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John Denver The Ultimate Collection album review

The legend is remembered on the 20th anniversary of his death.

John Denver
Credit: Sony Music

Credit: Sony Music

Born in Roswell, New Mexico John Denver had his career cut short when he died in an airplane crash. Denver tragically died while flying his plane near Pacific Grove in 1997. Over the course of his career, Denver recorded and released hundreds of songs and sold more than 33 million records worldwide. This year marks the 20th anniversary of his death and Sony Music have released a new 19-track collection titled The Ultimate Collection.

When you think of Denver two songs probably come to mind; Take Me Home, Country Roads and Leaving On a Jet Plane. Both are present on this collection but interestingly neither were actually his biggest hits in terms of chart position. Take Me Home, Country Roads was certified platinum but it wasn’t one of his number one hits and only managed to peak at 50 on the US Country charts. Leaving On a Jet Plane was written by Denver and originally recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary. Denver recorded his own version for inclusion on his 1969 solo debut album Rhymes & Reason and re-recorded it for a Greatest Hits release in 1973.

Denver came into his career peak in the mid-70s when he scored a series of number ones including Sunshine On My Shoulders, Annie’s Song, Back Home Again, Thank God I’m a Country Boy and double A-side I’m Sorry/Calypso. All of those songs are of course present here. After that point in his career Denver experienced a drop in commercial success with his releases achieving varying degrees of success but nothing comparable to his peak.

Musically Denver was primarily labelled as Country but his music actually took in several genres. Vocally he was closest to easy listening but songs such as My Sweet Lady leaned more towards folk. In 1981 Denver teamed up with Placido Domingo for collaborative album Perhaps Love, which was an interesting detour during his career. The title track from that record is also present on this collection.

Denver’s best moments are when he kept it simple such as on early single Follow Me, which was released in 1970. At the core of his music Denver was a storyteller so when he was armed with a guitar and his voice could shine with little additional production, he was at his absolute best. Other favourites included here include his 1970 version of Jerry Jeff Walker’s Mr Bojangles, 1976’s emotive Like a Sad Song and 1981’s uptempo The Cowboy and the Lady.

There’s no denying that John Denver had a huge impact on music, especially in the Country genre. He was a truly talented singer-songwriter who had a lot to give. Thankfully he managed to leave us with plenty of music before his untimely death. Take Me Home, Country Roads was given a little boost last year when Nashville’s Country Music Association (CMA) assembled a host of big name artists to record a mash-up of that track and Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love you to celebrate their 50th anniversary.

 

Track Listing: 1. Annie’s Song 2. Take Me Home, Country Roads 3. Rocky Mountain High 4. Sunshine On My Shoulders 5. Back Home Again 6. Thank God I’m a Country Boy 7. Like a Sad Song 8. Sweet Surrender 9. My Sweet Lady 10. Calypso 11. Fly Away 12. This Old Guitar 13. I’m Sorry 14. The Cowboy and the Lady 15. Mr Bojangles 16. Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stone) 17. Perhaps Love (featuring Placido Domingo) 18. Follow Me 19. Leaving On a Jet Plane Record Label: Sony Music Release Date: 14th July 2017

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