I have always been a fan of Canadian Gordon Lightfoot's music. From the first time I heard Peter, Paul and Mary's wonderful covers of Lightfoot songs like "Early Morning Rain" and "For Loving Me", I knew anyone who could write songs like that was a huge talent. So when I got turned onto his own voice and music I was astonished by just how good he was (and still is). This is a perfect album because, like several of his other releases, each of the dozen songs included is something you smile at as it first comes on because it is a special favorite. Indeed, the song cycle here is unforgettable. The first song is "Minstrel Of The Dawn", written by Lightfoot himself and a wonderful example of his singular songwriting style, which often relates a personal story, followed by an incredible cover of Kris Kristoferson's "Me And Bobby McGee". No one other than Janis Joplin ever did a version of this that can compare with Lightfoot's. "Approaching Lavender" is a simply wonderful love song delivered with fervor and passion in Lightfoot's inimitable style.
Later he weighs in with some of the hits from the album, including "Sit Down Young Stranger" and "If You Could Read My Mind", both done in colorful and unique prose styles that leave the listener to interpret what Lightfoot is talking about. And so on with each of the songs here. My personal favorites are those mentioned above as well as "Your Love's Return", an evocative and haunting song inspired by a poem by Stephen Foster, but I really love them all. If one listens to all of the similarly terrific albums Lightfoot put out over a seven or eight-year period one comes up with literally dozens and dozens of wonderful and memorable songs that could fill several double albums. This guy was far more prolific than anyone else producing work in the sixties and seventies. Buy this album, and after listening to it for a week or so you will be back for "Sundown", "Summertime Dream", "Cold On The Shoulder" and "Don Quixote". They are all great. Enjoy this one of a kind artist and his amazingly consistent flood of terrific and appealing mainstream folk albums.
on June 4, 2002
Released in 1970, Gordon Lightfoot's first album after signing with Reprise remains one of his most enduring. Retitled from Sit Down Young Stranger after "If You Could Read My Mind" became a hit, the album reveals a songwriter of increasing depth and maturity. The title track, which to me remains the most powerful "breakup song" I've ever heard, is a showpiece, of course--but this is an album filled with showpieces. Featuring the beautiful ensemble playing of Red Shea on lead guitar and Rick Haynes on bass, the album also features guest appearances by Ry Cooder and John Sebastian, and some very tasteful, unobtrusive string arrangements (on "Minstrel of the Dawn," for example, the strings are scored by Randy Newman). The album is beautifully produced by Lenny Waronker and Joe Wissert--guitars are crisp and rich, the vocals have presence and depth. You'll find a terrific cover of Kris Kristofferson's "Me and Bobby McGee" on this CD: Lightfoot doesn't do many covers, but, when he does, he sings them like he wrote them. Other highlights include "Minstrel of the Dawn," "Sit Down Young Stranger," "The Pony Man," and...oh heck--the whole album is just one long highlight! Buy it!
If You Could Read My Mind was originally released in 1970 under the title of Sit Down Young Stranger. The album generated little action as Canadian Gordon Lightfoot's previous albums had. Then in 1971, the hauntingly beautiful ballad "If You Could Read My Mind" became a top ten hit, the album was re-released with the new title to capitalize on the popularity of the song. This started a good run of chart success for Mr. Lightfoot. The rest of the album is equally as strong as the title track. "Minstrel Of The Dawn" is a great track as is "Cobwebs & Dust".
on June 30, 2005
Already a major player on the folk music scene in his native Canada, Lightfoot broke through to the U.S. radio market with this album. The title song, a poetically mellow ballad, had such universal appeal that it was featured prominently on nearly every radio format in America, and has become his most enduring signature song.
If you buy this album just for the title song, which thousands of people, no doubt, have done, you're in for a delightful surprise: The entire set is that good, and some of it is even better! Starting with the first track, "Minstrel Of The Dawn", the listener is transported to a world of graceful beauty and timeless charm. Lightfoot has an extraordinary gift for writing the perfect melodic vehicle for any set of lyrics, and this is evident throughout the album.
His cover of Kris Kristofferson's "Me & Bobby McGee" is much more to my liking than the famous, firey blues/rock version by Janis Joplin. Other standouts include "Pony Man", a lullaby in the form of a magical journey through space; "Baby, It's All Right", a tight, edgy acoustic blues number unlike anything else in the Lightfoot canon; and "Your Love's Return", perhaps the most incredibly beautiful romantic ballad he ever recorded, featuring warm and tasteful guitar work and an elegant string quartet. This song is beautiful enough to break your heart.
There are no "skippers" here. Every song is worth hearing again and again. Those who appreciate poetic lyrics and unsurpassed acousitc music in the finest folk tradition, simply must add this album to their collection.
on August 6, 1998
If You Could Read My Mind was the breakthrough album (and single) for Gordon Lightfoot as a singer. This was his first album since switching from United Artists to Warner Brothers and what is today the title song was his first US chart single (reached #5 on Billboard).
The mix of If You Could Read My Mind on this album is actually different from the version on Gord's Gold. The latter is the mix used on the single that was released after the album, and as a result of the song's radio popularity. The single and the version on Gord's Gold have harmony vocals (by Lightfoot) which are not on this original album cut.
The original title song, Sit Down Young Stranger, remains one of Lightfoot's most compelling topical ballads, and one of a handful of "anti-war" songs that he wrote back in the 60s and early 70s. If you've never heard this one - or especially if you have - the album is worth buying for just this one magificent song!
Other outstanding songs on the ! album include Minstrel Of The Dawn, Lightfoot's cover of Kris Kristofferson's Me And Bobby McGee, and The Pony Man, a favorite of children of all ages.
My review title says it all: this album is one of the best!
on January 5, 2002
This album, originally released in 1970 under the title "Sit Down Young Stranger," is one of Gordon's best albums overall. The instrumentation is very sparse in that it has no drums and has very few electric instruments overall, in other words, it is a mostly acoustic album with a few songs with well arranged strings. Besides the original title track and the current title track, If You Could Read My Mind, which was his first top 40 hit here in the US, other highlights on the album include a cover of Me & Bobby McGee, Minstrel of the Dawn, Saturday Clothes, Your Love's Return, Approaching Lavender, The Pony Man but the whole album is great. Like many of his WB albums from his heyday, it was produced by Lenny Waronker and Joe Wissert. During its run on the charts, due to the popularity of "If You Could Read My Mind, the album would later go on and sell over 1 million copies under the new title of the album, If You Could Read My Mind. Notable guest appearances include Ry Cooder playing the bottleneck guitar on Me & Bobby McGee and the Mandolin on another great song on the album, Cobwebs & Dust, John Sebastian, of Lovin' Spoonful fame playing the electric guitar on Baby It's Allright, the autoharp on Saturday Clothes, and the Harmonica on The Pony Man, Randy Newman arranging the strings on Minstrel of The Dawn and Approaching Lavender and frequent Brian Wilson collaborator Van Dyke Parks playing the Harmonium on Cobwebs & Dust. For someone who hasn't yet heard his music and for longtime fans, this is a must have.
on July 31, 2000
Prior to this album's U.S. release, it went by the title of Sit Down Young Stranger, a thoughtful musical conversation Lightfoot has with himself for all of us to hear. Baby It's Allright, with the Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastan on electric guitar, has a slightly growling quality and a persistant rhythm. During the rest of the album Lightfoot manages to carry the sound off with the sweetness of his and his group's mostly acoustic instrumentals. My personal favorites are Minstrel of the Dawn, Approaching Lavender, and Your Love's Return. All caary with them a feeling of lyrical, loving expectancy. Lightfoot makes you sense his desire and share it intimately with him. Along with Sundown, this album is one of my two Lightfoot faves. If for nothing but this album's ability to evoke tender memories, it should be at the top of the hit parade of any music lover who is truly a romantic at heart.
'If You Could Read My Mind' marked a time of change in Gordon Lightfoot's musical career. After five albums with United Artists Lightfoot made a switch to another label. This album, his sixth overall, was his first recording with Reprise and it contained the hit 'If You Could Read My Mind' which was one of his first songs to receive serious radio play in the U.S.A. His big breakthrough was still four years away when 'Sundown' would be released, but this was never-the-less the beginning of his efforts to gain the attention of the larger American audience south of the Canadian border.
Comprised of -11 tracks- of now classic Lightfoot tunes, this is essential Lightfoot. Heck, what am I talking about? They're all essential Lightfoot!
on August 1, 2006
It doesn't sound dated. Sweet without being maudlin. Worth refreshing my memory from the vinyl, buying this CD. From a gentler time. If you liked Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme by Simon and Garfunkel, or the first few Peter Paul and Mary records, or Poems Prayers and Promises by John Denver, this should be around your house for feeling good, full of light and hope.
Particularly, Your Love's Return: Song for Stephen Foster, is masterful lyrically and musically. It doesn't make any 'best of' compilations, so I think you need this album too. Roses are waiting for dewdrops to fall...
on April 30, 2005
How to conjure up the words that are needed to praise this album. There are characters here. Perhaps even literary moments. Gordon paints pictures of wanderers who ride the country, through Kristoffersons "Bobby McGee." He sings of Lavender shedding her clothing to run "as naked as the sea." The lonely but neurotic persona of "Cobwebs and Dust" is right at home with someone who still can't press his "Saturday Clothes" after his frinds have all gone home. At points this album sounds like an ode to forced bachaelordom, or perhaps a dirge to a once busy domestic life. Then, of course, there is the ghost from the wishing well. Tears to the eyes on this one. The passion and soul of the album are summated here. This and "Sit Down.." are two of the finest songs Lightfoot has ever written. In turn, he pays tribute later to one of his influences on "Your Love's Return." Not mentioned before is the astoundingly sensitive guitar work of Red Shea, The fitting bass lines from Rick Haynes, the lovely orchestration by Randy Newman and Nick de Caro and the subdued but sassy bottleneck guitar from Ry Coody. John Sebastion also appears, as does Kris Kristofferson (uncredited), but the big named guest stars aren't the selling point. The music here is just some of the finest of Lightfoot's catalogue. Enjoy.