Review Summary: An excellent release from an unfortunately overlooked singer-songwriter
Gordon Lightfoot is a Canadian folk singer who gained prominence in the Seventies through numerous hits, such as “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and “If You Could Read My Mind.” While relatively little-known today, he released a series of acclaimed albums over a decade-long period beginning in the mid-1960s. Summertime Dream, released in 1976, is often considered the last of his truly great works, before his future material declined to some degree. However, Summertime Dream itself stands the test of time, being representative of the great aspects of Lightfoot’s music.
Comprised of ten songs adding up to less than 38 minutes, the album is far from an intimidating listen. The songs themselves are predominantly folk-based, with some rock, country, and pop influences, as frequently appeared throughout Lightfoot’s musical career. While the album is generally cohesive, there is enough variety between tracks, from slow-paced ballads to more cheerful rock-oriented songs, to keep the album from becoming bland.
The most well-known song on Summertime Dream is undoubtedly “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Indeed, many music listeners may only be familiar with Gordon Lightfoot through that classic song. While “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” is truly a haunting and powerful piece of music, it is far from clearly the best song on this album.
Many of Summertime Dream’s other songs focus on themes of love and heartbreak. While such topics have been widely explored in music, and have often become boring and cliche, that is not the case here. Lightfoot’s lyrics are generally excellent and when delivered in his recognizable baritone voice provide these ballads with substantial emotional power. Particularly successful in this respect is “I’m Not Supposed to Care”, which is excellent in expressing a feeling of sadness and resignation.
There are also more upbeat tracks, with catchy melodies and somewhat more optimistic lyrics. “Race Among The Ruins” and the title track are good examples of these songs. The former is one of the album’s standouts, while “Summertime Dream” showcases an immensely appealing melody, even if it is less profound lyrically.
Overall, Summertime Dream is an exceptional album, particularly for listening to while in a relaxed or contemplative mood. Many of the songs are among Lightfoot’s greatest, and are arguably all-time musical classics as well. While several tracks, such as “I’d Do It Again” and “Too Many Clues In This Room” are slightly weaker and prevent the album from achieving perfection, all music fans could potentially enjoy Summertime Dream. Fans of folk and older music should definitely consider looking into this album, if they have not done so already.