No worries, everybody: I may slow down, but I can’t quit the Mellow.
Dan Fogelberg & Tim Weisberg – The Power Of Gold (download)
(A word before I start: I am aware that Dan Fogelberg has cancer. Last year during Mellowmas, a Fogelberg fan (Fogelfan?) gave Jeff and I some shit for ripping on “Same Old Lang Syne” simply on the basis that he was sick. It goes without saying that I wouldn’t wish any kind of cancer on anyone, and I wish him all the best as he continues his path towards recovery. That being said, I’m sure Dan – or any artist – would not expect their music to be treated (or reviewed) any differently because of this. And therefore, I see no problem with tackling “The Power Of Gold.” If you do, by all means, stop here.)
I first came across “The Power Of Gold” earlier this year when Jeff Ash – he of the fantastic AM, Then FM blog – recommended another song from the same album, Twin Sons Of Different Mothers. (I’ll get to that song too at some point, Jeff, but fer cryin’ out loud, it’s seven minutes long.) Twin Sons Of Different Mothers was the first of two collaborative projects between Fogelberg and
falutist flutetits flutist flute player Tim Weisberg. I’m guessing the two ‘bergs met at synagogue.
“Daaaaaan! I told you I was going to wear this hairstyle to the photo shoot!”
Yes, the two of them look slightly similar, and both look like they’re mere moments away from going into hibernation for the winter. The ‘bergs must have known this, as their ’95 reunion featured a disturbing lack of facial hair and a defensive title:
But enough about the smooth-faced ‘bergs: today we’re talking about their hairy 1978 album, the one which perfectly represents the way two white guys would translate the term “brothers from another mother.” A bit of history, first: it’s interesting to note that at this point in his career, Dan Fogelberg was a massive success, based not on any particular song but on an entire album. (Imagine that.) His second release, 1975’s Souvenirs, featured one (and at this point, his only) hit: “Part Of The Plan,” which included backing vocals by Joe Walsh and Graham Nash, and peaked at #31. However, Souvenirs managed to reach #17, and went on to sell over forty million copies. (Wait a minute – sorry, that was Thriller. Two million. My bad.) With that many copies sold, I suppose you could say that Dan Fogelberg truly, truly knew (wait for it)…the power of gold.
(This is what happens when I take more than two weeks off.)
But it’s true: anything Fogelberg touched turned to gold…fool’s gold, you might say. (What is wrong with me?) Fool’s Gold was Fogelberg’s backing band, and even they were able to release an album. (By the way, vocalist for Fool’s Gold? Tom Kelly, CHART ATTACK’s favorite songwriter!) The point I’m feebly attempting to make is that the man was on a roll. I mean, even when Fogelberg decided to ignore his current success and head towards a potentially career-damaging move, he couldn’t fail.
See, Fogelberg knew Weisberg from his previous album, Nether Lands – the two had collaborated on the song “Give Me Some Time” – and Fogelberg suggested the two of them record an album entirely composed of instrumentals. They almost succeeded: seven out of ten songs were instrumentals, and “The Power Of Gold” was actually a last-minute addition after they realized that their grand finale song, recorded with a full orchestra, featured an out-of-tune piano. Fogelberg quickly whipped up the song, released the album, and fled the country, uninterested in hearing the critics rip apart his instrumental jaunt. But as I said: much like Parker Lewis but inexplicably wussier, Dan Fogelberg couldn’t lose. Twin Sons Of Different Mothers reached #8 and sold a million copies, with “The Power Of Gold” peaking at an impressive #24.
I was but a year old when this song hit the charts, but I imagine the reaction was “wow, Dan’s really rockin’ this one!” Which is not to say that he was, in fact, “rockin’ this one.” In Fogelberg standards, however, this was some pretty heavy shit. I’m not saying that all his other stuff was chock full o’ wuss, but…well, yes, I guess I am. In fact, I don’t know if you know this, but when someone (Jeff) is being a pussy, I now call them (him) a Fogelberg. Still, how do you think this conversation went down?
Dan: Tim, I think this song could be our opportunity to really rock out.
Tim: Dan, I play the flute.
That being said, “The Power Of Gold” features less flute than any other song on the album. There may be some light flute (y’know, as opposed to heavy flute) over the main riff of the song, but it’s obscured by those bad-ass (not true) electric guitars. I imagine that Fogelberg and Fool’s Gold began recording the song, and invited Weisberg to jump in whenever he felt comfortable. Weisberg, however, just sat there, looking slightly lost, and eventually began reading the classifieds until Fogelberg poked him in the back with the end of his acoustic guitar. (“Hey, I’m paying you by the hour here.”)
So what else does “The Power Of Gold” have going for it? Well, don’t look to the lyrics, that’s for sure. In fact, I bet you can’t even make out most of the lyrics; they’re buried in the mix. My guess is that Fogelberg had the line “are you under the power of gold?” and simply worked backwards from there, finding words that rhymed with “gold” (using “sold” and “cold” but, sadly, not “mold,” “resoled” or “cuckold”). I seriously have no idea what the hell he’s talking about. Let me look up some of the lyrics.
The story is told of the power of gold and its lure on the unsuspecting
It glitters and shines, it badgers and blinds
And constantly needs protecting
Balance the cost of the soul you lost with the dreams you lightly sold
Are you under…the power of gold
Oh, wait! Guys! I get it! He’s talking about THE MUSIC INDUSTRY! Either that or he’s after me lucky charms!
Okay, so maybe there’s some real meaning in the lyrics. How about the music? Well, it’s definitely on the heavier end of mellow, but the drums are still weak, and there’s way too much piano – especially that run down the keys occurring right before “the power of gold” on every chorus. Everyone knows that runs down the piano keys are supposed to occur spontaneously in a moment of passion. For shame, Dan!
However, the thing you’re most likely to remember about “The Power Of Gold” will be the excellent (and high) harmony line over Dan’s lead vocal. That’s good ol’ Don Henley, providing some of his trademark, “Witchy Woman”-esque falsetto. (Fogelberg was managed by Irving Azoff, who also managed The Eagles.)
Despite the odds, “The Power Of Gold” does manage to toe the line between rock and wuss-music, and therefore is a worthy addition to your shameful Mellow Gold collection. And as you all know, some of Dan’s mellowest hits were still to come. (Note: any of you hijack this post and turn it into a rip on “Longer,” I will personally hunt you down and punch you in the mouth. I love that song – especially the flugelhorn – to the point of tearful irrationality.) And after listening to “The Power Of Gold” and a few other Fogelberg tunes over the past few days, I think I’m actually becoming a fan. I suppose I’m under the power of…okay, I’ll stop.
See you next time for another Adventure Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold!