"When Gordon Lightfoot was in hospital a year ago, no one knew just how
ill he was. We all started to think about what a treasure we had in this gentle troubador. A group of (mainly)
Canadian artists began work on a tribute album which would honour his lifework as a writer and singer of songs,
and as a model for a couple of generations of musicians from the Great White North. Beautiful is the resulting
labour of love, and it's a winner from start to finish...fourteen songs by the man himself, and one heartfelt original.
All put together in a snazzy package with handsome artwork from A Man Called Wycraft. A project so big it took
two labels to produce it. Kudos to Northern Blues and Borealis."
Green Man Review
"Good intentions aside, tribute records rarely make the grade. Usually
the idea looks far better on paper than it sounds through speakers. But on "Beautiful
- A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot", a gang of artists takes a stab
at some of the most definitive songs in Canadian folk history, and there's not a dud to be found. Some performances
stand out: Blue Rodeo rolls through a sparkling version of 1967's "Go
Go Round", Blackie & The Rodeo Kings burn bright on the "Summer Side of Life", the Tragically
Hip bristle with intensity on "Black Day in July", and James Keelaghan pulls off a strong-willed "Canadian
Railroad Trilogy", complete with tin whistles and bagpipes. Aengus
Finnan, crafts an original ode to Lightfoot, closing out an impressive set. 4 stars"
October 16, 2003
"Beautiful, produced by musician Colin Linden, is merely the latest evidence of Lightfoot's artistic
durability. The tribute disc features a who's-who of folkies and rockers, most of them Canadian, including Cockburn,
Ron Sexsmith, Jesse Winchester, Blue Rodeo, the Cowboy Junkies, Maria Muldaur and the Tragically Hip.
The disc works best when the artists recast the songs in a new light..."
October 04, 2003
"Some of Lightfoot's contemporaries also turn in thoughtful tributes,
like Bruce Cockburn's solo Ribbon of Darkness,
moody and downtempo to better wring every bit of heartache out of they lyrics. As musical sighs go, they don't
come much deeper. Jesse Winchester delivers a slinky, swampy Sundown, lending extra menace to a look at the dark side of love, while James Keelaghan earns
a medal for not only tackling the Canadian Railroad Trilogy, but doing it with typical eloquence and grace."
The Halifax Herald
October 4, 2003
"You couldn’t get more Canadian than this - a tribute to legendary national
treasure, singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, featuring covers by the most Canucky collection of contemporary artists
you could assemble...a fitting tribute to one of the most enduring songsmiths born inside these borders."
"OVERVIEW: A long overdue salute to one of the finest singer/songwriters
Canada ever spawned. Executive produced by Colin Linden, the covers range from so-so to fabulous mingled with the
occasional amazing moment and it’s all infused with a quiet but heartfelt gratitude nobody chose The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald.
HIT FACTOR: Mumblin’ Margo Timmins and her hap-hap-happy Cowboy Junkies make The
Way I Feel sufficiently Kafkaesque for college radio and Blackie &
The Rodeo Kings’ Summer Side Of Life
would do great on U.S. Americana radio but the Ron Sexsmith version of the obscure Drifters is the likely chart winner.
BEST TRACK: Tough choice: Jesse Winchester’s Sundown is all southern grit and funk while Murray McLauchlan’s spare Home
From The Forest is so respectful of both the song’s main character
and writer it’ll choke you up. But for my money Quartette’s gloriously arranged Song
For A Winter’s Night is tops.
LINER LESSONS: From the cover shot of a mid 70s, top of his game Gordie to the back credits it’s all budget two
tone, sepia and yellow. Lyrics would have been nice but everybody does get to say how much Gord and the chosen
song meant to them. Nice touch.
RECOMMENDED FOR: The perfect accompaniment to a tall, cool, frothing Canadian by the crackling hearth on a winter’s
night. With you.
LABEL: Borealis Recording Company
BOTTOM LINE: 4 1/2 stars We’re good. We’re very good."
Folk Vet Lightfoot Praises 'Beautiful' Tribute
TORONTO - Canada's foremost folk troubadour of the past four decades pronounces himself "delighted" about
the upcoming album release "Beautiful: A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot."
"I love this tribute,"
Lightfoot tells Billboard in a rare interview. "Some of the artists
have outdone me on songs.
"There are so many great takes,"
he continues. "The performances are energetic and I appreciate
it [being done]."
The 15-track album includes performances by such leading Canadian acts as Bruce Cockburn, Ron Sexsmith, Cowboy
Junkies, the Tragically Hip and Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, as well as U.S. vocalist Maria Muldaur.
The album is a joint project between two Canadian independent labels, Ottawa-based, blues-styled NorthernBlues
Music and Toronto's folk-based Borealis Recording Co. It will be released Oct. 7 in North America, distributed
in Canada by Festival Distribution in Vancouver and in the U.S. by Big Daddy Distribution in Kenilworth, N.J.
Lightfoot, 64, has been quiet since being rushed to the hospital in August 2002 with an undisclosed stomach illness,
just hours before he was to perform in his hometown of Orillia, Ontario. Refraining from commenting on his condition,
Lightfoot says he is completing a new album, which will be issued independently in early 2004.
"The timing is perfect to pay tribute to Gordon Lightfoot," says NorthernBlues Music owner Fred Litwin, who came up with the album concept.
"I'm delighted with the album. I can't stop listening to it."
Borealis co-owner Grit Laskin adds, "We're thrilled with the record.
We feel like we've created a piece of Canadian history."
Lightfoot greatly influenced a generation of Canadian performers. Acts as diverse as Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan,
Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Sarah McLachlan and Jane's Addiction have recorded his compositions.
Tragically Hip bassist Gord Sinclair marvels at Lightfoot's career vision. "He
sets the standard for us Canadian musicians that have followed in his footsteps. He's a breed that doesn't exist
Blue Rodeo singer/guitarist Greg Keelor agrees. "Talk about a
great career. He is such an amazing guitar player, and his enunciation is so beautiful."
Overseeing the tribute during the past year were Litwin, Laskin and his Borealis partner Bill Garrett, plus producer/guitarist
Colin Linden. Despite Lightfoot's repertoire of more than 100 songs spread across some 19 albums, Linden says it
was often difficult to match artists to songs. "Gordon casts such
a big shadow," he explains. "It's
hard for another singer/songwriter to do something that wouldn't pale in comparison."
By choosing to cover Lightfoot's "Ribbon of Darkness," Cockburn says he had to contend with both the artist's 1965 original and Robbins'
version, which topped the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart the same year.
"I wanted to do something different and still be respectful of
the song," Cockburn says. "I
played it on the baritone guitar, and it's more mournful than Lightfoot's version."
Sinclair, however, says that picking Lightfoot's uncharacteristically political song "Black
Day in July" from 1968 (chronicling the aftermath of Detroit's
1967 race riots) was "an easy choice" for him. He explains, "When
I was a fourth-year student at Queen's University [in Kingston, Ontario] in 1984, I did a term paper based on that
Seven sogs on "Beautiful"
are from Lightfoot's '60s folk period, in which he recorded five albums for United Artists in the U.S. At the time,
Lightfoot worked extensively on the North American folk circuit, but his popularity was primarily in Canada, where
he was lionized by the media.
Among the early Lightfoot songs represented are "Canadian Railroad
Trilogy" (James Keelaghan), "The
Way I Feel" (Cowboy Junkies), "For
Lovin' Me" (Terry Tufts) and "Home
From the Forest" (Murray McLauchlan). Particularly noteworthy
are "Black Day in July"
(the Tragically Hip) and "Go Go Round"
(Blue Rodeo), as Lightfoot has rarely performed them through the years.
"I love what Lightfoot did in the early days," Cockburn says. "He was finger
picking and doing the type of songs I hadn't heard other Canadians do. Plus he had a vibe that was complete in
itself and not part of a scene."
As the popularity of folk music waned in the late '60s, Lightfoot signed with Reprise Records in 1970. During the
course of the 14 albums he released on the label until 1998, he moved toward an adult contemporary style. He also
scored hits with "If You Could Read My Mind"
(covered on the tribute by Connie Kaldor), "Sundown" (covered by Jesse Winchester) and "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."
Other Reprise-era songs that are featured are "Summer Side of
Life" (Blackie & the Rodeo Kings), "Song for a Winter's Night" (Quartette),
"That Same Old Obsession"
(Muldaur), "Bend in the Water"
(Harry Manx)" and "Drifters"
(Sexsmith). Additionally, there is one non-original, "Lightfoot," penned and performed by Borealis singer/songwriter Aengus Finnan.
Lightfoot marvels at how deftly the tribute covers his career.
"It took Blue Rodeo to breathe life into 'Go Go Round,' " he jokes. "It's also a wonderful
performance of 'Canadian Railroad Trilogy,' [and] I like 'Bend in the Water,' too. Quartette is just wonderful;
another that knocked me out was Bruce Cockburn. The Tragically Hip really went after 'Black Day in July' with a
lot of gusto."
September 06, 2003