1964, 1966, Music

Lightfoot! (1966) by Gordon Lightfoot

Gordon Lightfoot was born in 1938. He was relatively old when he released his debut album. And, though this shouldn’t matter, it’s really apparent in 1966, when this was released. Because something happened in the early ’60s after Lightfoot began his career, while he was refining his style, recording his debut but, importantly, well before it came out. And that something was Bob Dylan.

Lightfoot is one of Canada’s great songwriters. Some (not me) consider him Canada’s greatest. He was certainly the first notable songwriter Canada produced.

But Lightfoot is a pre-Dylan songwriter. He grew up listening to music of a certain era, and he got his start writing songs inspired from that era. He was already an aspiring musician when Dylan changed songwriting. Compare that to Neil Young, who was still a teen when Dylan debuted, or even Joni Mitchell, who was in her later teens, but still at an impressionable age.

Why am I making such a big deal about this? Because, in January (or March) 1966, this was a conservative folk record. Sure it was recorded over a year earlier, and it would have been less conservative had it come out in 1964. (It would have been pretty normal depending upon when it came out in 1964.) But, by 1966, Dylan had already gone electric. And before that he had completely revolutionized English song lyric writing. And Lightfoot’s songs are from an earlier time.

This does not mean they’re bad for a second. They are good songs, he is a good songwriter. But this is the sound of someone who is divorced from his time. (He wasn’t the only one.) And it’s super weird to listen to it in context.

Now, one positive of all this is there’s no “folk rock” on here either. The record is just a man and his guitar (and occasionally another instrument) and so fortunately dates better than a number of contemporary’s efforts who also hadn’t learned they didn’t have to write in the old style.
Anyway, it’s a good set of songs just passe.

Oh, and funnily enough, I think I know the Elvis version (or some over-produced version) of “Early Mornin’ Rain” better than the original, which feels like some kind of crime.

7/10 because it’s not his fault the label wouldn’t release it for ages.

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