Singer/Songwriter Dan Fogelberg released three “Greatest Hits” (or “Best Of”) compilations before his untimely death in December of 2007. And while all three of these collections include Fogelberg’s unmistakable radio-charting tunes, there is a treasure trove of Fogelberg jewels to be found on the very same albums where the known “hits” reside. What are the titles of these unknown masterpieces and where can they be found?
Released in 1982, Dan Fogelberg’s Greatest Hits included Billboard’s chart-topping hits “Longer” and “Leader Of The Band” (in 1980 and ’81 respectively.) While it is difficult to argue the inclusion of either of these songs in the Greatest Hits collection, there were songs on the albums from which both of these hits were cherry-picked which may not have met the standards for regular radio rotation but were “greatest hits” of the son of Peoria, IL in their own way.
“Longer”, with its whimsical melody and impassioned lyrics has been referred to as “the perfect love song.” The song originally appeared on the album Phoenix in 1979. But hiding on the very same album was “Face The Fire”, a rocking, angry, raucous (for Fogelberg) protest song aimed at nuclear proliferation in reaction to the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster. The opening lyric is a perfect set-up: “I hear the thunder three miles away. The island’s leaking into the bay. The poison is spreading, the demon is free. People are running from what they can’t even see.” In the song’s chorus a desperate-sounding Fogelberg pleads: “Face the fire, you can’t turn away. The risk grows greater with each passing day. The waiting is over, the moment has come to kill the fire and turn to the sun.” Perhaps the most haunting aspect of this song is the tune’s relevance thirty-something years later in the wake of the recent nuclear meltdown in Japan.
In 1981 Dan Fogelberg’s double-album The Innocent Age was released and in the process Fogelberg gave us what he later said was among his life’s best work. In addition to “The Leader Of The Band”, The seventeen song collection included radio-friendly songs “Same Old Lang Syne”, “Run For The Roses” and “Hard To Say”. However there are at least two other hidden gems on this LP.
“The Reach”, an ode to Maine’s lobstermen was not radio-friendly due to its length (six minutes and thirty seconds) and 6/8 feel. However a close listening to this epic tune and its well-crafted lyrics will reveal the true genius behind the songwriter. The opening line and musical accompaniment prepares the listener for their ensuing journey: “It’s Maine and it’s autumn. The birches have just begun turning. It’s life and it’s dying, the lobstermen’s boats come returning. With the catch of the day in their holds and the young boys cold and complaining, the fog meets the beach and out on the reach it is raining.”
Also over-looked on The Innocent Age (and not surprisingly due to its length of six minutes and four seconds) is “Nexus”. This album-opening number features Fogelberg’s guitar and vocal mastery and in this writer’s opinion perhaps the very-best of Dan Fogelberg. With its acoustic 12-string guitar introduction “Nexus” builds to a climax and then breaks down and transitions to “world” rhythms before returning to the song’s original feel thus concluding the way it began i.e. Fogelberg and the 12-string guitar. The journey we take with “Nexus” is like none other in Fogelberg’s catalogue.
Dan Fogelberg’s “Face The Fire”, “The Reach” and “Nexus” cannot be found on Greatest Hits, The Very Best Of Dan Fogelberg or The Essential Dan Fogelberg but are “the best of”, “essential” and “greatest hits” in their own right. Just check out The Innocent Age and Phoenix albums and you will see what we mean.