John Denver's Greatest Hits
Released: December 1973
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 175
Certified Gold: 12/11/73
John Denver has a strong and tuneful tenor, a smilingly ingenuous persona both vocally and visually and a sense of purpose to his writing and singing. These characteristics undercut his efforts to be a Tom Paxton-style protest-singer, but in the last few years he's transformed into a competent and, in retrospect, rather original pop-record maker.
But Denver still has a message that gives his singing conviction, though it is rarely so provocative as to intrude on the sound of his music. And the sound of his music separates Denver from dozens of other bland, sweet-voiced writer/singers.
- Bud Scoppa, Rolling Stone, 4/11/74.
Of the 11 cuts dating back to 1965, four have become super hits: "Leaving On A Jet Plane," "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "Follow Me" and "Rocky Mountain High." The gentleness of his voice is always matched by the flowing lines of his melodies and the sweetness of the strings. The music marries folk with pop.
- Billboard, 1973.
Television music, done lowest-common-denominator style, for those who like their entertainment free of annoying tensions, or even a few rough edges. And more than a few do: Greatest Hits has sold close to two million copies and John Denver has replaced the infinitely more talented Jim Croce as the leading purveyor of light folk-rock-pop. By the time I finished with an album's worth of his sweetness, innocence and good intentions, I craved something violent -- a Kung Fu movie, perhaps. Musically, John Denver sings flat, most noticeably on his current hit, "Sunshine on My Shoulders." He and producer Milt Okun know that and don't much care. Denver's fans prefer a "soulful" take to a properly performed one, and his inattention to such trivia as pitch may even make him sound more sincere. Lyrically, his cheery optimism is so one-dimensional, stiff, and repetitive that I find it as oppressive as the excessive rantings of any monolithic heavy-metal band. To give credit where credit is due: As singles, "Rocky Mountain High" and "Take Me Home, Country Roads" have fine melodies and give complete and entertaining statements of Denver's myopic point of view. He's fortunate that Ray Charles recorded the latter: His version is so good that 20 years from now Denver may yet be remembered -- for having cowritten the song.
- Jon Landau, Rolling Stone, 6/6/74.
I still don't like Denver, who purveys privacy in hockey rinks and who never wonders how we are to "maintain our society" by contact with wilderness without destroying said wilderness. But except for the odious "Follow Me" -- so that's why he loves Annie so much -- I find this stuff inoffensive when it's not likable. Twice it's brilliant: "Leaving On a Jet Plane" and "Goodbye Again" are the essence of domesticus interruptus. Not that he's as talented as many of his supposed rivals. But he aims lower. B-
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
A good collection of his early (and best) era, 1969-1973. Note that Denver rerecorded some of his hits for this collection. * * * *
- Dan Heilman, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
The album everyone loves from the artist everyone mocked -- no matter how cool you think you are. Who can resist belting out the late singer-songwriter's hits like "Take Me Home, Country Roads" along with the jukebox? Reassuringly familiar, this warm, fuzzy collection of corny, but uplifting country-folk tunes leaves many high on nostalgia -- you may not love the mountains, but his tunes make you think you do. * * * *
- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.
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