Few singer/songwriters have given as much quality material to the medium as Canadian-born troubadour Gordon Lightfoot, so it comes as no surprise that after suffering a near-fatal abdominal hemorrhage in 2002, he awoke from a coma with only one thing on his mind: making a record. He had recorded 18 demos for the upcoming Harmony sessions prior to the injury, and was preparing to take the band in to cut them proper. Nine of those tracks proved to be usable, and with his blessing, the group went to Grant Avenue Studios to begin overdubbing what would be the tenacious artist's 20th release. Lightfoot has a reputation as a staunch perfectionist -- his biggest selling album, 1975's Gord's Gold, features mostly re-recordings of past hits he was unsatisfied with -- so it's a testament to his passion that he would give up so much creative control. What's interesting is how much Harmony transcends the dark cloud that gave it life. The arrangements are among the most creative and inspired of his long career -- the Farfisa organ on "Flyin' Blind" is wonderfully exotic -- and while Lightfoot's vocals are often choked and distant (these were demos), they still manage to convey the emotion, wit, and steely reserve of the lyrics, allowing the listener the privilege of what feels like an intimate performance on the front porch. The first single, "Inspiration Lady," is vintage Lightfoot, recalling romantic favorites like "Beautiful" and "Song for a Winter's Night," and the meandering "River of Light" is the artist at his melodic best. His mastery of the love song has lost none of its effectiveness, as evidenced by the excellent title track, and his abilities to fill his songs with history (the Native American-inspired "Couchiching") and humor (a live take of "The No Hotel") continue to delight. By no means as inspired as the classics Summertime Dream and If You Could Read My Mind, Harmony listens like a good book, and fits snugly into the impressive Lightfoot canon.
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AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger