Full Moon/Epic Records, 1977
REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/01/2004
Here, O Ye DV Faithful, is a metaphysical question for your New Year's cogitating pleasure. Is it possible for an album to be more than the sum of its parts? Is musical synergy possible?
Dan Fogleberg is another one of those artists that it's terminally unhip to like. However, we've already established I'm terminally unhip, so I'm gonna go ahead and talk about him -- and frankly, there's a lot to talk about. Fogleberg is one of the greatest singer/songwriters to arise in the 1970s, and arguably the best one still recording (given the untimely deaths of Harry Chapin, Jim Croce, and Warren Zevon). Yet -- critics sneer at his work, for reasons I'm never quite sure of. Maybe it's just that damning to be from Peoria, IL. (I used to date a girl who lived in East Peoria. Might be.)
All that aside, Fogelberg at his best is simply brilliant -- and his 1977 release, Nether Lands, is when he hit his stride for the first time.
For all that Fogelberg's later recordings were hit single factories, you've probably never heard of any of the tracks on Nether Lands. There's a very, very good reason for that; while it's not a concept album, it is definitely a piece of work that should be listened to in one go. Thus, our metaphysical question -- musical synergy.
In the case of Nether Lands, the answer is definitely yes; by itself, each song is good, but taken in toto, they become more. The string sweetening on "Nether Lands" sets off the jangly acoustic guitar on "Once Upon A Time", which contrasts in turn with the gentle and bittersweet "Dancing Shoes" (which reminds me a bit of Styx's "Crystal Ball") -- in short, Nether Lands is a work unto itself. And it is, plain and simple, a lovely one; a perfect suite of California-tinged folk rock that's a joy to listen to. From the opening to the powerful closing trio of "Scarecrow's Dream", "Sketches", and "False Faces", you can't help but feel the emotion and the heart behind these songs.
Get a little retro in the New Year and take a trip back to Nether Lands. You may find that your musical enjoyment is more than the sum of its parts.