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An Evening With John Denver
John Denver

RCA LSP 0764
Released: February 1975
Chart Peak: #2
Weeks Charted: 50
Certified Gold: 2/19/75

John Denver picks up bad reviews the way Robert Redford picks up women's pulse rates -- for valid but not musical reasons. There's such a thing as accentuating the positive too much, and John Denver's image does that for some people, and the critics among those go on at some length trying to make a perfectly legitimate gut response look like logic. How well or badly he sings doesn't get too much print, but a hundred years from now it may be the only thing about Denver that people care to discuss. There's a certain amount of fashion in this matter of ideas. An Evening, since it offers a two-disc cross section of Denver's songs and more data on how he gets along with audiences (this one at the Universal Ampitheatre in California), which, incidentally, Denver learned to do before he learned how to sell records by the million, is the kind of album that invites some sort of summing up.

John Denver - An Evening With John Denver
Original album advertising art.
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And so, all right. As a singer, Denver shows again here that he has extraordinary range, hints at a broader emotional articulateness than the songs tap, is more secure than ever in his phrasing and timing, and still has a tendency to be sloppy with intonation. His lyrics, which technically aren't bad song lyrics as far as how they rhyme and how they scan and such things go, show up in a big batch like this as being too nearly of the same mold, one after another; but his melodies are steadily among the finest anyone is writing these days. Most people probably aren't as deeply involved in pop music as its critics are and therefore don't mind if they have to balance Denver's unrelentingly positive approach with someone else's talk about warts and bullfrogs on the mind and stuff to get the kind of contrast that makes music, or any experience, make sense. The lack of contrast in Denver, which is to say in his lyrics, does fall to close the circle in the head of the intense listener, for fumbling around somewhere in the back of such heads is a yen for closure, for completeness. The impossible search for perfection, which the critic attends to, is frustrated early on if this yet is not satisfied, since a perfect thing would surly be complete.

So this album, like Denver, does not all by itself bestride the fulcrum -- you have to balance it with something else. It administers to certain needs extremely well, though, and is so all-out, willy-nilly congenial that it's worth sidetracking whatever quest for perfection you're on for a couple of hours to listen to it.

- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 6/75.

Bonus Reviews!

One of the true superstars of the entertainment world gets the deluxe treatment in this double set cut last year in Los Angeles' Universal Amphitheatre and New York's Madison Square Garden. Basically the concert (as it is put together) has been left intact, complete with in-between song chatter, band and orchestra introductions and so on. Highpoint of course is the clear, happy Denver music. Most of the greatest hits are here, as well as a few new originals and some fine cover versions of other artists' material. For those who want a greatest hits, then, it's here. For those who have missed Denver's appearances and want a realistic idea of what it's like to attend one of the shows, that feeling is here, too. One of the best, and most realistic, live LPs in a long while, with every aspect of the artist showcased. Best cuts: "Farewell Andromeda (Welcome To My Morning)," "Mother Nature's Son," "Sweet Surrender," "Annie's Song," "Annie's Other Song," "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "Rocky Mountain High," "Saturday Night In Toledo, Ohio."

- Billboard, 1975.

Following 1974's Back Home Again came the live double offering An Evening With John Denver, recorded at the California Universal Ampitheatre with full orchestral backing. This is Denver at his wholesome best, with feel good songs such as "Farewell Andromeda (Welcome to My Morning)," the Beatles' cover of "Mother Nature's Son" and a run through many of his best-known songs including "Rocky Mountain High" -- which celebrates Aspen, Colorado -- and "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

In combining a style of soft pop and folk with fringes of country (certainly in subject matter), Denver fell uncomfortably between several stools. Country music was never entirely happy to claim him as one of its own, best illustrated when he won the Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year Award in 1975 and Charlie Rich, in announcing the award, produced a cigarette lighter and incinerated the winners' list he was holding. An Evening With John Denver reached Number Two in the US and a more modest Number 31 position in the UK.

As of 2004, An Evening With John Denver was the #82 best-selling album of the 70s.

- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.

 Reader's Comments

myowncompass

This is the album that made me fall in love with John Denver. I'd like to find an original recording. The remasters have all of his comments, and that of the audience, cut out.

superseventies (Moderator)

I'm not sure if the original was ever on CD but you could probably find the vinyl if you can live with that.

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