Video of the Week: The True Story Behind Dan Fogelberg’s ‘Same Old Lang Syne’

Songs You May Have Missed #476


Dan Fogelberg: “Morning Sky” (1974)

In his early days, before he became associated with the “greeting card pop” of “Leader of the Band”, “Longer”, and “Same Auld Lang Syne” Dan Fogelberg was a credible album artist with a musical kinship to the Eagles, America and Jackson Browne.

Guest artists his first few albums included Don Henley, Joe Walsh, Glenn Frey, Randy Meisner, Graham Nash and Chris Hillman. Fogelberg opened concerts for Van Morrison.

Like John Denver, with whom he shared an appeal that never carried overseas to the European market, Fogelberg’s seemed to create his own inimitable genre of folk-infused California rock (even though he wasn’t from California). Once in a while a banjo even came to the fore, just as on early Eagles albums. “Morning Sky” might be a side of Dan you either haven’t heard or had forgotten about.

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Songs You May Have Missed #115


Dan Fogelberg: “Hurtwood Alley” (1978)

How is it that you can hear the outdoors in Dan Fogelberg’s music? How do certain musicians conjure a sense of the place, the scenery that moves them, in a song with no words? Whatever the secret, it’s a sign of true musical artistry.

Fogelberg always had a gift for evoking scenic outdoor vistas and the soul’s interiors all at once. His 1978 Twin Sons of Different Mothers album, recorded with flautist Tim Weisberg, had a little of everything: songs that showcased Dan’s oft-overlooked guitar prowess (on electric or classical acoustic), jazzy flute instrumentals, tasteful covers (of the Hollies and Judy Collins)…oh, and Dan’s highest-charting hit up until that time (“The Power of Gold”).

“Hurtwood Alley” is the type of song we heard now and then in the ’70’s, but rarely now–a structured instrumental written in the same pattern as a vocal song, with chorus- and bridge-like sections, as opposed to a “jam” or anything blues-based. People like Elton John (“Funeral For a Friend”) and Jeff Lynne (“Fire On High”) made such songs lead tracks on platinum and gold-selling LP’s.

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Recommended Albums #17


Dan Fogelberg: Nether Lands (1977)

Though he hit higher subsequent commercial peaks with greeting-card-sentimental pop such as “Same Old Lang Syne”, “Leader of the Band” and “Longer”, Dan Fogelberg hit his artistic high water mark with the May 1977 release of Nether Lands. Despite its certified double platinum status, this is an album unknown to many who are familiar with the ubiquitous radio staples that followed.

Nether Lands followed a songwriting dry spell for Fogelberg–a period of months in which he produced no new music. But when he emerged from dormancy with newly ambitious, classically-influenced and elaborately arranged songs such as the album’s fully-orchestrated lead title track, it seemed he’d only been in a sort of artistic cocoon, undergoing a transformation from a very good folk singer-songwriter into a bolder, more poised composer with many more shades in his palette.

The full-on orchestral treatment can overwhelm a trite pop song. Here, in songs such as the title track and the set-closing “False Faces” the writing is on par with and deserving of its ornate musical trappings.

But the quieter moments shine too. Sublime ballad “Dancing Shoes” and the flute-laced jazz pop of “Give Me Some Time” seem to possess a subtlety and grace uncommon for a 26-year-old writer. Dan was flexing new muscles here, and would continue to do so on his next release, an album made up mostly of instrumentals that would stretch to encompass even more stylistic territory.

Despite the lack of a top 40 hit single, the album contains some of Fogelberg’s finest and most fully-realized compositions. (One is reminded of Elton John’s 1971 Tumbleweed Connection LP which, despite yielding no hits, may be Sir Elton’s best overall album).

Albums like this are the reason I dismiss no musical category or genre wholesale. So-called “soft rock” or “lite rock”, like any other species of music, contains both good and bad. Nether Lands is one of those albums that proves that soft rock was, and is, capable of greatness.

Listen to: “Nether Lands”

Listen to: “Once Upon a Time”

Listen to: “Dancing Shoes”

Listen to: “Lessons Learned”

Listen to: “Give Me Some Time”

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