Gordon Lightfoot Album Reviews

by Peter Goddard - Toronto Star


        There seems to be a time lag between what people think Gordon Lightfoot's doing and what he thinks he's doing.  And now, with the release of his latest album, Summertime Dream, it would appear that even his record company has been left behind.
        Several months ago, before the album was complete, Lightfoot intended to call it Race Among The Ruins, a name taken from one of the songs.  But in the interim he either changed his mind about the name, or was persuaded to change it.  Yet while Summertime Dream is a sweetly evocative enough name, it completely misses tha album's tone.  The album is not only among the best he has ever released, it's also among the most important.

        His work over the past year has grown in stages, the most recent being a period when he consciously worked at writing pop songs such as Sundown.  It was as if Lightfoot, always a strong melodist, had learned to fill out his previously spare songs with a more complex texture, adding an extra dimension to his work.
        Summertime Dream however is an important departure from this format.  It's an extension of his pop work in a way, but it represents something new in his thinking.  For this album, he seems to have been working with the texture itself, writing not just songs, but minature tone poems.  This is the first time, in fact, that he's produced an album which must be heard as a whole, that has several layers of meaning (both musical and verbal) happening at once.
        It's a sophisticated work but one, because of Lightfoot's discipline and love of melody, that seems simple on the surface.
        The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald is one example.  Ostensibly the song is a part of the singer's ballad tradition.  But where in the past he would merely have strung out the tale along a line of identical verses and choruses, here he evolves the story in a way that allows the music to bring increasing tension from beginning to end.  The song grows, and the mood of forboding grows with it.
        There are plenty of potential hits on the album, the title song and Spanish Moss among them.  But the LP offers much, much more than these.