Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Number 593 - John Denver

Number 593

John Denver

"Rocky Mountain High"

Live Earth 07.07.07 its been and gone, surely, another milestone in media music history? Media and music go hand in hand, here after 3 decades we have classic examples of how media influence popular music. In 1967 it was Woodstock, media used: print & radio. In 1985, Live Aid, media used: Simulcast Television. In '07, media used: The Internet worldwide. Sounds like a dream for the "Y" generation, this should be the best yet, a triumph for the "P" Generation (Playsation & "P" heads) .......but hold on, why wasn't it?
I cant speak for the Woodstock generation, but when we had Live Aid it was a truly spectacular event. So then, why did the televised format over the internet format work so much better? Answer is easy really, the content of the "Live Earth" performers were poorer. At first i thought it was the format, but after seeing the edited "Highlights" the conclusion was easy. Long live 85!
One of the most popular recording artists of the 1970s, country-folk singer/songwriter John Denver's gentle, environmentally conscious music established him among the most beloved entertainers of his era; wholesome and clean-cut, his appeal extended to fans of all ages and backgrounds, and led to parallel careers as both an actor and a humanitarian. Born Henry John Deutschendorf in Roswell, NM, on December 31, 1943, he was raised in an Air Force family, and grew up in various regions of the southwestern U.S. As a teen, his grandmother presented him with a 1910 Gibson acoustic guitar, and while attending Texas Tech University he began performing local clubs. Adopting the stage surname "Denver" in tribute to the Rocky Mountain area he so cherished, he dropped out of college in 1964 to relocate to Los Angeles; there he joined the Chad Mitchell Trio, a major draw on the hootenanny circuit of the early '60s but in the twilight of their career at the time of Denver's arrival. Over time, however, Denver helped resuscitate the group on the strength of his songwriting skills; signed to Mercury, the Trio recorded a number of tracks, which the label repackaged in 1974 as Beginnings With the Chad Mitchell Trio.

Upon the departure of the last remaining founding member, the Chad Mitchell Trio became known as Denver, Boise and Johnson; the new group proved short-lived, however, when Denver exited in 1969 to pursue a solo career. That same year he recorded his debut LP, Rhymes and Reasons; while not a hit, it contained one of his best-loved compositions, "Leaving on a Jet Plane," an international chart-topper for Peter, Paul & Mary. Still, neither of Denver's follow-up albums, 1970's Whose Garden Was This and Take Me to Tomorrow, launched him as a solo performer; finally, with 1971's Poems, Prayers & Promises, he achieved superstardom, thanks to the million-selling hits "Take Me Home, Country Roads" and "Sunshine on My Shoulders." In the years to follow, Denver also scored with "Annie's Song" (penned for his wife) and "Back Home Again," and by 1974 was firmly established as America's best-selling performer; albums like 1975's An Evening With John Denver and Windsong were phenomenally popular, and he continued to top the singles charts with efforts including "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" and "I'm Sorry." Additionally, his 1974 best-of collection sold over ten million copies worldwide, and remained on the charts for over two years.

At the peak of his success, Denver was everywhere -- the governor of Colorado proclaimed him the state's poet laureate, his label Windsong was responsible for hits like the Starland Vocal Band's mammoth "Afternoon Delight," and he appeared in a number of ratings-grabbing television specials. In 1977, he even moved into film, co-starring with George Burns in the comedy hit Oh, God! During this time, however, he dramatically curtailed his recording output, and after 1977's I Want to Live, issued no new material until 1980's Autograph. The following year, he performed with opera star Placido Domingo, but as the decade progressed, Denver's popularity waned as he turned his focus more toward humanitarian work, focusing primarily on ecological concerns and space exploration; he also toured Communist-led Russia and China, and in 1987 performed in Chernobyl in the wake of that city's nuclear disaster. While maintaining a solid cult following, by the 1990s Denver had largely fallen off the radar, and he made more news for a 1993 drunk-driving arrest than he did for records like 1991's Different Directions. In 1994, he published an autobiography, -Take Me Home. Tragedy struck on October 12, 1997, when his experimental aircraft suddenly crashed, killing him instantly. Denver was 53. ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide

What did Rolling Stone think about John Denver?
There he is on the screen of your color TV: blond, bespectacled, and peach-faced the sight of him makes you want to adjust the hue, because John Denver's flesh tone is just a shade too flesh-toned. He's the balladeer for the masses, sweet-voiced, ingenuous, and completely devoid of human characteristics. He seems sincere enough, but it's hard to sense any character in anything he says or sings. Seeing Denver in his frequent TV appearances over the last couple years suggested this inherent blandness; listening to any of his five previous albums confirmed it. Whenever there was a possibility of something real happening, Denver's nightclubfolky voice and delivery would effectively douse the spark.
So if all that is true—and there was little doubt in my mind that it was until just now—what's going on here? This Rocky Mountain High record must be by some other John Denver, because it's a crisp, muscular album with compelling singing and some of the most powerful acoustic guitar-dominated arrangements I've heard on record. Denver may well have tired of hearing himself on the radio interminably crooning "Take me home, country road," and "When I come back, I'll wear your wedding ring," and decided to cut loose just once in his successful, determinedly modulated career.
The second side is taken up mostly with something called "The Season Suite"; surprisingly, even that has enough jangling urgency to keep it mildly interesting. I doubt if I'll ever be inclined to play "Season Suite" again, but that other side will be hard to resist, it all works so well. I went back to the earlier five LPs to see if I could find foreshadowing of this kind of sound or tone or sense of drama on any of them—after all, they were all produced by the same team of Denver and Milt Okun, and they all contained the same instrumentation—but there was nary a clue. Maybe it all came to him in a dream, I can't figure it at all, but the guy has finally made an album that's really worth owning. (RS 120)
Rolling Stone Top 500 Songs ranked this song at Number [You put John Denver on your Countdown?] and the Album ranked at Number [Are you mad?]
Nup and proud to do it
This song has a crowbarred rating of 72.4 out of 108



Post a Comment

<< Home