TITLE: The Essential John Denver
YEAR RELEASED: Compilation
CHART ACTION: #66 Country
SINGLES: Top 10: Take Me Home, Country Roads (#2 US, #50 Country), Rocky Mountain High (#9 US), Sunshine on My Shoulders (#1 US, #42 Country), Annie’s Song (#1 US, #1 Country, #1 UK), Back Home Again (#5 US, #1 Country), I’m Sorry (#1 US, #1 Country), Sweet Surrender (#13 US, #7 Country), Thank God I’m a Country Boy (#1 US, #1 Country), Some Days Are Diamonds (#36 US, #9 Country), Dreamland Express (#9 Country)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Leavin’ on a Jet Plane, Farewell Andromeda, Calypso
LINEUP: John Denver. He usually had some of the best studio pros helping.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The mid-70’s country / folk superstar had a huge peak and a long, slow decline as he focused more on the adult contemporary market other pursuits. This collection definitely highlights it.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: In 1975, John Denver was unstoppable, or it seemed. Two straight #1 studio albums and a #2 live album, and a Christmas album that did very well. By 1977, Denver was successful on TV and movies, but he never had another real hit album or single again for the pop market.
He kept cranking out albums for sure, but his approach seemed to change towards a more adult contemporary market, and more cloying, treacly love songs or preachy environmentalist songs instead of a combination of folk and country that evoked his feelings for the land that tinged his earlier work. An alternate theory may be that Denver burned out his audience, and some felt he was becoming a parody of himself with “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”.
As a songwriter, when he was on, he was brilliant (“Leaving on a Jet Plane” is testament to his abilities and his performance is stellar). But somehow he lost some of the mojo and became more of an artist preaching to his choir than converting new fans. This collection definitely documents the rise and decline of Denver, and is probably best picked through based on your tastes.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: He started as part of the Chad Mitchell Trio as a replacement for Chad Mitchell himself.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.
GRADE B-: You have to pick and choose. There’s some great stuff, and some goop of the nth degree.