Most of you who know my musical tastes know the hallowed, and unabashed, place that Dan Fogelberg holds in my heart.
Dan died far too young. To this day, many times when I’m listening to his music, it’s hard for me to fathom that he’s been gone for almost two years now.
And even now, in ways that embarrass me to admit, I can find myself weepy at his loss. I’ve covered this before. I can’t explain it, except to acknowledge what that means for the obvious place his music holds in my musical DNA and personal history.
When any musician dies, we tend to say that their music lives on after them. But in Dan Fogelberg’s case, his music now speaks beyond death itself.
Today, more than a year and a half after his death, comes a surprising new gift: a studio CD.
In 2006, Dan was in the midst of collecting material for a “live” CD. (From what I can tell, that disk never materialized). But once he got the diagnosis of prostate cancer, he went to work collecting and recording new studio cuts instead. He put them on a master tape, placed them in a safety deposit box, and wrote a note to his wife requesting they be released upon his death.
(This, of course, causes me wonder if –despite his public statements about how he expected to beat the disease– perhaps he knew early on how serious his situation was?)
“Love in Time” was actually released digitally on Dan’s birthday, back in August, so I’ve been listening to a copy the past few weeks. What a gift of love from an artist who loved his craft and understood we’d all love to hear from him one last time.
It’s classic Fogelberg. As with many of his CDs, he played most of the instruments himself. OK, he played ALL the instruments! He also provides photography and drawings for the packaging. Again, a common thing for his other projects, since he was an accomplished painter and photographer too.
As I think I’ve mentioned before, this is one of the things that really attracted me to Fogelberg initially…that even in his prime, when you held a new Fogelberg record in your hand, you knew it was a gift that was “all him” (songwriting, instrumentation, art work, production….) from start to finish.
“Love in Time” contains a nice cross-section of styles that have always been a part of Dan’s musical DNA. The title track starts off the disk, with lyrics that caught my attention:
“The winds of fortune rarely grace
Those who try to force the pace
And will not see
That love can’t be had for free
Those who try to place a price on
The value of their sacrifice
Will suffer long
Theirs is the saddest sound”
A powerful message from somebody who surely understood life’s sufferings at the very moment he recorded the song.
“Soft Music,” which Dan didn’t write, features a nice interlude that will remind you of the best of Dan’s lush production (ala: Netherlands, Wild Places, etc…) through the years.
As you might expect, there are ballads such “Sometimes a Song,” which Dan recorded for his wife and was released as a single last year. It’s raised quite a bit of money for prostate cancer research.
There’s a nice acoustic blues tune, “Nature of the Game.” If you ever saw Dan live, you’ll recall how great he was one the acoustic slide. This is probably the best example of his blues playing in his released catalogue.
“Come to the Harbor” has a nice Beatles-ish feel to it (think: Norwegian Wood), and lyrics that evoke his love for the coast of Maine. I couldn’t help but think of this story as I heard it.
Perhaps my favorite song on the CD is the also shortest (clocking in at just 2:52). “So Many Changes” again features a powerful message for somebody walking his road:
“Do you think that it’s wise
To be cursing the cloudy skies
Don’t come to me with your cries
When the sun’s shining in your eyes”
Some really tasty and bright acoustic guitar work on this one too. (Been picking it out over the weekend…)
“Days To Come” will remind fans of the themes of loss and change that run through “The Innocent Age”
“Tell me true do you still believe the prophets
That you found among the clouds of youthful skies
Broken dreams line your face like stormy weather
But you can’t stay dry forever in the rain
The truth should now be plain
You can’t go back again.”
But for the hardcore Danfan, it’s the final track that will get you. It’s a Neil Young song called “Birds,” and the message is clear enough:
“When you see me fly away without you
Shadow on the things you know
Feathers fall around you
And show you the way to go
It’s over….it’s over.”
That would be enough. But there’s a final chord. A final chord that I won’t give away here.
Sufficed to say, it brings things “full circle” for anybody who has loved Dan’s music from its beginning. I don’t know whether it’s a touch he intended, or whether it was added later on.
Where ever it came from, may I just say “thank you.”
It moved me to tears. Again, not giving away the farm here; just get a copy and give it a listen. If you’re a longterm Danfan, you won’t be able to miss the musical homage that closes this last song, and closes a circle on his entire life and work in music.
Thanks to Jean Fogelberg for shepherding this CD to its completion. Thanks to all those who worked to make it happen.
And most of all thanks to Dan who, throughout a career that created so many memories for so many of us, has given us one final and generous gift.
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