Summertime Dream

Gordon Lightfoot

Reprise, 1976

REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


There are over 11,000 reviews on the Daily Vault.

I have written (if my count is correct) 363 of them, during which I have waxed poetic and enthusiastic about my favorite artists and bands. Jason says I give out a lot of high grades, and he’s right; I won’t review an indie album that’s not good. I’d rather say nothing.

But I have never – WE have never – done a Gordon Lightfoot review. It took the Bard of the Northlands dying to make me realize this.

“Well,” I thought to myself, “we’ll have to fix THAT.”

Thus cometh this review, hight my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Summertime Dream. Released in 1976 at arguably the height of Lightfoot’s chart success, it was recorded with a simple five piece band that included Terry Clements, Lightfoot’s guitarist for four decades. While some list Lightfoot’s genre as progressive folk, to me he is a storyteller who happens to have musical accompaniment, equal or superior to such luminaries as Jim Croce, Dan Fogelberg, and Harry Chapin. He’s at his best in stripped down numbers like “I’m Not Supposed To Care”... but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Because the first question has to be, has anyone in folk music – hell, anyone everywhere – ever come up with as powerful an opening pair of songs for an album as “Race Among The Ruins” and “The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald”?

“Race” is a powerful song whose musical tone is deceptively light; a deep and sorrowful song about someone who is losing everything, one infinitesimal bit at a time. It’s deceptive; it doesn’t seem to be much, and then the words begin to sink in. And “Wreck:...

What do you say about “Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald” that hasn’t already been said? It is the greatest musical elegy of our time, recorded in two takes. The lyrics are bone-chilling (my favorite: “The wind in the wires made a tattle-tale sound…”) Every single note is in place, nothing is extra, nothing is superfluous. It’s perfect.

The night Lightfoot’s death was announced, the Mariners’ Church in Detroit rang their “bells and chimes” 30 times – 29 for the men on the Fitz, 1 for the man who immortalized and mourned them.

There are other notable songs on Summertime Dream; I like the damned-be-the-consequences of “I’d Do It Again”, the haunting anti-war “Protocol”, the rollicking title track – really, there are almost no miscues here.

Lightfoot was, at his best, simple, powerful, and moving. Those three adjectives suit Summertime Dream very well.

Rating: A-

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