on April 13, 2005
Many in the music business call Gordon Lightfoot the "Minstrel of the Dawn," and this box set only scratches the surface as to why that is. His social conscience and his love for the environment is more than obvious in his songs, but what also comes through is his strong faith and that the two concepts are not at all contradictory.
The liner notes ... actually, a 60 page book included in the set, gives an almost exhaustive review of his career, as well as Lightfoot's own anectodes of the 88 songs that were selected for this collection.
When one plays the first two tracks -- "Remember Me (I'm the One)" and "It's too Late, He Wins," one could be almost fooled into thinking you're hearing Jim Reeves or Pat Boone. (Some friends of mine, who've heard me play this CD, got suckered as well). In truth, those two songs were actually Lightfoot's first hit singles, at least, they were on the country charts. But as the set moves into the next track, "For Loving Me," and goes on in chronological order, one really appreciates the variety and depth of this songwriter, whose music has touched the folk, country and rock genres.
Besides the many hit songs that have become standards ("Early Morning Rain," "Song for a Winter's Night," "Canadian Railroad Trilogy," "Did She Mention My Name," "I'm Not Saying," "Ribbon of Darkness," "If You Could Read My Mind," "Nous Vivons Ensemble," "Alberta Bound," "Sundown," "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," "The Circle is Small," etc, etc); Lightfoot has included the studio recordings of some of his older songs, including an acoustic version of "Bitter Green" (cut at the Bradley Barn in Nashville) that just blew me away for how understated his rendition is. There are also some songs that were, until this set, previously unreleased on any of Lightfoot's albums.
There are, admittedly, some glaring omissions in this box set -- including my favourite track from his 1986 album East of Midnight, "Anything for Love," as well as another favourite of mine, "Saturday Clothes" (that one from the early 70s). But there are also a few surprises as well. Some on this board haved called Canary Yellow Canoe a waste of space, but I found it very funny; and it does show Lightfoot has a funny bone as well.
It's interesting to remember that after Lightfoot signed his then record-breaking record deal with Warner Brothers in 1970 (an unheard of million dollars), his next album was supposed to be called "Sit Down Young Stranger" (the first track on CD 2 in this set), a rant against the Vietnam War ("War is not the answer and men must not die ... "), but the album was renamed when "If You Could Read My Mind" (arguably one of the greatest hurting songs ever) became a monster hit and "Stranger" became one of the more obscure songs in his repertoire. But that song is definitely worth a listen. In these troubled times, it still has the same powerful message.
I think a discerning listening public is thankful that Lightfoot survived his brush with death in 2002; and are delighted that, with all the trash Hollywood and Nashville is giving us today, (not to mention the pathetic East vs West Coast rap war), Lightfoot is touring again. His once soft singing voice may be somewhat gravelly now, but this box set lets us all remember a time when music really was great and songwriters actually cared about the message and not the medium.
Some of the A-listers appreciate those that came before them and put thought into their songs. One can only hope the rest gets this box set and gives it a listen ... then they might wake up.
However, as Lightfoot himself pointed out on Canadian Idol (on a tribute night to his music), his is a different kind of music and it does require some attention when it's being covered. He's got a point: after all, we all remember a certain hip-hop group tried a cover of "Read My Mind" and it was just horrible.
Well worth the price. Get it while it lasts ... this is one of those sets that could very well appreciate in value over time.
on September 7, 2002
I've been a fan of Gordon Lightfoot's work for thirty years, bought everything he released on vinyl, then replaced everything with CD's (finally, finally the final four old albums have been re-released this year on CD), and have seen him in concert at least half a dozen times. If I could have only one album of his to keep, this would be the one (okay, okay ... it's a 4-CD set so I'm cheating a little!). Even with 88 cuts on "Songbook", there are still a few songs that I wish could have been squeezed in (like several other reviewers, I particularly miss "Christian Island"), but their absence is more than compensated for by the inclusion of several previously unreleased works. To my ear, any of those unreleased recordings could taken a place on the original albums over the years without any apologies. The quality of Lightfoot's songwriting is perhaps unmatched in the modern era. Although his voice has shown the strain of years of performing (and perhaps hard living) as evidenced by the three decades of recordings in "Songbook", he still knows how to deliver a song with great effectiveness. If anyone is wondering what Gordon Lightfoot is all about, "Songbook" is the perfect place to start. And for longtime fans, "Songbook" is the perfect album to sum up everything you have loved about his music. Why did I rate "Songbook" with 5 stars? Well, the darned computer wouldn't let me give it 6.
on December 14, 2001
This is a terrific collection of Lightfoot songs, lavishly sprinkled with new releases. This is a much better collection than Gord's Gold and spans his early career to his latest albums.
It is divided into CDs which each cover a period during Lightfoot's career, so if you feel like listening to the best of his early days, you can enjoy that, or if you're in the mood for the "Sundown era" music it's all on one album. But the added pleasure of hearing new release intertwined in each CD is a special joy.
In some of the newly released songs you can hear that Lightfoot has lost some of the rich baritone that was the signature of his earlier albums. But it's still rich enough, and you'll find yourself engrossed in some of the newest songs.
I'm still looking forward to the release of the "lost albums" which never made it onto CD after they were released in the early 1980's. None of those songs were included in this set, but I understand that these albums will be released in 2002.
Any serious fan of Gordon Lightfoot will treasure this boxed set.
on February 19, 2000
I would like to start this review with a formal apologize to Mr. Lightfoot and all the great fellow fans for giving the "Songbook" box set only 3 stars. I bought my copy about half a year ago, just about the official release date. My decision was- to review it only now, after monitoring the amount of airtime this box set gets at my home.
At first, I listened to it quite a lot, enjoying immensely all the previously unreleased songs. But as time past, I noticed I preferred listening to the original albums rather then the box set. "Songbook" is divided chronological by the fine albums Mr. Lighfoot released over the years, while from each album selected songs were compiled for this set. When I heard one set of songs from a certain album moving on to the next album, I found myself too many times awaiting eagerly my favorite songs from that album, but they weren't selected for the box set.
I've noticed one reviewer giving the set 4 stars instead of 5, due to the absence of one song. I didn't think this was fair, since Mr. Lightfoot has created such a spectacular body of work, that the omission of one song in favor of another is more then understandable. But in my view, about 50% of the song selections should have been made in a different manner (not including the unreleased songs, which I consider as gems). In my mind, too many of Mr. Lightfoots most prominent songs that feature this master tunesmith at his best are absent.
Instead of those songs, inferior songs are present. I found myself too many times skipping songs, only to find out that the songs I am actually seeking for are not available on "Songbook". I found them once again on the original albums, which consumed "Songbook"s airtime.
I feel that each fine album of Mr. Lightfoot has its own unique dynamics, its own soul or spirit if you will. A Lightfoot album is best heard as a whole, the songs connecting with each other. This kind of spirit is definitely absent from this compilation, and I think the reason for it lies with the song selection.
In order to demonstrate my point, I will mention a few songs that in my view HAD to be on "Songbook": "Long River", "Oh, Linda", "Walls", "If You Got It", "A Minor Ballad", "Rosanna", "A Minor Ballad", "Home From The Forrest" (one of Mr. Lightfoots best), "Black Day In July" (in my view, one of the 10 best songs he wrote, and one of his most important songs), "Magnificent Outporing", "Does Your Mother Know", "Marie Christie", "Dont Beat Me Down", "Ballad Of Yarmouth Castle" (one of his best), "Minstrel Of The Dawn", "Miguel" (one of his best), "Talking In Your Sleep" (one of his best), "Christian Island", "Looking At The Rain" one of his best), "Ordinary Man" (featuring an excellent unordinary tune), "Circle Of Steel", "The Watchman's Gone", "To Late For Prayin'", "Rainbow Trout", "I'm Not Supposed To Care", and the list goes on.
I would like to point out that I am not writing this out of spite- compiling 88 songs from this mans incredible body of work is an almost impossible mission (also considering the addition of 16 previously unreleased songs + 2 rare songs), but I really think the song selection didn't do justice to this compilation. Lets take for example one of my most favorite Lightfoot albums: "Endless Wire". Only 2 songs from it are on "Songbook", the title song (a good song indeed, but isn't by any means great) and a re-recorded version of "The Circle Is Small"- that's it. Some of Mr. Lightfoots best songs are on this album, and they definitely should have been on "Songbook", namely "Dreamland" (one of his best) , "If The Children Had Wings" (one of his best), "Hangdog Hotel Room" and a strong case could have been made also for "Daylight Katy". In short, this album was neglected.
Other selections are odd, in that in my mind an inferior song was preferred over a much better song (what is "The Mountains And Maryann" doing here?). I would also like to point out that some more "simpler" songs were selected, that are in many cases the usual suspect for "best of" Lightfoot compilations, but in my view are inferior songs (especially compared to the songs I mentioned above as missing from "Songbook).
One major feature of "Songbook" that I marveled at and makes me proud to own this set is the superb sound quality- simply amazing. It is a joy to hear some of my favorite songs (that are here- don't get me wrong, I said 50%, and not 100% of the song selection is off key) like "Sit Down Young Stranger" at this sound quality- pure pleasure.
Another excellent feature of "Songbook" is the hardcover book, featuring great photos of Mr. Lightfoot throughout his career including comments of the master himself on his songs. Despite this, the packaging of this set would also get 3 stars, in that that it's incomplete. The sleeves of the separate jewel boxes are mere one-page "fliers", that don't do any justice to this set. The sleeve space could have been used as booklets containing more photos, additional material (such as articles about Mr. Lightfoot from trade magazines of that time) or if budget strains won't permit it, than at least the lyrics. After all, Mr. Lightfoot himself said that his songs are like "painting through the use of lyrics"- and those should have been here.
In conclusion, despite the fact that "Songbook" could have been much better, it is a must have for long time fans, with 16 "new" songs and quite a few debuting on CD format with superb sound quality. This is also a must for folks new to Mr. Lightfoot, who can obtain with this item all his major hits and the well known songs.
on May 10, 2016
This is not the box set everybody was thinking of. There is no box. There is no book. This is a cheap 4-CD case (and the disk-holding teeth were broken on 3 out of 4 disks when I got it) with a pathetic thin paper brochure inside. I do not really care as I ordered it as a backup for my existing CDs. But if you are planning it as a gift and you are expecting an exact replica of the 1999 dignified album -- think again. It simply is not.
NB: The 1-star rating here is for the PRODUCT, NOT for the music. The music is still 10+ stars.
on October 27, 2001
Gordon Lightfoot is,without any doubt,one of the greatest songwriters of all time. This box set proves it again and again. Bouncing around the music scene since the late 1950's, Lightfoot has given us some of the most memorable tunes ever written:'If You Could Read My Mind', 'Sundown', 'Carefree Highway', Rainy Day People','The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald'. The best thing is,this guy has so many incredible tunes that have really never been noticed. Most of them are in this collection. While strumming an acoustic guitar,(his 12 string Gibson acoustic always has a 'warm,cripsy and wooden sound'),and sometimes on electric(1980's),his music has the ablility to take you on a journey through the cities, mountains,lakes and seas of the world. If you ever take an Autumnal trip through New England,make sure you bring this guy with you. You will see just how his music makes it THAT much more incredible.This box set features all of his hits(mentioned above),key album tracks and a bunch of revealing rarities(the previously unreleased 'Too Much To Lose' is really a nice one). Another nice touch are tracks from those 'Final Four' albums yet and soon to be released on CD,'Old Dan's Records'(1972), 'Dream Street Rose'(1980), 'Shadows'(1982) & 'Salute'(1983). Some of my all time Lightfoot faves are featured in this set,'Sea Of Tranquility','Dream Street Rose','Did She Mention My Name?', 'In My Fashion', '14 Karat Gold'.Buy this boxed set simply for all the rarities and as a teaser of how great his albums are. Wait for the 'Final Four' CD's in April 2002,whip out that credit card or whatever mode of payment you prefer and buy every single CD of Gordon Lightfoot's original studio albums. Such great stuff this is. Thanks Gordon.GretschViking
on October 27, 2001
Gordon Lightfoot is,without any doubt,one of the greatest songwriters of all time. This box set proves it again and again. Bouncing around the music scene since the late 1950's, Lightfoot has given us some of the most memorable tunes ever written:'If You Could Read My Mind', 'Sundown', 'Carefree Highway', Rainy Day People','The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald'. The best thing is,this guy has so many incredible tunes that have really never been noticed. Most of them are in this collection. While strumming an acoustic guitar,(his 12 string Gibson acoustic always has a 'warm,cripsy and wooden sound'),and sometimes on electric(1980's),his music has the ablility to take you on a journey through the cities, mountains,lakes and seas of the world. If you ever take an Autumnal trip through New England,make sure you bring this guy with you. You will see just how his music makes it THAT much more incredible.This box set features all of his hits(mentioned above),key album tracks and a bunch of revealing rarities(the previously unreleased 'Too Much To Lose' is really a nice one). Another nice touch are tracks from those 'Final Four' albums yet and soon to be released on CD,'Old Dan's Records'(1972), 'Dream Street Rose'(1980), 'Shadows'(1982) & 'Salute'(1983). Some of my all time Lightfoot faves are featured in this set,'Sea Of Tranquility','Dream Street Rose','Did She Mention My Name?', 'In My Fashion', '14 Karat Gold'.Buy this boxed set simply for all the rarities and as a teaser of how great his albums are. Wait for the 'Final Four' CD's to be released in July & September 2002 and buy every CD that Gordon Lightfoot has to offer! Such great stuff this is! Thanks Gordon! GretschViking
on July 28, 2001
I have often heard Gordon Lightfoot referred to as "a Canadian troubador" or "Canada's National treasure"; but the truth is, Gordon Lightfoot is one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th Century and beyond. His songwriting roots may be in "folk", but his songs range to genres from "country" to "rock". From wonderful storytelling songs like "The Canadian Railroad Trilogy","The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald", and "The Ghosts of Cape Horn" to hauntingly beautiful songs like "Early Morning Rain", "Never Too Close", and "Summer Side of Life", Gordon Lightfoot proves over several decades that he is a master lyricist and musician. He can break your heart with "For Lovin' Me" and "Rainy Day People" and chill you out with "Carefree Highway" and "Seven Island Suite". The "hits" like "If You Could Read My Mind" and "Sundown" are here, but so are gems like "Song for a Winter's Night", "Did She Mention My Name", "Alberta Bound", "Old Dan's Records", "Dream Street Rose", "Baby Step Back", "Broken Dreams", and more. If the powers-that-be at A&E want to do a REALLY SPECIAL "Live by Request", they should get down on their knees and BEG Gordon Lightfoot to do the show!! If you want a "boxed set" that is worth MORE than you're paying for it, THIS IS THE ONE!! By the way, if you ever get a chance to catch him in concert, don't miss it. Hearing him on stage is truly great!
on June 25, 2001
I remember walking into the store where I bought this Box Set and making a double take and realized It was a Gordon Lightfoot Box Set. I didnt hesitate to pick it up no matter the cost. This Compilation is everything you believe it should be....All of the Best songs.....Lots of Rarities.....and Mostly containing songs you never get to hear outside of radio play which are in my opinion the Best Songs. For instance......."A Lesson in Love"....one of the sweetest love songs.....and "Shadows" along with Hits like "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"....! Mostly I dont think this artist needs either an introduction or someone to Pitch a sale in order for this Box set to sell well, Lightfoot has the appeal and respect like his great contemporaries like Dylan and Pete Seger and Fogelberg.....all master story tellers and songwriters. And like all Box Sets....it comes with a booklet sharing stories and pictures that allow you to see the man inside the music. Other Need to hear songs from "Songbook" are....."Sundown" "Summertime Dream" "The Way I Feel" "Summerside of Life" "A Painter Passing Through" (from his latest Studio Release) "The Last time I saw Her" and "Song for a Winters Night".
on February 9, 2001
The sign of a true classic song is that, no matter how many times you hear it, it sounds fresh and good and makes you glad you know the music. And the songs are so familiar you sing along with the artist, not faltering a note or word. This is the case with Gordon Lightfoot's "Songbook. Most of the songs are culled from the past yet they have a freshness that is surprising and unexpected. And, happily, there are "new" (previously unreleased) works peppered into the "Songbook" that are delightful surprises. Gordon Lightfoot is an amazing artist --- a gifted singer-songwriter whose tunes will be known long after most of us are gone. It's a rare artist who can record the same songs over and over and yet those songs still sound wonderful. The only drawback to this album is that some classics --- such as "Miguel," "The Ballad of Yarmouth Castle" and "A Minor Ballad" were omitted. But then I hope a Songbook II, which would include those and other classic Lightfoot songs, would be released. What a treat that would be!