By JOAN CROWDER
taken from News.Newspress.com
Gordon Lightfoot just 'Passing Through'
WHEN: 7 and 9:15 p.m. Friday
WHERE: Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St.
Gordon Lightfoot's audiences are a mixed bag these days. Three decades after the singer-songwriter's coffee house beginnings as a stalwart of the folk era of the early '60s, his music is now pegged as "adult contemporary," Lightfoot said in a telephone interview from his home in Toronto.
"When we tour, there are always quite a few folkies in the audience and there is a certain curiosity quotient."
Two shows Friday night at the Lobero Theatre will begin an ambitious tour for Lightfoot and his backup musicians, who will appear at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, in San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area, Northern California, Nevada and Portland, Ore. They will return to Toronto in early July.
The group performs in concert about 50 times a year. "We like to keep the pressure on. There's not a man among us who doesn't love to play," Lightfoot said. His band includes guitarist Terry Clements, bassist Rick Haynes, keyboardist Mike Heffernan and drummer Barry Keane, who haved tour and record with the singer-songwriter and have joined him at various times as his bands changed. They have been his core group for several years. Lightfoot plays a variety of acoustic guitars.
The songs on the CD "A Painter Passing Through," which was released last year, have a strong autobiographical tone -- only natural at this point in his life, Lightfoot said.
"Near the end game of the career, it's OK to reflect back on what a time it's been. I turn 60 this year. I've settled down now and I'm in the great position of being able to make my own albums. I enjoy being able to have that ability to keep touring and keep writing."
The title track, "A Painter Passing Through," is the most autobiographical, the songwriter said.
The lyrics tell his story: "I was in my stride, always at my game/ here comes Mr. Cool, along the walk of fame/ I was in demand, always in control/ The world was in my hands, my touch had turned to gold."
But the refrain brings it into perspective: "If you want to know my secret don't come runnin' after me/ For I am just a painter passing through in history."
Lightfoot has recorded 19 albums, but he's most excited about a four-CD anthology that will be released in the fall by Rhino Records, a division of Warner Bros., which has produced all but a few of his earliest recordings. In addition to his well-known songs, such as "If You Could Read My Mind," "Sundown," "Carefree Highway" and "Summertime Dream," the anthology will include 16 previously unpublished songs. "These are songs that were cut from albums or were in demo stages previously," he explained.
When he returns to Canada in July, Lightfoot will perform a 55-minute live anthology on a Toronto TV station. "It will continue to be played afterward on radio and TV," he said. "It will be the most important thing I've done."
Lightfoot's songs have been recorded by an array of legendary singers, including Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary and Barbra Streisand. Marty Robbins had a hit with Lightfoot's "Ribbon of Darkness" and Elvis Presley with "Early Morning Rain."
A new dance club cover of "If You Could Read My Mind," which was a hit in the early '70s, was on Volume 2 of the soundtrack of the movie "Studio 54" last year and ended up on the charts again for 35 or 40 weeks, he noted. "It was even on the charts in Europe. It was number one in Spain. For some reason, the movie didn't do too well, but the song sure did."
Lightfoot's sound has changed with the times. Although the lyrics on "A Painter Passing Through" have the personal tone of his earlier folk songs, the musical mix is contemporary and the beat more lively. Lightfoot says he has mixed feelings about the technical quality of his own early recordings, and he takes the blame. In those days, he eschewed the refined, big studio sound, he said. "We would go in with our own little unit to retain our identity by trying to keep the folk-country sound. That was the intention, but in many ways it ended up underproduced. Had I been more liberal, it might have been technically better."
He recorded five albums in the first four years in the late '60s and early '70s, but then slowed down the pace. "Your plate gets full, with the responsibilities of family, and your work takes longer."
Lightfoot has been married twice, first in 1970 and again in 1989 and had six children. "I keep in touch with everybody," he said.
Lightfoot's long career has had its ups and downs. In the late '80s he went through a period of reflection on both his music and his life, he said, but he never dropped out of sight. "There was a time when I threatened to stop, but it became a rumor, so I changed my attitude."
He has tried acting but is his own worst critic. "I didn't like what I saw," he said. "I took a couple of shots at it, with Bruce Dern in 'Harry Tracy' and on TV's 'Hotel' with James Brolin and Connie Selleca, where I played an itinerant country musician. Brolin was a good director and it was a lot of fun, but I'm not going to do it again."
Lightfoot has received five Grammy nominations and 17 Juno Awards (the Canadian Grammy). In 1997, he received Canada's Governor General's Award for "international
efforts in spreading Canadian culture."
While his popularity has been about the same in Canada as in the U.S., Lightfoot feels close to his roots in Toronto. "I like the city's multicultural character," he said.
His music has ranged "up and down the musical totem pole," he noted. "My recent work is classified as adult contemporary, though some people still refer to me as a folkie. But I've had stuff in the mainstream and in the country field, so I guess I'm in the middle somewhere, but anywhere on a totem pole in this business is fine by me."