Gordon Lightfoot Album Review: All Live

There is nothing like the crackling energy of a live performance on an album, if it’s done right. It can take you there, in the moment, soaking in the music as it’s delivered in raw fashion.  Gordon Lightfoot’s new live album, All Live, does just that. It hasn’t been tampered with in the least. Selected performances of the Canadian Folk Legend at Toronto’s Massey Hall between 1998-2001 reveal Lightfoot’s magic in full form. It’s just like being there. “The recordings have not been technically altered and are authentic live mixes,” says Lightfoot of the album (Rhino Media). “Fans will hear each song exactly as it was performed that night – no over dubs, no mixing – ALL LIVE.”

His distinctive, soothing voice tells tales with wisdom and mystery, leaving the listener wanting more. Dylan once said he wished a Gordon Lightfoot song “would go on forever.”  Agreed. It’s hard to hear this album end, good thing there is always the replay button.

Lightfoot’s talent is so large, it is almost impossible to comprehend. Born in Orillia, Ontario, he demonstrated his musical abilities early. Live and radio audiences were treated to his young, strong soprano and he made his first appearance at the Massey Hall when he was only 12 years old.  He quickly learned piano, drums and guitar and eventually went to studio Jazz at Hollywood’s Westlake College of Music.  He returned home to Canada and made history as one of the first Canadians to have hits in the United States without living there.

The Canadian Hall of Famer has 16 Juno Awards, is a five-time Grammy nominee, was 70’s Artist of The Decade, inducted into the American Songwriters Hall of Fame in NY last month, and he continues to sell millions of records. Over the years he has survived Bell’s Palsy, a severe stomach condition, divorce, and despite false reports of his death (hoax that plagued Twitter in 2010), he is alive and kicking with a USA tour on the books for this year.

Having a live Gordon Lightfoot album from Massey Hall just makes sense. Massey Hall has hosted Lightfoot a record number of times, from his very first performance at age 12 to last year’s 150th performance, where at age 72, Lightfoot performed nine shows in ten days, playing to a sold out crowd every single night. His connection to the Hall resonates deeply on this album.

All of your favorites are here, including “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”  and  “Canadian Railroad Trilogy,” both of which have been studied in classrooms.  The album kicks off with “14 Karat Gold” and even though the recordings cover a broad time range, the album transitions seamlessly from track to track. Lightfoot is a journeyman, and you can be his companion on that “Carefree Highway” for 19 stellar tracks. Included, of course, are his big hits “If You Could Read My Mind” and “Sundown,” both of which evoke strong and almost unrecognizable emotions.  That authoritative voice can deliver a lullaby or a battle cry with equal beauty and passion. There is much to be learned about the human experience from Gordon Lightfoot’s music. He’s a legend for a reason. Do yourself a favor, and add All Live to your collection.

Track List:

1. 14 Karat Gold Thurs. May 7 1998

2. If You Could Read My Mind Thurs. May 7 1998

3. Fine As Fine Can Be Thurs. May 7 1998

4. Baby Step Back Fri. May 8 1998

5. Early Morning Rain Fri. May 8 1998

6. Restless Fri. May 8 1998

7. A Painter Passing Through Thurs. May 24 2001

8. Rainy Day People Fri. May 8 1998

9. Ringneck Loon Thurs. May 7 1998

10. Shadows Thurs. Nov 11 1999

11. Sundown Thurs. May 7 1998

12. Carefree Highway Thurs May 7 1998

13. Christian Island Sat. May 26 2001

14. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald Thurs May 7 1998

15. Canadian Railroad Trilogy Thurs. Nov 11 1999

16. Let It Ride Sat. May 26 2001

17. Blackberry Wine Fri. May 8 1998

18. Song For A Winter’s Night Fri. May 8 1998

19. Old Dan’s Records Fri. May 25 2001


~ Richard Diehn

Richard Diehn hails from the hills of Northern West Virginia where he grew up as a member of his family’s traveling band. He’s a writer, storyteller, and certified Rockhound. He enjoys fishing, Gentleman Jack, and stalking his favorite country singer, George Jones. 

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