Dan Fogelberg: Nether Lands (1977)

For about seven year period, Dan Fogelberg as a major player in pop music. He didn’t fade away, but audience tastes changed and Fogelberg didn’t seem interested in conforming to the radio of the 1980s.

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In his prime period, Fogelberg wrote and produced music that was both intimate and grand, folk ballads to orchestral and jazz.  A talented musician, with the exception of drums and sometimes bass, he played a variety of instruments to paint his vision.

Nether Lands was ambitious and a rousing success.  Some critics scoffed at it as sentimental and hollow, sugary pop.  Fogelberg would deal with those complaints his entire career.  He turned to country-inspired pop to expand his audience but never abandoned his core musical interests.

This is what Fogelberg said about this album: “That was a real seminal record. I think that was the first mature record I ever made. To me when I listen to the first three, that’s a kid. I think Nether Lands was the man growing up. And I think it was musically mature, but also the lyrics finally had some real depth and philosophical strength to them that I’d never had before

All songs written by Dan Fogelberg. Produced by Dan Fogelberg and Norbert Putnam

1. “Nether Lands” – 5:32  The album opens with a big orchestral song, led by Fogelberg. It’s grand, uplifting, conveys a sense of wonderment.  In 1977, this was out of step with the trend, but it is never out of time.  Great orchestral arrangement by Fogelberg.

2.  “Once upon a Time” – 3:38  A more traditional pop song with a myriad of acoustic and electric guitars.  Fogelberg can rock, although this is somewhat restrained, with a comfortable beat.

Every morning you wake up alone, And you shake up your soul, but nothing stirs, So you take the love of whoever, you please, But you can’t find no reason, for giving yours

 

3.  “Dancing Shoes” – 3:28  A soft ballad, of acoustic guitars and synthesizer accompaniment.  Nice vocal arrangement, harmonizing with himself.  The arrangement has a slightly European flavor of lost love.

4.  “Lessons Learned” – 4:52 A mid tempo ballad, sounds like Joni Mitchell with his tuning and groove.  Very guitar-centric song.

Lessons learned are like bridges burned, You only need to cross them but once, Is the knowledge gained worth the price of the pain? Are the spoils worth the cost of the hunt? Are the spoils worth the cost of the hunt?

 

5. “Loose Ends” – 5:23 A slow burning mid tempo song that builds with a chorus of electric guitars, that concludes with a big musical fade out.

6.  “Love Gone By” – 3:04  The second side starts with an up-tempo song, Fogelberg pounding the keys and squealing the guitars, but he balances with a nice harmony so it doesn’t turn into Van Halen.

7. “Promises Made” – 3:18  This song is less frantic then the previous one, more gentle ringing guitars.  Fogelberg is the master of the mid tempo song, perfect for his guitar and keyboard textures.

Promises made and promises broken, Measures of our demise, Secrets of souls that rarely get spoken, Pleasure’s a thin disguise

8. “Give Me Some Time” – 3:20  This song complete shifts gears, this is a jazzy song that sails across the spectrum.  Weisberg provides the flute, which mixes with Fogelberg’s finger-picking guitar.  A gentle love song, that moves at a syncopated beat. 

 

9. “Scarecrow’s Dream” – 4:10  A song with a descending scale, a haunting arrangement of strings and synthesizer provide the dreamlike texture.   Fogelberg found many ways to write a love song without sounding trite or maudlin.

Seldom seen a scarecrow’s dream, I hang in the hopes of replacement, Castles tall, I built them all, But I dream that I’m trapped in the basement, And if you ever hear me calling out, And if you’ve been by paupers crowned, Between the worlds of men and make believe, I can be found.

 

10 . “Sketches” – 3:32  A lonesome piano intro with synthesizer texture and Fogelberg’s distance voice, then a string section accentuates key phrasing. One of the most beautiful songs on the album, one of his most expressive and best arrangements of all of his work.

Late in the summer when the cottonwood dies, The fields are on fire with green bottleflies, And I’m still seeing reflections of me in your eyes, And, why did you leave last summer? Now the seasons are changing from summer to fall, And I’ve still got that picture hung on my wall, And there’s so much forgotten and too much recalled, And, why did you leave at all?

 

11. “False Faces” – 4:52 The album finale is a grand, orchestral-backed effort.  The song soars and shows how talented he is with arranging orchestral instruments to fit but not overpower his effort.  “Nether Lands” was a great setting of the stage, “False Faces” rounds the bases and brings it home.

The first Fogelberg song I remember was “Part of the Plan”, an uptempo acoustic guitar song, produced by Joe Walsh.  It was inviting, had smart lyrics, and included an open but intricate sound that was hard to deny. Exploring the other songs on that album, it had ballads with imaginative lyrics and solid rockers, a great addition to the type of music I was listening to.

Nether Lands was Fogelberg’s fourth album and you can see the progression from each album as his songwriting grew and deepened and he moved into shaping more of the musical production of the albums.

Fogelberg has a voice with a very high range, which is deceiving, as if he can’t sing hard rockers.  He certainly can.  Fogelberg proved that he would walk into the studio and build his own songs, which he began to do. He layered guitars, keyboards and vocals with the help of a rhythm section and orchestra arranger.

The players on Nether Lands:

Dan Fogelberg – vocals, electric and acoustic pianos, ARP synthesizer, electric and acoustic guitars, orchestral arrangement (1), finger cymbals (3), pipe organ (5), organ (6), sleigh bells and harpsichord (9)
Kenneth A. Buttrey – drums (2, 6, 7, 8, 11), percussion (8)
Dominic Frontiere – orchestral arrangements and conductor (1, 11), arrangement (10)
Don Henley – harmony vocals (2, 5, 6)
Russ Kunkel – drums and congas (4)
Joe Lala – congas (6)
Frank Marocco – accordion (3)
Norbert Putnam – bass guitar, string quartet arrangement (3)
J.D. Souther – harmony vocals (5), backing vocals (11)
John Stronach – maracas and tambourine (7)
Joe Vitale – drums (5)
Joe Walsh – rhythm electric guitar (5)
Tim Weisberg – flute (8)

The next year, Fogelberg would team up with Tim Weisberg for the album, Twin Sons of Different Mothers, a blending of Fogelberg’s pop-country and Weisberg’s jazz instrumental.  The album was a pleasing success, with the hit single, “The Power of Gold.”


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