Back Home Again
RCA LSP 0548
Released: June 1974
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 96
Certified Gold: 6/24/74
"An artist's opinions are his own business," Wilfrid Sheed says. "What matters to us are his reflexes." John Denver's reflexes must have been sluggish when he did this. One more JD treatment of the farm-faith-family theme is itself almost a matter of knee-jerk predictability, but what bothers me is not so much That Theme Again as the controversy avoiding and those rose-colored outlooking that goes on within it. One needs to have a troubadour grate a little, deal at least periodically with conflict of some sort, but here John just rolls on and on, sunny side up, telling us how his uncle Matthew was raised on joy (glossing over the part where he lost his farm and family) and talking with glib self-satisfaction of Saturdays, holiday, and easy afternoon. "Annie's Song," of course, is a lovely love song, nicely sung and only slightly overarranged, and "Eclipse," vaguely pessimistic, probably show work well in better company. Here it's shunted aside by its smug neighbors. Most of Denver's melodies continue to be considerably better than average, natural sounding but a little quirky. And even though his lyrics are mostly glossy ones about the country comforts, they're still better than the other people's lyrics he inexplicably chose -- reflexes again, one supposes -- to give this theme its shoulder-sagging redundancy. John Summers' "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" and Jim Connor's "Grandma's Feather Bed" are about equally coy and trite and graceless, and Carl Franzen's "On the Road" sounds like it's talking down to children at some kind of goody-goody social-group picnic well-stocked with idyllic butterflies. This way lies complacency, self-parody, a network TV contract, and other terrible things -- maybe even one of those godawful Las Vegas engagements -- but I expect Denver will take another look at the real world when the boredom of dog days sets in up on the farm.
- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 10/74.
With the lovely "Annie's Song" from this album rampaging up the Hot 100 and his "Greatest Hits" repackage still top 10 after 30 weeks on the chart, John Denver has found the perfect timing to deliver his biggest smash yet. Over-all LP theme is joys of natural country life, as opposed to previously more specific Rocky Mountain imagery. Side one is mainly bucolic novelty picking, with topics like Skids, 4 dogs & a piglet cavorting aIl night in "Grandma's Feather Bed." The love ballads, among Denver's best ever, wait on side two. Best cuts: "Annie's Song," "It's Up to You," "Sweet Surrender."
- Billboard, 1974.
John Denver took his friendly, narrative songwriting a step further with Back Home Again. Featuring a cover shot of Denver and wife Annie -- hence "Annie's Song" -- the album found the singer at his most uplifting and generous of spirit; indeed Denver was the commercial antidote for those who found the vision of a Neil Young or a Bob Dylan too demanding. The album features some of Denver's best-loved songs, including "On The Road," the tale of a young boy experiencing love at first sight while on a car journey his father, and "Matthew," which was written as a memorial to his uncle, Dean Deutschendorf, who died in a car accident, aged 21. The album's highlight is the phenomenally successful "Annie's Song," which brought him not only domestic success, but international acclaim in its various guises, including flautist James Galway's UK hit single. The album topped the US chart and a couple of months later, when the album was released in the UK, it did the same there. This is not music to challenge, more to comfort, and the platinum status of the album -- with similar awards for "Annie's Song," "Thank God I'm A Country Boy" and the title track -- shows just how faithfully he was able to chime with his audience.
As of 2004, Back Home Again was the #83 best-selling album of the 70s.
- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.
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