MUSiC: If You Could Read My Mind, Gordon Lightfoot, 1970

My CD.

Well, thanks to words of praise for Gord’, from my Canadian relatives, I finally got around to actually checking him out, a bit. This here ‘breakthrough’ album, from 1970, is where I’ve started.

He’s clearly a very talented singer, guitarist and songwriter. But he doesn’t immediately hit my aesthetic bullseye. My initial fears that he’d prove to be bland MOR have been mostly assuaged. But not expunged 100%.

That says, this is a fine collection of folksy country-tinged American – or Canadian, rather (mind, he’d relocated to L.A!) – ballad singer style music. Mostly acoustic. Only two tracks have drums; Poor Little Allison, and Baby, It’s Alright. Interestingly these might also be the two most dates sounded tracks, sounding very ‘60s.

The original wordless LP cover.

The pop/MOR vibe, notable in the two just mentioned numbers (Baby, It’s Alright reminds me a bit of John Sebastian*), is also manifest throughout, partly in Lightfoot’s vocal style, which is a richly smooth baritone/tenor, and notably in the string arrangements. Which are copious, though fortunately not overly syrupy.

I like it right from the get go; track one Minstrel of the Dawn immediately clicking with me. And next up is a Kris Kristofferson number, Me And Bobby McGee. Very ol’ timey and countrified. And terrific. Likewise, track three, Approaching Lavender is great, as well.

So, a very strong start. But the first number to really connect with me is track four, the melancholy slow waltz of Saturday Clothes. A lovely song. A keynote throughout the entire vibe is a gentle melancholy; totally up my boulevard!

Tracks seven and eight – Sit Down Young Stranger, the original title of the album, and If You Could Read My Mind, which became both his biggest hit to date, and the new name for the album – are clearly the two ‘flagship’ numbers.

Cobwebs And Dust, track five, and album closer The Pony Man, track eleven, are both almost nursery-rhyme like, both musically, and even lyrically. Of the two I find The Pony Man the more affecting.

In back of the ol’ LP.

Lyrically speaking, Sit Down Young Stranger reached me more than many of the others: ‘I had a million daydreams, to keep me satisfied. And will you gather daydreams or will you gather wealth? How can you find your fortune when you cannot find yourself?’ Beautiful!

The album ends strongly. Your Love’s Return, track ten, a strong contender for being one of my favourites, along with Saturday Clothes, Sit Down, Read My Mind, and the enchanting closer, The Pony Man.

On second listening I’m inclined to raise this from four to four and a half stars… very good! I expect I’ll be checking out more of his stuff, now that in know I like him more than I anticipated.

* Interestingly enough, John Sebastian is on the album, adding his harmonica to The Pony Man.

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