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John Denver

RCA APL-1183
Released: September 1975
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 45
Certified Gold: 9/19/75

John DenverJohn Denver made $10 million this year, and every nickel of it, we can imagine, sported a buffalo. Denver celebrates an aspect of this land, its unspoiled mountains and waters, its fresh breezes and uninterrupted sunshine, that most of us observe fast becoming extinct. With remarkable steadfastness, Denver continues to cling to the nature mystic's vocabulary, despite its increasing inapplicability and Denver's own altered circumstances. In other words, no panegyric to the neon of Las Vegas, though he has played there, can be expected. Of course, Denver is a Johnny-one-note on the subject of his favorite terrain precisely because it is remote from the experience of his average listener. It is extremely unlikely that sunshine on his shoulder makes him (or anyone except a miner) high; the contents of Windsong are a hermetically sealed fantasy designed to alleviate the deprivations of the average city dweller.

At this point, John Denver albums are as numerous as potted plants in the apartments of these urbanites, and both are symptoms of the same longing. The singer acknowledges his average listener in "Fly Away":

Life in the city can make you crazy
For the sounds of the sand and the sea
Life in a high-rise can make you hungry
For things that you can't even see.

In reality, wilderness is dramatic and ferocious, but Windsong has us thinking of it as a rather breathtaking suburb. It is a measure of Windsong's effectiveness as fantasy that it is above all tranquilizing.

Like some ancient Greek philosopher, Denver endlessly contemplates the elements -- earth, air, water -- not fire, however. He even has a penchant for Greek mythology. (One song is entitled "Calypso," and "Spirit" pays its respects to Hercules, Apollo, Orpheus, Andromeda and Vega.) Besides the vacant nature hymns, Windsong contains songs which cast him as the great quester, and a couple in which he's more the typical earthbound C&W protagonist. Every number echoes as if it were recorded in some Gemeinschaft in the Rockies. The title song is unbounded echo and little more, giving his irritating, diaphragmatic but pallid vibrato special prominence. "Cowboy's Delight," which has a pretty melody and a thoughtful, swelling arrangement, is the sweetest of the bunch, but still only a better version of what he does elsewhere. It seems we readers of "Doonesbury" can expect John Denver to remain Duke's bête noire for some time to come, and that of anyone else who has no great weakness for pipe dreams.

- Paul Nelson, Rolling Stone, 12/4/76.

Bonus Reviews!

Another perfect set for Denver fans, offering a bit of clear air in an otherwise rather depressing time. Same easy country flavor he has done so well with over the past few years, with the same healthy, good-time images of fresh air, soaring eagles, ever present love, grief over the woes of the world, and the joys of the radio. To be honest, there is no one who handles this kind of material as well as Denver does, and there have been a lot of imitators over the past few years. The man has a voice as crystal clear as the subjects he sings about, the arrangements and production are near perfect, the songs straddle pop, country and MOR at just the right angle, and the LP on the whole is a masterpiece of exactly what Denver fans want. No real changes from past efforts, but why mess with the perfect success formula? The usual complaints that there is nothing meaningful will pour in, but there are always several million LP buyers to dispute that. Best cuts: "Cowboy's Delight," "Looking For Space," "Two Shots," "I'm Sorry," "Fly Away," "Calypso."

- Billboard, 1975.

Why haven't all those textual analysts who figured out that Paul was dead and Dylan a junkie applied themselves to the song sequence "Two Shots," "I'm Sorry," and "Fly Away," a mini-triptych that proves (rilly) that John and Annie are on the rocks!! Too morbid a thought, I bet. Upgraded for documentary interest. C-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

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