Mojo (Publisher) (p.115) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[A] handsome 4-CD summation of the Southern folkie's three-decade legacy."
Liner Note Author: G. Brown.
Photographers: Patti Dahlstrom; Dave Hecht; Sandy Speiser; Harrison Funk; Nick Sangiamo; Bill Warren.
Since his tragic death in 1997, John Denver's legacy has been well-covered in a wide variety of greatest-hits packages and various anthologies. His most well-known work has always been widely available, but Sony's career-spanning four-disc set, All of My Memories: The John Denver Collection, digs a bit deeper, offering tracks from nearly every one of the acclaimed singer's studio and live albums from 1964 until the year of his death. They've also uncovered a selection of rare, unreleased tracks in the form of early demos and alternate versions. With his warm, dynamic tenor and earnest, folksy demeanor, Denver's career soared in the late '60s and '70s with hits like "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "Rocky Mountain High," and "Back Home Again," songs that have since become firmly entrenched standards in American music. For many fans, a simple Best Of collection will suffice. But in a recording career that spanned over three decades, it's important to look past the key tracks to get a clearer picture of what so endeared fans to his music. Part of Denver's appeal was his relatable, unthreatening character. In a time when the dramatic counterculture had crossed into the mainstream, his polite songs about love, country living, and appreciating nature felt wholesome and genuine. He had a knack for sweet melodies that spoke of clean living and there was nothing dangerous or revolutionary about folk songs like "Starwood in Aspen" or "Farewell Andromeda (Welcome to My Morning)," whose messages of coming home or heading out remain timeless. Of course, not everyone wanted to see the world through Denver's rose-hued granny glasses, and he was often dismissed as corny and old-fashioned, an image he largely accepted rather than fought. Throughout the generous 90 tracks on this set, there are strong themes of love and friendship, as he sings with companions like the Muppets, Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert, Olivia Newton-John, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. He sings about nature conservation, a cause he was closely tied to throughout his career. There are classic folk tracks from his early days fronting the Chad Mitchell Trio and over-produced country songs from the mid-'90s when, long after the hits had dried up, he still happily sang of cowboys and wide open land, all of it adding up to the greater picture of a man who stayed true to his image and seemingly, his heart. The quality of the production changes throughout the decades and there are plenty of songs that weren't hits for a reason, but there was never an unfortunate disco period or crossover into rock. They all sound like John Denver songs. Listening to his entire career arc, he remained the earnest and good-natured, if occasionally sad character who first made an impression with the plaintive "Leaving on a Jet Plane," a song whose wistful sentiments ring as pure today as they did in 1966. ~ Timothy Monger
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