The Wild Places
Full Moon/Epic, 1990
REVIEW BY: Michael Ehret
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/20/2008
One of the great things about Dan Fogelberg is that he almost always thought about his albums as whole pieces rather than as individual songs packaged together.
So when his underrated The Wild Places from 1990 kicks off with a short instrumental piece (“Aurora Nova”) that, emotionally, sets the listener alone on a high mountain cliff surveying said places, it’s more than just an opening – it is a portent.
The piece builds into “The Wild Places” and, if you close your eyes, as the two songs segue you can feel like an eagle soaring over his kingdom as he sings, “In the cities and towns there are millions who dream / But the traffic’s so loud that you can’t hear them scream / There's a heaven on earth that so few ever find / Though the map’s in your soul and the road’s in your mind /…In the wild places, man is an unwelcome guest / But it’s here that I’m found and it’s here I feel blessed.”
Fogelberg never recovered, professionally, from the swift change in the pop world that was the 1980s, even though he had is biggest success in 1981. But by The Wild Places he was back creatively and his vision of himself as an artist was intact; he was “home.” This is not a “classic” Fogelberg album, in the sense of his watershed moments in Netherlands (1977), Phoenix (1980), and The Innocent Age (1981), but it is classic Fogelberg: driving acoustic rockers; sensitive love songs; themes of love, loneliness, and eternal hope for salvation – whether spiritual or emotional or both – it’s all there.
In “Anastasia’s Eyes,” one of the most beautiful love songs ever, he writes of his salvation found: “I was lost in the wilderness without courage or hope / I was setting my signal fires and watching the smoke / When out of the smoke appeared the sweetest surprise / And I knew I'd been found when first I looked into Anastasia's eyes.”
Though Fogelberg does a fine job on Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers In A Dangerous Time,” it does seem out of place on the album. Much better is his soft pop cover of the old Cascades hit, “Rhythm of the Rain,” (which hit #3 on the AC charts) which is nicely tagged by a snippet of the Beatles’ “Rain.”
Is everything golden on The Wild Places? No. Interest dips early on with the back-to-back songs “Forefathers” and “Song Of The Sea,” then dips again at the end with “Bones In The Sky” and “The Spirit Trail,” but he brings it home with the entirely appropriate benediction, “Ever On,” an “Along The Road” (from 1980’s