Sunday, January 4, 2015

Fogelberg: An Appreciation

Take a moment to assess your aging youth, most of you, and to admit that you know little or nothing about Dan Fogelberg.  A popular musician who died in ______, Mr. Fogelberg, like so many of his era, are remembered by a relatively few songs, those that were most popular, and, therefore (at least in his case, those that were among his worst.

Rightly or wrongly, in later career, Mr. Fogelberg tended towards what would now be called AOR, the scourge of older rockers like me.  To keep things going, he took a more and more commercial approach.  I may have faulted him for this at one time (if you know me, you know I did), but I don't fault him now.  I have no interest right now in speaking ill of the dead, especially the dead that once rocked.

Oh, make no mistake, he was always a romantic, but he was also a shredder.

That's right, he of "Longer Than" and "met my old lover in a grocery store..." and "The Leader Of The Band" and "Run For The Roses," could also play the shit out of the guitar.

I saw Mr. Fogelberg one time.  He did what most of the greats could do--wow you in the acoustic set with pretty, finger picked songs and then blow you away with his electric stuff.

Here are my "Top 10 Dan Fogelberg Songs" (in no particular order):

"Aspen/ These Days"
"Old Tennessee"
"Like A Phoenix"
"Part Of The Plan"
"The Last Nail"
"Lost In The Sun"
"Tell Me To My Face" (Hollies cover with Tim Weisburg)
"There's A Place In The World For A Gambler"
"Comes And Goes"
"As The Raven Flies"

Admittedly, I have to cherry pick my favorites, and, admittedly, there isn't much past the early 80's that holds any interest for me whatsoever.  And, admittedly, I am generous with Mr. Fogelberg, who died so young.  The full scope of his career is pretty much crap.

But when he was young, and when rock (not rock and roll, but rock, the FM staple) was young, he had great songs and great performances on record to go with them.  While I would neve claim that Mr. Fogelberg berg was s great lyricist, his romantic vision was welcome in the post-hippie mid 70s, when rock rock was continuing to make its way westward, where the Eagles were King, and where a Joe Walsh-influenced Rockies rock left Mr. Fogelberg a place for his fluid, melodic leads and and tales of love lost and found.  The songs layer guitar after guitar like Firefall that would follow and all of the more commercial rip offs, too.  But Mr. Fogelberg had the advantage that, like Jimmy Page in a different setting, he was playing all of those guitar parts, and compellingly so.

If there is a better example of the effectively-maudlin 70s autobiographical journey than his "The Last Nail," I have yet to hear it.  Built around a compelling acoustic progression, the song not only makes the case for the narrator who "started listening to the wind and rain," in honor of Dylan as wandering troubadour, but also leaves the woman in question ("I hear you've taken on a husband and child/ And live somewhere in Pennsylvania") with the offer that, despite everything, he could return, if needed, at anytime.

These kinds of songs are not written today.  That may be a good thing.  But is it a better thing than knowing that forty years ago there were songs as romantic as the wind and rain, songs of love painted on the Western landscape with soaring guitars, songs that sprawled like America's promise, and, most of all, that there were listeners who could still be enchanted by those grandiose concerns?

I miss you, Dan Fogelberg, or at least one version of you.


troutking said...

It's good to know you have at least one guilty pleasure.

Anonymous said...

Any thoughts on England Dan & John Ford Coley?

Bob said...

It's not fair to either man to group them together when they had successful solo careers after the breakup.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough. I just like saying England Dan........And John Ford Coley.......Together.

Bob said...

This is why it sucks to be anonymous. I can't tell if you knew I was kidding or not.