Monday, June 18, 2012

"Summertime Dream" by Gordon Lightfoot (1976)

View the Premise & Ground Rules for Revisiting Vinyl.

Fun Fact: The title track made me want to revisit "A Mighty Wind."

Filed Between: Liberace and Lil John (Yay-ah!)

Key Tracks:
As noted in "High Fidelity," The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is one of the top five songs about death.  I'd Do It Again is an unexpected fun, catchy romp.

Obvious Filler & Swings-and-Misses:
I'm Not Supposed to Care and Spanish Moss - both lovelorn songs.  We will discuss further momentarily...

Gordon Lightfoot fits perfectly into what I call the "John Denver Effect" - so called because John Denver more or less created it and did it better than anybody.  It's a very unusual phenomenon - both mystifying and infuriating - like the Aurora Borealis or an ice cream headache.  This scenario happens when you get artists who are folk singers at heart, but write such catchy songs that they cross over into pop and/or country.  NOTE: Neither Jim Croce nor John Prine are included in this scenario, as Croce was a bluesman at heart and Prine is whatever-the-hell-Prine-is at heart.

Like Denver, Lightfoot could write amazing songs; he could also write incredibly maudlin, toothless songs.  The latter are the fodder many use to devalue the artist as a whole.  And that's sad because it's only one side and it's not the good side.  I noticed somehing while listening to "Summertime Dream" that I think applies to everyone who falls into this category - the love songs and lovelorn songs are the ones that make the gag reflex kick in; songs about pretty much any other topic tend to work well.

And the difference is quite amazing.  Let's look at two sets of lyrics from two songs on "Summertime Dream."  EXHIBIT A: "The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound and a wave broke over the railing and every man knew as the captain did too - t'was the witch of November come stealin'."  That line was taken from The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a song most definitely NOT about love.  Now let's check out a line from a love song, Spanish Moss.  EXHIBIT B: "I like you more than half as much as I love your Spanish moss."  You be the judge.  By the way, I don't think it was intentional (I really, REALLY hope it wasn't), but the lyrics to Spanish Moss come across like they're about pubic hair.  Here's another line from it: "Spanish moss hanging down, lofty as the sycamore you've found."  Again, you be the judge.

So, is it an album?  Yes.  The quality of the songs varies wildly, but the sound and the vision are consistent.  However, I do think this could have been a great theme album if Gord had ditched the cheesy love songs and focused on the very dark maritime motif he threaded through several of the tracks.

Up next, "Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player" by Elton John.

No comments:

Post a Comment