Dan Fogelberg

Born in August 1951, died from prostate cancer in 2007. Poetically, he ended his final album with the same string swell that started his first album. I'm personally happy to listen to his 16 albums back-to-back - such is the quality and variety of his music.

In the UK, Fogelberg is probably only known for his classic "Longer". I guess this is where I heard his name, though I only recalled the song when I bought the album it comes from! I suspect many artists have covered his songs - I have a cover of "Stars" by Alison Krauss and I know the Eagles covered "Part of the Plan" on a tribute album. When I finally explored his music, I was hooked by the samples from a budget collection of his early albums.

Dan's debut album Home Free (1972) is a treasure. It opens up with "To The Morning". He sounds almost angelic on this and most of the album - at the young age of 20, his voice had yet to develop any 'gravel'. The rest of the album is a mix of softly-sung folk ("Stars", "Be On Your Way", "Looking For A Lady", "Wysteria") and anthemic soft-rock ("Hickory Grove", "The River") with a few country-ish numbers thrown in.

Souvenirs (1974) is quite a contrast to Home Free. For his second album, Joe Walsh produces. (Walsh had done 3 James Gang albums and a couple of solo/Barnstorm albums.) "Part of The Plan" is a very upbeat track, with Walsh (I deduce) providing a guitar solo. I'd guess the album was recorded in LA, and "Illinois" is a poignant love song to Dan's home state. There's a mix of styles, like the mystical "Song from Half Mountain" and the country "Morning Sky".

Captured Angel (1975) had its foundations in demos made 100% by Fogelberg at home. Dan intended to re-record for the final album, but after some encouragement from his record label there was minimal re-recording using the 'demos' as a base with a few other musicians helping out. Dan was the producer.

Not that his previous albums are not great, but Nether Lands (1977) is somehow brilliant. From an epic opening with the title track it moves on to some of his most memorable songs, like "Dancing Shoes" (partly in French), "Lessons Learned" (great hook), "Sketches" (anthemic) and "Falce Faces" (epic closer) to name a few. This seems like Dan's songwriting peak, with excellent arranging and production throughout.

In 1978, Fogelberg did something that may have been considered unwise. Twin Sons of Different Mothers is a largely instrumental album with flutist Tim Weisberg. I feel a bit uncool liking this album, but I do! Dan writes all the instrumentals, plus a 'normal' song "Power of Gold". He also has two covers of 'normal' songs - "Tell Me To My Face" seems a huge improvement on the original Hollies version, plus he does an excellent version of Judy Collins' "Since You've Asked".

Dan came back to the mainstream in 1979 with Phoenix. The album starts with the expected instrumental piece, going on to the epic title track - a long song that doesn't seem too long. The title track may qualify as progressive rock along with some other tracks, but there's also a lot of more laid-back and lighter songs, like the delicate "Longer", a song I'm sure I heard many times on the radio in my youth.

In 1981, Dan released his double album The Innocent Age. Double albums are risky business, but it pays off here and I imagine that based on his track record, his fans at the time didn't hesitate to buy. It starts with "Nexus" and I'm sure that's Joni Mitchell helping out on vocals. Emmylou Harris features on "Only The Heart May Know". The quality of his previous work carries through to this album, which includes maybe his second best known song "Leader of the Band" (a tribute to his father with real brass on the recording in contrast to the live version above) and the similarly light "The Sand and the Foam". There are big anthemic songs like "In The Passage", "Empty Cages" and the haunting "Ghosts". There are also upbeat rockers like "Stolen Moments" and "Times Like These". But my personal favourite song here is "Same Old Lang Syne" - the music is great and the lyrics tell the tale of a chance meeting with an old lover.

1984 brought Windows And Walls. The material here parallels his last few albums, with punchy upbeat tracks like "The Language of Love" and "The Loving Cup", and more laid-back story songs like "Tucson" and the title track.

With High Country Snows (1985), Dan went completely bluegrass/country. I'd guess it didn't please his record company. He even wears a 'nice' jumper on the very unhip album cover! But I quite like this kind of music, and he does it well, writing most of the songs here.

Exiles (1987) has a very 80s sound - sort of 'punchy pop'. Think brass and saxophones, rock guitars and synthesizers. There are plenty of other 80s albums like this, and I think Dan was pressed into doing something more commercial. Still, the quality of his songwriting shines through and there are no duds here. There are a few ballads which are more like his style, albeit with sax/guitar/synth arrangements thrown at them.

The Wild Places (1990) has a grand opening reminiscent of his 70s albums and has an uplifting feel overall. I think there is a drive here to be more commercial as before, but it's more balanced with his true sound and doesn't feel forced at all. No one song stands out, and there is an unexpected cover of "Rhythm of the Rain" (including a splash of The Beatles "Rain") which I think some fans disliked as part of his live set but I'm ok with it despite a hint of going through the motions.

River of Souls (1993) has a good mix of high-energy MOR rock and ballads. For me it's the ballads which are most memorable, and a song like "The Minstrel" would not be out of place on a 70s album. Overall the album has an uplifting spirit to it.

In 1995, Dan teamed up with Tim Weisberg again for No Resemblance Whatsoever. Mainly instrumental, the album is a welcome follow up to their 1978 outing.

Then in 1999 we get The First Christmas Morning. I'd say this is the most unique Christmas album I own, as apart from a few original songs from Dan, he mainly covers hymns and traditional folk songs you don't normally hear.

Dan comes back to the mainstream in 2003 with Full Circle, starting with the instrumental "Half Moon Bay" which is reminiscent of the big sounds of Dan's 70s albums. This leads into more modern-sounding music. The album has an acoustic feel.

Love In Time (2009) was Dan's final album, released after his death but completed by Dan (I understand) while he was still alive and left in trust with his wife. The album is decidedly low-key - understandable if Dan was fighting cancer at the time. "The Color of Eve" is reminiscent of "Longer". The album ends with a cover of Neil Young's classic "Birds".

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