Recording information: Goldstar Recording Studios, Hollywood, CA (??/1966-04/1983).
Photographer: Lowell Norman.
Arrangers: John Denver; Milton Okun; Dick Kniss; Lee Holdridge ; Mike Taylor .
Placing the word definitive on a best-of collection is usually a panicked label attempt to fill last-minute Christmas stockings, but in the case of RCA's Definitive All-Time Greatest Hits John Denver retrospective, it's a truly apt description. Coinciding with the 35th anniversary of Denver's first album release on RCA, the two-disc, 24-track overview of the country-pop singer's storied career is the most concise and nuanced yet. Digitally remastered from the original master tapes, road-trip classics like "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "Rocky Mountain High," and "Back Home Again" are as warm as the singer's lauded tenor. There are no gimmicky re-recorded cuts or disappointing live tracks -- "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" spent its time on the charts in its live incarnation -- and his spotty '80s material is only briefly covered ("Perhaps Love" and "Shanghai Breezes"). The only real omission is "Grandma's Feather Bed," but the 20-page booklet and song-by-song commentary by longtime friend Milt Okun more than suffice. The bonus disc, maddeningly sparse at just four tracks, makes up for its brevity by including a goose bump-inducing 1975 acoustic version of "Calypso." With the pompous string section, clanging ship bell, and unnecessary drum fills removed, his ode to Jacques Cousteau's tenacious vessel is a wonder of emotion and nautical kinsmenship that inarguably exhibits Denver as one of the greatest vocalists of his time. For those unwilling to sift through the exhaustive four-CD Country Roads Collection, this Definitive package is a good buy and a rewarding visit with an old friend.
John wrote Leaving on a jet plane before he was famous. It became a huge international hit for Peter Paul and Mary. As well as John's own recording of that song, this collection includes all his big American hits including Take me home country roads (a UK hit for Olivia Newton John), Sunshine on my shoulders, Annie's song (his biggest hit - number one in Britain and America), Back home again (my favorite song of his), Sweet surrender, I'm sorry, Rocky mountain high, Thank God I'm a country boy and Calypso (a tribute to Jacques Cousteau). The eighties were less successful but yielded two superb duets - Perhaps love (with Placido Domingo) and Wild Montana skies (with Emmylou Harris).
The bonus CD contains some fascinating alternative versions of Leaving on a jet plane, Annie's song and Calypso, plus a cover of The weight, a song normally associated with The Band.
The first CD is the strongest single CD collection of John's music yet released. Furthermore, the sound quality is better than on any previous collection.
Dedicated fans should be aware that this collection was released as Definitive all time greatest hits in the USA, but as A song's best friend - the very best of John Denver in Britain, where the collection has been issued in two versions - with and without the second CD. This difference is justified since only Annie's song and Perhaps love made the UK charts. Just don't waste your money buying both. Buy your local version.
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