August 25, 1999
Songbook [Box] *
Rhino Records (1999)
taken from www.launch.com
It's a real shame Gordon Lightfoot's biggest hit was the
shipwreck ballad "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald." As a
result, many still dismiss him as a kind of freshwater Jimmy Buffett:
singing the praises of brave sailors in a pleasant light-rock style.
The truth of the matter is that Lightfoot has been sharing his fine sense
of melody and rich lyricism over the course of 19 albums in some 30 years
(so far). That's why this excellent 4-CD box set is so welcome. The 88
tracks here firmly establish Lightfoot's rank with the best of the
"singer-songwriter era," alongside Bob Dylan, James Taylor, and
Joni Mitchell. Hell, as Lightfoot himself notes in his liner notes'
song-by-song commentary, his song "Early Morning Rain" was even
covered by Elvis Presley!
Besides gathering his best-known songs (many in their originally released
versions not found on his greatest-hits collection Gord's Gold), this set
includes judiciously selected unreleased tracks and rarities. From
"The Mountains And Maryann" to "Borderland" to
"Waiting For You," Lightfoot emerges as a troubadour in the
classic sense: a musician both fascinated and tortured by the road,
endlessly yearning for loved ones who always seem to be somewhere down the
line. With this in mind, "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald" is
put in perspective. It's not so much about the boat, but about the
travelers lost on the journey.
Sure, some of his '80s work suffers from heavy-handed production in an
apparent effort to "keep up with the times" (which explains the
incongruous New Wave synthesizer on "Cotton Jenny"). But the
same can be said of many of his contemporaries. Thankfully the songs are
always strong, and the singer comes through as an honest and treasured
voice, particularly on the immediate and arresting material from his last
This review was written by Tim_Sheridan
who gave it a rating of 7 out of 7.