Ghosts Of Cape Horn" and a track that presents Lightfoot in a uniquely bluesy mood: "Make Way For The Lady."  During his 1989-90 tour Lightfoot brought a moving rendition of this song to the stage and it subsequently stole the show.