"As Gordon Lightfoot's fame grew, his music evolved and gradually reached its peak with Summer Side of Life and its follow-up smash, Don Quixote. This is one of his most country albums, not Nashville country, but a refreshingly different sound that is infused with a Canadian perspective. Lightfoot's ballads definitely do not reek of urban sensibilities but speak to that which is inbred in many of us who are most alive when in a natural setting. Back in the 60s and 70s many free spirits hitch-hiked around the continent so we can relate to songs like Cabaret and 10 Degrees and Getting Colder. You can hear Lightfoot's love of nature in Redwood Hill, you can hear his concern for his fellows in Miguel and concern for his country in Nous Vivons Ensemble. His romantic side and his knack for wordplay are apparent in Talking in Your Sleep and Love and Maple Syrup. A mild chauvinism springs forth in Go My Way and finally, he shows a different side to country music on Same Old Loverman and Cotton Jenny. As balladeers go, Lightfoot has few peers. Every song will spark a frisson of delight as you listen to his masterful lyrics spin tale after tale. No Lightfoot "desert island" compilation would be complete without this one right near the top of the list."
One of the best of the best
Kurt Harding | 06/05/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Every year from 1970 through 1976, Gordon Lightfoot released a string of superlative albums. This is one of the best of them, as well as being one of the most unusual.For a start, it was recorded in Nashville. Along with his always-excellent touring musicians Red Shea (lead guitar) and Rick Haynes (bass), Lightfoot is joined by many of the top Nashville musicians from that era. Thus, all of the songs have a much different sound that what you may be accustomed to.Additionally, this album features some unusually-structured compositions for Lightfoot, as well as some chord movements that don't often crop up elsewhere in his (considerable) body of work.Produced by Joe Wissert and released in 1971, Summer Side of Life is filled to the brim with great songs. It starts off with "10 Degrees and Getting Colder," and you may think "Well, this is pretty much what I expected from Lightfoot," in terms of the arrangement. But suddenly the haunting story-song "Miguel" begins, and you realize you're into a whole new area. Filled with some nifty chord changes and some exquisite lead guitar work courtesy of Red Shea, the song is among the (many) unsung Lightfoot classics. The title track is a brilliant study of the young men being drawn into the vortex of Vietnam, with instrumentation and choral work you won't find on any other Lightfoot recording. The perennial favorite "Cotton Jenny" makes its debut on the album; other highlights include "Nous Vivons Ensemble" (half of which is sung in French), the somewhat Elvis-y "Same Old Loverman" (the album doesn't detail individual credits for the musicians, but I would assume that's Junior Husky supplying the fabulous acoustic bass work on the track), "Love and Maple Syrup" (again an unusual arrangement), and one of my favorite Lightfoot tracks of all: "Cabaret." This song is actual two songs put together--at first listen you may not think they have much to do with one another. But the two songs actually are thematically connected: From "sounds of laughter on ladies gay" in the misty past(bringing to mind Tolouse La-Trec posters) to the stark realism of the present ("sitting in a roadside diner"), the song cleverly presents a different twist on the hackneyed phrase "life is cabaret."Summer Side of Life represents Gordon Lightfoot at the height of his powers. Don't miss this one."
An overlooked album in the Lightfoot catalog
Kurt Harding | 07/28/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Released shortly after "If You Could Read My Mind," "Summer Side of Life" produced no hits of the caliber of that record's title song. But there are gems here, like "10 Degrees and Getting Colder" and "Go My Way," both of which have been covered by other artists; "Cotton Jenny," a fan favorite at his live shows; and the strange but haunting "Cabaret," which sounds like two songs that meld into one effortless whole. However, the record's narrative masterstroke is "Miguel," which, without preaching or politicizing, encapsulates the terrible dilemma of an illegal alien who finds himself in trouble with the law. "Summer Side of Life" is the work of a mature and gifted songwriter, and if you are a Lightfoot fan and have never heard it, you are missing a small gem in your CD collection."
There are some early masterpieces here
Richard Alaska | Naperville, Illinois | 04/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"From the ethereally plaintive 'Talking in Your Sleep,' to the romp of 'Cotton Jenny,' this is quintessential Gordon Lightfoot. I'm haunted by 'Ten Degrees and Getting Colder,' but it's a good haunting. This is one of the earlier great 12 string songs that Gordon has continued to pour out over time. The 'Summer Side of Life' itself is a subtle treatment of the Viet Nam experience that combines Folk with soaring Gospel. 'Nous Vivons Ensemble' seems to be from another era, but still draws your attention, and Miguel has a warm and catchy riff that you find youself tuning back to...
In some ways it's a period piece, bringing you back to 1970. This is clear in the Cotton Jenny riff at the end of each verse (after the wheels of love line) - it actually has a late 60s pop feel. Above all 'Talking in Your Sleep' stands as timeless. It could fit in today's music, and is the crowning work of this collection.
The other songs have their points, it may just take a little longer for them to sink in, as is sometimes the case with Lightfoot. You start out with two or three hooks and end up wanting to listen to almost everything. I would have bought it just to hear the following verse "Now he's traded off his Martin, but his troubles are not over, for his feet are almost frozen and the sun is sinkin low." "
Forget the compilations - buy this
Brett Simpson | Auckland, New Zealand | 10/02/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a dazzling set of gorgeous accoustic guitar playing, strong, moving lyrics and beautiful melodies galore, all held together by Lightfoot's warm and expressive voice.Lightfoot's work does not lend itself to being easily compiled (as witness that such great tracks as "Miguel" and "Love and Maple Syrup" aren't even to be found on his 4CD box), so I'm afraid you just have to buy as many of his individual albums as you can afford. And this is one of the best. Along with the two cuts mentioned above "10 Degrees and Getting Colder", "Go My Way" and "Nous Vivons Ensemble" are especially worthy of praise, as are the two very minor chart entries taken from this album: the title track and "Talking In Your Sleep". Essential."