It’s far from the best Dan Fogelberg album I’m heard in my journey through his catalog, the genesis of which can be read here, but also far from the worst. In short, it’s a pleasant and polished production that’s accented by solid songs and a rendition of “Rhythm of the Rain,” originally a hit for the Cascades in 1963, that ends with a snippet of the Beatles’ “Rain,” plus a cover of Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time.” The latter is a negligible offering, to be frank, while the former is quite nice. It’s not a revelatory rendition, mind you, but entertaining all the same.
Released in late August 1990, The Wild Places is essentially a return to the folky flavorings that accented his 1970s albums though, as with those, synthesizers and strings color some of the songs. The difference between those LPs and this CD is that his focus is now directed not to matters of the heart, though there’s a bit of that, but of the soul—and the environment, which (for him) feeds the soul. In the title track, for instance, 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….” Along that same line, he takes a similar anti-city stance in “Blind to the Truth”:
In the overcrowded cities where the nights are bright as day You spend your weekly paycheck and turn your eyes away From the crisis we've created with our self-indulgent ways Living like there's no tomorrow, well that just might be the case
I jest with my “anti-city” reference, I hasten to add, as I find bustling metropolises somewhat claustrophobic—they’re good for day visits or short stays, no more. That said, the song sports a vibe that, to my ears, is somewhat reminiscent of Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry,” with the same in-your-face chiding taking place. Since no one likes a scold, the ecological message works better, I think, when he marries it to spirituality, as he does in “Song of the Sea” and the closing troika of “Bones in the Sky,” “The Spirit Trail” and “Ever On.”
The environment isn’t the only thing on his mind, however. “Anastasia’s Eyes” is an ode to the new love in his life, while “Forefathers”—my favorite track on the album—would’ve fit on The Innocent Age. He turns his family history into a song about the passage of time and how, in time, we all become those who came before: “Though the generations wander, the lineage survives/And all of us, from dust to dust, we all become forefathers by and by…”
After the excesses of Exiles, it could be said that The Wild Places is a refreshing return to form and, to an extent, it is just that. I also think, however, that it’s the sound of Fogelberg—who’d been in the game for two decades by this point in his career—coming to terms with his legacy. After his ‘70s success culminated with the classic Innocent Age in 1981, he suffered the same commercial fate as many of his contemporaries—a generational sea change saw to that. This time out, he shares a holistic vision about the environment and humankind while leaning on the style that stood him well, albeit with a tad more adult contemporary flourishes than before. It’s a good—not great—album and one that, after a dozen plays these past few weeks, I have no hankering to revisit in full.
The track list: