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Don't buy this album - there are now better alternatives
on August 20, 2003
I've owned this CD for over 15 years, but there are far better alternatives available on the market today.
Lightfoot started out on United Artists records back in the late '60s, switching to Warners in the early '70s after some initial chart success, where he became a superstar with hits like "Sundown" and "Carefree Highway". Warners released the double-LP Gord's Gold at the peak of his career in 1975. The LP contained both his new Warners hits along with some of his United Artists classics, but the UA tracks were all re-recorded with his 1975 band and producers.
Apart from the hits ("Beautiful," "Rainy Day People," and my favorite, "If You Could Read My Mind," plus the two tracks mentioned above), I never much cared for the remaining tracks on the record. It never occurred to me it might have something to do with the recordings, and not the songs themselves. After all, that band and those producers worked so well for hits like "Sundown." However, since Gord's Gold was released before his biggest hit, "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald," I was always on the lookout for some other, preferably remastered compilation that included it as well.
Rhino records has finally released the definitive single-disc Gordon Lightfoot CD. It's called, fittingly enough, Complete Greatest Hits, and it features material expertly remastered by Rhino's studio wizard Bill Inglot. Inglot tends to use a pretty heavy hand in my experience, liberally re-equalizing and processing tracks, but in side-by-side comparisons the Warners tracks on Complete Greatest Hits sound pretty close to those on Gord's Gold. They're brighter and cleaner, but that may have more to do with improvements in analog to digital converters in the 20 or so years since Gord's Gold was transferred to CD than any studio trickery by Inglot.
The real improvement over Gord's Gold comes from the fact that Complete Greatest Hits utilizes the original United Artists recordings of Lightfoot's earlier material, and what a phenomenal improvement they are! Many people have complained about the strings his 1975 producers added to Lightfoot's re-recordings of his UA tracks, but in my opinion those were the least of the problems (I have a high tolerance for syrupy strings - can't get enough of 'em, if I think they fit). The biggest problem with the re-recordings are Lightfoot's vocals, which sound somewhat affected to my ear, as if he were trying to sing them in a "country and western" style to match those on his then-recent hits. While that style of singing works well for "Sundown," it's terrible on tracks like "Early Morning Rain," and "For Lovin' Me." I never paid any attention to either track on Gord's Gold, but on Complete Greatest Hits they're both standouts, with wonderful vocals and lively folk accompaniment.
Complete Greatest Hits also includes some of Lightfoot's later hits, including "Race Among The Ruins" and of course "The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald." There's really absolutely no reason to buy Gord's Gold anymore, since most of the tracks on Gord's Gold are now available on Complete Greatest Hits, are available in their original, superior versions and sound better, too. Avoid Gord's Gold - it's certainly not golden anymore - and pickup a copy of Rhino's excellent Complete Greatest Hits instead.