Gordon (Meredith) Lightfoot Janet Maslin - Essay

Janet Maslin

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Gordon Lightfoot may never seem to be doing anything all that unusual—his melodies tend to be simple, his subjects seldom original, his voice is nice enough but rarely lends itself to anything fancy, and in fact the whole genre he works in is anything but new. But Lightfoot, unlike virtually all other folk artists who started out successful in the early Sixties, has managed to mellow so gracefully (and without any need for a current comeback, or any gratuitous shots at rock and roll) that he's at his absolute strongest right now, as Don Quixote and the album before it [Summer Side of Life] bear witness. Even though—or perhaps because—what he does isn't nearly as unusual as the fact that he does it so well….

[Part] of his appeal must certainly stem from his considerable gift for songwriting, which is easy to underrate. He combines the kind of voice that never seems to do his material justice with deceptive simplicity, a highly sophisticated ear for clever rhyme structures, and a unique knack for elevating subjects that could easily have been mundane. And, prolific as he's been over the past ten years, Lightfoot has never degenerated into hackdom. His writing, like the rest of what goes into his recordings, has improved steadily with age….

Certain structural strains from the past two albums [If You Could Read My Mind and Summer Side of Life] tend to repeat themselves here, such as...

(The entire section is 477 words.)