The Very Best Of Dan Fogelberg, by Dan Fogelberg
This cd makes a decisive moment in the history of Dan Fogelberg as an artist, and that is when his best of compilations and the recognition of his greatness as an artist started expanding far beyond small retrospectives of ten songs or so apiece to full cds and later even multiple cds, a demonstration that Fogelberg was an artist of far greater importance than the norm. It is interesting that this is the album that would do it, because I was a bit concerned that I would not like this album as much as I did when I listened to it, since I only knew about half a dozen songs on it or so when I started listening to it. This concern ended up not being a problem, because this ended up being the best kind of album, namely the sort of compilation that makes one a lot more familiar with the work of an artist and makes one listen to a lot more of the back catalog of the artist. Far from being a sign that this artist only had a few worthwhile songs, this album demonstrated that there was a lot more material that was worth appreciating than met the eye for casual fans, and that is something that was a pleasure to listen to, and that may inspire future listening pleasure to a great deal more of the singer-songwriter’s catalog of songs.
This particular collection is a generally chronological collection and it is a blend of the most notable hits that Fogelberg had and the best of his major label songs that were not big singles. The collection begins with the obscure “Nether Lands,” a gentle enough number, before moving into the gorgeous “Part Of The Plan,” which sounds like it could have been on a Crosby, Stills, and Nash album, and which was predictably Fogelberg’s first hits. From this point in the album to track #11, the collection moves from hit to hit across Fogelberg’s music of the late 70’s and early 80’s, including “Heart Hotels,” the gorgeous and tender “Longer,” the reflective “Hard To Say,” with its complete production and instrumentation that shows of Fogelberg’s skill as a producer, the gorgeous and melancholy ode to the singer’s father in “Leader Of The Band,” the awkward and touching “Same Old Lang Syne,” the romantic waltz “Run For The Roses,” the questioning “Make Love Stay,” the arena rock frustration of “Missing You,” and the amazing “Language Of Love.” This stretch of songs is well worth the price of the collection as a whole, and from here we get the ballad of troubled love “Believe In Me,” the evocative “Lonely In Love,” the bittersweet “She Don’t Look Back,” the gorgeous “Rhythm Of The Rain,” a cover which I heard frequently as a child on adult contemporary stations, the cod reggae of “Magic Every Moment,” and the touching “A Love Like This,” with nary a weak spot in the entire collection.
There are a few aspects of this album that strike this listener as particularly impressive. One of them is the fact that the album has seventeen songs across two decades of a major label career with not a single bum track to be found. Fogelberg’s music shows an immense diversity from spare love ballads like “Nether Lands” and “Believe In Me” to arena rock to Caribbean-inspired songs and so on, and yet what shines through in all of the songs is touching and vulnerable and honest songwriting, winning charisma, a great voice, and solid instrumentation and production choices that show Fogelberg was always more than a white guy with an acoustic guitar. This music shows the full range of what adult contemporary can provide the listener, and it deserves to be enjoyed by fans of Fogelberg’s work as well as fans of the adult contemporary genre as a whole. What is perhaps even more striking about this album is that it could have included still more songs, but it proves its case that a long compilation is required to even begin to do the artist justice, and this lesson was heeded in future retrospectives for the singer which continued to demonstrate that longer and longer collections were required to capture the flavor of his work with any hope of conveying its full range and greatness to the listener.