Sunday Concert Plus, 1993 Bear Family Records
01. In A Windowpane
It was the end of March 1969, Dwight D. Eisenhower had just died, John Lennon was holding a bed-in in Amsterdam, George Harrison had just been fined for marijuana possession in London, and Gordon Lightfoot was holding a three-day series of concerts at Massey Hall in Toronto on the 29th, 30th and 31st. Tickets were $300, $4.00 and $5.00, and every night was sold out.
The day before the concerts started, Lightfoot spoke to the “Toronto Star“. He said he'd just formed Early Morning Rain Productions to manage his affairs, and that Al Mair from Apex Records - the company that manufactured United Artists Records in Cnadam, was to head it up. This was Lightfoot's declaration of independance; he wanted more control over every aspect of his career. After he taped the concert on Sunday March 30th, he sent it to United Artists to work off his five-album commitement to them. Then Lightfoot's manager, Albert Grossman, negotiated a new deal witrh Warner Brothers, and - shortly after that - Lightfoot dismissed Grossman, leaving himself incontestably in control of what was now a career reaching its zenith.
The Warner Brothers contract would herald Lightfoot's breakthrough in the United States, but when he spoke to the “Toronto Star“in March 1969, he bemoaned the fact that his last concert tour in the United States had sold out virtually everywhere, even though he hadn't seen a cent from it. Ten thousand dollars alone had gone to a legal firm in New York, he said grimly. "I suppose I sound like a businessman," he concluded, "but it isn't true. Come to a concert this weekend if you really want to understand where I'm at."
The Sunday concert wasn't reviewed - but the Saturday concert was. The “Toronto Star“ despatched their music columnist, Jack Batten, now a Who Dunnit writer and movie reviewer on local radio, but then one of Canada's most perceptive music journalist. He had written an extended profile of Lightfoot for “Saturday Night“magazine a few months earlier that stands as one of the best pieces on the man.
Here is what Jack Batten had to say about the Saturday Concert:
Probably it's the utter Canadian-ness of Gordon Lightfoot that makes him so appealing to the rest of us, that enables him to pack Massey Hall with his roaring, worshipping devotees as he did Saturday night in the first concert of a three days festival ending tonight [Monday March 31st].
Lightfoot is the walking, breathing, singing, writing embodiment of Canada, as contradictory as the country, just as full of greatness and just as prone to tumbling fits of banality. Who but a Canadian, who but Gordon Lightfoot, could perform a song trhat is just plain magnificient, “The Canadian Railroad Trilogy“, and only a few moments later sing a song as patently a dog as “Divorce Country Style“?. And, of course, LIghtfoot write both songs - in fact, every song he performed.
Lightfoot handles language in the same way as that other eminently Canadian artist Morley Callaghan. Both men select their words from a 146basic narrow vocabulary, and the sound of their language is simple, even naive, but its cumulative impact is something more moving. In LIghtfoot's best songs, when all the simple words come together, as in "Bitter Green" and "Affair on Eighth Avenue" to mention two beauties, Lightfoot defines an experience in a way that seems ultimate and final.
The ideas reflected in his songs tend to come from a fairly small range and after a while you begin to recognise recurring Lightfoot themes. His songs say that woman's most satisfying relationships come from children, that wise men aren't always wise, that men are at their best in manly occupations, like driving trucks and talking in strange cafes, and that war isn't at all a manly pastime.
These ideas turn in variations in song after song, always sounding just a little bit different, always interesting, always welcome, always leaving the imprint of a fine craftsman at work. And for us, because Gordon Lightfoot is the working craftsman, the ideas themselves somehow also sound exclusively Canadian.
Colin Escott, Toronto November 1992