Back Home Again

John Denver

RCA, 1974

http://johndenver.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/15/2017

After years of trying to get his name and music noticed in the industry, John Denver suddenly was a superstar. 1974's Back Home Again, quite possibly, marked the pinnacle of that success, delivering two hit singles (including a number one in “Annie's Song”) and others which became staples in Denver's live shows.

It could well be the closest to a country album that Denver ever recorded – even though Denver, in all honesty, was always more of a folk musician than a country artist. Still, he seemed to embrace that style – even if it wasn't the most comfortable fit for him. And despite a few filler tracks – something which is very noticeable on an album which is fairly short in length – it is a pretty enjoyable listen.

The title track seems to be one of the closest things to a country song on the disc – and if you're looking for Denver to embrace his inner cowboy completely, I can't say that he completely does this. Perhaps he accomplished this on “Thank God I'm A Country Boy,” which is a decent track, but not the rollicking party it would become until the live version became a hit one year later. But the laid-back, slow tempo of “Back Home Again” might not have been the best way to open the disc. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The centerpiece of the album, naturally, is “Annie's Song”. And while one can try to write this song off due to the fact that Denver later divorced Ann Martell, for whom the song was written, it remains a very pretty and heartfelt song that has lost nothing over the years in terms of emotional and musical power.

If Back Home Again were only known for these three songs, it would be enough to keep offering praise to the disc. But a few other tracks help bolster its status, even if they're not as well-known. For one, “Matthew” is a wonderful story-song which only gained more power the farther that Denver went in his career (and as his voice mellowed and deepened a bit). Likewise, “Sweet Surrender” is rich in musical depth, even if it's not as strong lyrically; it simply is an overall beautiful song. And while I could call it a throw-away song, “Grandma's Feather Bed” is kind of fun to listen to.

Back Home Again, however, does have a few songs which just don't live up to the same levels of excellence. I understand that “This Old Guitar” also became a staple in Denver's live show, but it's not quite as strong as the hits on this disc (though it is by no means a bad track). And I just can't feel the same level of excitement for tracks like “Eclipse,” “On The Road” and “It's Up To You” that I feel for the more well-known songs.

Still, Back Home Again as a whole is a fairly enjoyable disc, and is worth trying to look past the well-known tracks to experience the album as a whole.

Rating: B-

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