GORDON LIGHTFOOT |
CNR Records 22 999062
If he'd done nothing else other than write Early Morning Rain and The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald, Gordon Lightfoot would have ensured his place in the infrastructure of the British Folk Club through innumerable renderings at floor spot level. Many will be aware of his poor health since the autumn of 2002 when an aneurysm nearly finished him off, but his has been a brave fightback helped in no small measure by a re-focusing on songwriting ("the only real refuge I've ever had anyway") with a vigour and passion that make this CD an utterly committed performance.
Harmony is Gordon's 20th album since 1966 and it's fair to say that since the mid-'70s, in much the same way as Tom Paxton, his material and delivery had become more safe, more pipe and slippers than angst and edge. That said, whilst many of his familiar themes are touched on - the natural world, people, places, love and loss - he still wields sufficient verbal precision to mark this out as a distinctive, impressive release which affords genuine pleasure.
An engrossing story teller, the spooky Flying Blind has as its subject an airman, his instruments useless, helplessly endeavouring to navigate the hazards of the great white North, whilst the gentle Couchiching celebrates his hometown of Orillia, Ontario in affectionate fashion.
The title track is a resigned piece of embracing self-knowledge and overall there's a dignity and a quiet stoicism that can only come when, as Richard Thompson would have it, you've got to the border. Thankfully fate turned Gordon Lightfoot back on this occasion to give him a renewed sense of purpose and to make Harmony the kind of record that earns an upgrade from mere 'enjoyable' to 'rated'.
Clive Pownceby - June 2004
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Well,I'll get right to my point. When I bought "Harmony" and then played it at home...I was stunned! I actually got more than I expected from it. From the opening title track to the fine closing number,"Sometimes I Wish",I listened to (what I now consider) A masterpiece of music & lyric! Being one who owns all 20 studio recordings,I like Gordon Lightfoot's style to begin with. Even into styles of Adult Contemporary and a bit of Rock but no one can pin "Harmony" down to one format. Which is what makes it so special along with the fact that G.L. is still with us to enjoy the outcome of his work.
The best songs overall in no particular order,"River Of Light","Inspiration Lady" (currently a video in Canada),"Flyin' Blind" and "No Mistake About It",as well as 2 live gems,"Shellfish and "No Hotel". Tops with me though because it was the greatest surprise on the CD,"End Of All Time"! A brilliant country rock song that harkens back to The Marshall Tucker Band style with a bit of Allman Brothers edge. It felt like it really was the 1970's for 3min and 41sec.!! I actually had chills.
Overall,I rate "Harmony" from Gordon Lightfoot,a Five Star classic! A classic that deserves a "lot" more attention in the United States than it's been getting for the past 10 weeks since it's release on May 11th,2004. "End of All Time should be a #1 hit here in my opinion and the CD too. Buy it andd I guarantee you will not be dissapointed,especially if you are a longtime Gordon Lightfoot fan.
Walter LaMont, Phoenix, Arizona USA
Great review of "Harmony" Clive, but you omitted to stress that this album is based on some solo demos Gord had made before his illneess and then coordinated the addition of the instrumentation by his band and co-producer Bob Doidge whilst laying on his back recuperating from follow-up operations. Nevertheless a remarkably satisfying album
John Fowles, New Jersey, home town Sherborne Dorset
'Harmony' is a Lightfoot renaissance! Truly a 5 star collection from a man who never fails to deliver quality. Since purchasing the CD, I am playing it non-stop, difficult to find a favourite track but 'Shellfish' is hypnotising me. Welcome back, Gord!
(A note to the BBC ... please play some of these excellent tracks on air.)
Bru Zanelli, Shirley, Surrey
Thanks for that addendum John - I wasn't aware of the earlier genesis of much of the material but you're right, it's such a 'just-right' album.
Clive Pownceby, Great Crosby, UK
I think Harmony is an excellent Lightfoot album. These folkies are getting on and so are we. I love to listen to them still crank out meaningful words of wisdom. keep it up Gordon!!
Jeff Peterson, USA but in UK now
He just played two benefitconcerts in the city he spent a year in hospital for Hamilton health sciencies. I went to see him and then bought the cd on the strength of the live performances. Hes not 100% but hes coming back. This set is far stronger then A painter passes through and has grown on me with repeated listenings. He over produces sometimes and makes it too slick sometimes but these honest vocals were well dressed.
Mike Leech, Hamilton Ontario
I was pleasantly surprised by this album. I've been a huge Lightfoot fan for nearly 30 years, but haven't been terribly impressed by his last few albums. This one has more slow stuff than I like; only one real "toe tapper", as Lightfoot calls his uptempo songs, "The No Hotel", which I think is a gem. Lightfoot's words don't speak to me much anymore, but I really like his melodies and all kinds of new chord progressions on this album. And, as usual, I love Terry Clements' guitar work.
Doug Nadvornick, Spokane, USA
I think Gordon Lightfoot's latest album "Harmony" is a masterpiece. The melodies are so masterfully conceived. I've been a Lightfoot fan since the sixties, and this album is a gem; it is such a joy to listen to and I find myself playing it whenever I can. Should I stray to another artist for a little while, I always return to "Harmony" because it is such a fine work of quality. My favourite tracks are "Harmony", "End of All Time", "Inspiration Lady", "Clouds of Loneliness", and "Sometimes I Wish".
We are so fortunate to have Gordon back with us. On May 20, 2005 my wife and I saw him play at Massey Hall in Toronto and believe me, the concert was just outstanding. He is so well loved here in Canada, and elsewhere in the world, of course. You could feel the great warmth between Gord and the audience - he was so glad to be back, and we were immensely glad to have him back! Someone shouted, "Welcome back!", and Gord smiled broadly and said, "Thank you!", and we all just burst out in applause. It was a great feeling.
We are very fortunate to have this album. As most of you know, Gord did the tracks in the recording studio before the health mishap, and the musicians would add their parts to the songs and bring the tracks to the hospital each day for Gord to listen to. For a while, because of the tubes which passed through his throat, he didn't know if he would have a voice left to sing with. But everything was successful, and we are all so much the better off for it. Cheers to you, Gordon - "Harmony" is a great album!!
Hugh Jarrett, Chelsea, Quebec, Canada
I have to say I was a little apprehensive when I found Gordon Lightfoot's latest album "Harmony" in the shop. Recent reports of his fight back from his illness had made me wonder if he would ever return to performing. Upon purchasing the CD and finding that it was a mix of Studio recordings he had made solo and added to and mixed before release, I was more than a little concerned what the final result would be. Upon playing my fears were soon dismissed. 'Flying Blind ' caught me immediately and as I played on the mix of Studio and Live recordings reinforced the quality of the Album. Stand-out tracks to me are 'Inspiration Lady ' Clouds of Loneliness ' and 'Sometimes I Wish ' On reflection, I feel the album had a more complete feel than his previous album ' A Painter Passing Through '. The tracks on that I liked most weren't written by Lightfoot. OK, he doesn't write songs like those on his '70s albums, but nevertheless he can still address themes in his songs as he did on albums like 'Old Dan's Records ' . It's an album I now play a lot and continue to enjoy as the songs become familiar, always a good indication for me of the inherent quality of the songs themselves.
Martyn G Miles, Witney, Oxfordshire
I can't say enough about Gordon Lightfoot or his body of work. He is outstanding and Harmony is one of the best. It's hard to pick a favorite but I especially like "Flying Blind". What a great artist!
Gloria Helderman, Kane, IL
I really don't know where to begin. Im sure that I am one of lightfoots younger fanatics being only twenty two, but I've loved Gordon for as long as I can remember. And truth be told, this album hits home like no one expected. Many of Lightfoot's long time fans were not particularly impressed with Painter Passing Through, so I'm sure this album was greeted with understandable skepticism. Home Run Gordon. This album is an aboslute masterpiece from start to finish. Personally "The No Hotel" and "Inspiration Lady" are the pieces that move me the most, but "Shellfish" is right up there with them. Long story short, Gordon gets to touch em all with this one. Great album all the way around. It's no secret that his voice is failing, and you could really tell that on Painter, but for some reason on Harmony, you didn't seem to notice it right away because the songs were so magnificent. Overall, its a must buy.
Kenneth Morris, Chicago, IL
Having grown up in Orillia Ontario and heard the stories of Gordon at school told by my mother, I have listened to him all my life. It amases me how little credit is given to arguably the finest song writer of the 20th century. His latest work is no exception. If you have never been to this little town in Southern Ontario Canada I suggest you go to really appreciate the music and feel what hes writing about.
Ron Pethick, Orillia On
I'd been in a Gordon Lightfoot groove for about two weeks, playing the old 2-CD United Artists package plus "Sit Down Young Stranger" (aka "If You Could Read My Mind"), "Don Quixote" and "Old Dan's Records" repeatedly, then going to my mp3 files on the computer and rearranging tracks in an order suitable to my taste. I couldn't get enough Lightfoot. That's when it occurred to me that I hadn't checked out more recent Lightfoot releases, nothing, anyway, since 1993's "Waiting for You," which I found inviting, but not outstanding. So I stopped by the library and checked out "A Painter Passing Through" and "Harmony." The former I found to be a step down from "Waiting." But when I got to "Harmony" ... well, I couldn't help but shake my head in bewilderment and disappointment. These tunes are tired and uninspiring, and the same can be said about the vocals. I remember being disappointed with the second volune of Gord's Gold because Lightfoot re-recorded the bulk of the tracks on the premise, I'd heard, that he thought they were improvements on the original. Unfortunately, I found the opposite to be the case. (OK, he also re-recorded a lot of the stuff on the first volume, but I didn't find those nearly as offensive.) They had lost their soul and vigor, especially "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." The countrified veneer, which now seems to permeate his newer work instead of distinguishing him from some pretty common stuff, has instead thrown him into a country-western malaise. But I digress. I love Lightfoot's early catalog ... it's packed with energy and purpose, it's solid balladeering and folkwriting and singing, the vocals are dynamic and sharp, and darn it ... it's inspiring and moving. So I can't believe the other reviewers have heard the same albums I have if they rave about "Harmony" and "A Painter Passing Through." I can't help but wonder if they are being apologetic, instead of honest. This is not Lightfoot at his best; it's tired and lost Lightfoot trying to hang in there. I admire him for trying, I suppose, and maybe he's just run out of gas and inspiration, but these new albums do not inspire me as do the raw, unencumbered vocals of the original "Canadian Railroad Trilogy," the ballads don't move me like "Song for a Winter's Night" or "If You Could Read My Mind." There is no shirt-collar jerker like "Magnificent Outpouring" or "Boss Man." And there's nothing substantive in these new releases for me to ponder like "Black Day in July" or "Don Quixote." I certainly wish Lightfoot well and hope he makes a full recovery -- both from the 2002 abdominal aneurysm and from the singer/songwriter doldrums. I'll be jumping up and down for him if he does.
Joe Konz, Indianapolis, IN
I grew up in Chatham, New Jersey. I am 53 years old. There was a time in my late teens and early twenties when ol' Gord was far-and-away my favorite singer. I bought a greatest- hits album at a local drugstore in 1970 after hearing an eight-track album that a bus-driver played the summer before as he drove around Haliburton, Ontario in August 1969. I was at a hockey camp, and the bus would take us to the rink in town twice a day. The song "Wherefore and the Why" is the one I remember best, and its haunting rendition hooked this young New Jersey boy for life. There actually was a radio station in New York City that actually played Gordon Lightfoot songs a fair amount back then, that was WNEW-FM, and the afternoon DJ was Scott Muni. Sometimes he would play three or four songs in a row, and those are some of my sweetest memories as far as the music of my youth is concerned. I have lost track of some of the musicians whose music I loved growing up, but I will give the Lightfoot album "Harmony" a listen-to. God bless you Gordon.
Patrick Andrew Quinn, Garland, Texas