Wednesday, January 03, 2018

SUMMER SIDE OF LIFE



Gord goes Nashville on his seventh record, which sees him steering his sonic template on a jarring 180 degree turn toward the strains of bluegrass and country. Gentle, folky acoustic ballads are still present, though they now mix with more uptempo fare. The session crew expands to include some of the most respected singers/players in the revered Music City. Kenny Buttrey and Charlie McCoy, who had both worked with Dylan on Blonde on Blonde, John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline show up in the cast along with the Jordanaires. The transition suits Lightfoot as his voice slips comfortably into these genres, never sounding out of place. “Cotton Jenny” fully embraces the shit-kicker motif as he pulls off a minor coup with a killer hook, easily assimilated storyline and truly authentic delivery. You can almost smell the hay bales that one would imagine him surrounded with as he lays down his vocal in earnest, with a Buddy Holly hiccup thrown in for fun. This one later scored as a hit for Anne Murray, further proof of his effortless touch as a tunesmith that fellow artists could draw upon for radio-friendly material. Runner up for the most accessible selection here is the title track. The harmonized turnaround is reminiscent of “Does Your Mother Know?” and he deftly manages to balance weighty lyrical content with a very catchy melody. A creeping shadow slowly overtakes carefree time spent under the summer sun, with sadness hanging around the corner.

Lightfoot: "It's about guys going away to fight in Vietnam; that's the whole driving thought behind it. It's about saying goodbye to your girlfriend and your mother and not knowing if you're coming back--going through God knows what."

Regardless of the author's estimation (apparently it was not one of his favorites), it is a masterful four minutes of music.

And if you saw him now/You'd wonder why he would cry/The whole day long

Canadian themes are referenced (“Love and Maple Syrup”, “Cabaret” and “Nous Vivons Ensemble” which is sung in the style of stilted Diefenbaker French), storytelling is rich (“Miguel”, “10 Degrees and Colder”) and his innate ability to frame the complexities of a love relationship without veering into maudlin or clich├ęd territory is showcased in “Talking in Your Sleep”. Beautifully rendered, the classic harmonies of the Jordanaires are deployed perfectly at the mid-point.

Blending a number of styles successfully, this sits among his very best efforts. It is a must-own for anyone who is even a casual fan of his work. Pleasant surprises would continue unabated in 1972 as Lightfoot was embarking on an incredible creative run during this period.

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