Dan Fogelberg has often been confused with Kenny Loggins. Both project a Christ- figure-in-denim-jacket sensitivity; both have a breathy, thin vocal quality; both produce some of the wimpiest music on vinyl, after a post-folkie fashion.
There are ways to tell them apart: Loggins is the one who smiles and claps his hands a lot, while Fogelberg, on the rare occasions when he pokes his head out of the studio, affects an almost deadly sincerity: He sees himself and his music as Very Serious Business.
Fogelberg's new release, "The Innocent Age," represents this seriousness at its self- indulgent acme. The expensive cover package, white as chastity, is the first indication. Inside is an airy, full-sleeve photo of the sensitive artist himself, and the lyrics are prepared in sleek, booklet form, so that one might conceivably store it on the shelf alongside Kahlil Gibran (whom Fogelberg thanks on the inner sleeve for his inspiration).
This is no mere double album, Fogelberg has us know, it's a "song cycle," or so the liner notes tell us. After a couple of cuts, it becomes pretty clear that this cycle mainly consists of Fogelberg's bleating for his lost youth, lost love, lost innocence, etc.
The music itself hasn't changed one whit since 1973's "Souvenirs." It comes in three speeds: slow, mid-tempo and upper mid- tempo. Fogelberg still favors starting his verses on two and leaving the fourth beat of the second measure bare, the better, perhaps, to take another giant breath while his listener's ponder the full weight of every line.
There is example after example in this endless "cycle" of Fogelberg's refusal to acknowledge the changing rock and pop music scene, not to mention the social one.
But the most blatantly self-serving tune on the album is one that was pre-released this past New Year's season. "Same Old Lang Syne" tells the story of the sensitive artist, meeting an old lover in the grocery store. If you're ready to believe that Fogelberg ever darkens the automatic doors of the local Safeway, then you're ready to believe these lyrics: Met my old lover in the grocery store The snow was falling Christmas Eve I stole behind her in the frozen foods And I touched her on the sleeve. . .
Fogelberg and the unlucky lass who let him slip through her dishpan hands carry on a cutesy, bashful conversation under the fluorescents near the meat counter, then go out and drink a six-pack in her car, reliving old times: I said the years had been a friend to her And that her eyes were still as blue
But in those eyes I wasn't sure if I saw Doubt or gratitude.
Gratitude, Daniel, it had to be gratitude.
THE ALBUM -- Dan Fogelberg, "The Innocent Age," Full Moon/Epic (KE2 37393).
THE SHOW -- Friday at 8 at the Capital Centre.
Photo of Dan Fogelberg