Even if this is not a great album, it's a welcome one, and not just because it celebrates the happy fact of Gordon Lightfoot's continued existence. It also offers promise, one hopes, of better things to come. It is at least the ghost of Lightfoot's best work, those memorable recordings he did in the 1960s for United Artists and in the early to mid-70s for Reprise. After that, the sound faded off too often into what struck this listener as listless adult-contemporary pop, with arrangements both overdone and now horribly dated. Little of that shows up here, which is good news indeed.
On Harmony, Lightfoot is back to a sparer acoustic sound akin to the folk textures of the classic catalogue. Among the good songs here, not the least is the title tune, which I take to be about Lightfoot's fight to regain not just his life but his muse. "Flyin' Blind" is a nicely imagined modern ballad about a pilot's perilous flight over the arctic wastes. "Shellfish" is an exceptional song, vivid and moving, and the album's artistic high point.
On the other hand, "Inspiration Lady" is as uninspired as its title suggests, the one purely disposable cut. "Couchiching" suffers from some excruciatingly careless writing; it pains the ear to hear couplets that rhyme "hit you with a ping" and "your thing" with "Couchiching" (a lake in Ontario near Lightfoot's birthplace). The song itself comes across as more advertising jingle than anything else. It didn't have to and wouldn't have if Lightfoot had put more effort into the writing.
Though uneven, sometimes a bit tentative sounding, Harmony has its pleasures, and it grows on you. It marks, if not a full return to form, at least a solid step in that direction.