THE MUSIC IS YOU: A TRIBUTE TO JOHN DENVER
Tribute albums can be difficult. Fans of an artist are used to hearing their favorite songs a certain way. Yet trying to record a song that matches how the original artist did it is rather pointless. The question becomes how creatively different or close to the original arrangement do the songs need to be, in the opinion of the diehard fans?
This album features covers of some of Denver’s most popular songs by a diverse group of artists. A portion of the proceeds are donated to The Wilderness Society in John’s name.
This CD will be enjoyable for the Baby Boomers who grew up waiting for John Denver to record his next album, as well as for those who weren't even born when he was having hits. Clearly the purpose was not to emulate his style but rather to revisit his songs for the benefit of those who remember the originals, as well as to introduce John's poetic creations to a new generation.
The album opens with a cover of “Leaving On A Jet Plane” by a group called My Morning Jacket. This stays pretty close to how John did the song and is a poignant and beautiful version. We’re not fans of Dave Matthews as his music doesn’t ordinarily appeal to us, but we really like what he did with Denver’s “Take Me To Tomorrow.” It's a very creative and soulful rendition. Brett Dennen’s cover of “Annie's Song,” (which John wrote for his first wife in ten minutes while on a ski lift!), is brilliant and the minor shift in the chorus of Allen Stones’ cover of “Rocky Mountain High” will give you chills. The “Wooden Indian” cover is an especially fantastic rendition by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (never heard of them before, but they’re great), and Old Crow Medicine Show handles one of our favorite John Denver songs, “Back Home Again” very nicely, giving it a bluegrass touch. Kathleen Edwards stays close to the way John did “All Of My Memories, and you can hear the angst in her voice. The group Train did a stellar job with “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” while Amos Lee takes a different approach with “Some Days Are Diamonds,” that works really well.
The absolute gem on this album is Mary Chapin Carpenter’s rendering of “I Guess He’d Rather Be In Colorado.” And Emmylou Harris’s teaming up with Brandi Carlile on John Denver’s signature “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is pure magic.
Mind you, this is not a slavish cover album full of 1970s Quaalude-like mellowness, but rather a beautiful and tempered 21st century tribute to a man born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. in 1943, who not only wrote about 200 of the 300 songs he recorded, but whose lyrics and melodies were so uniquely sensitive and often packed with meaning. A social activist, avid environmentalist and humanitarian, John was one of the most popular acoustic artists of all time. He had 12 gold and four platinum albums, and starred in films. He was even a finalist for the first citizens trip on the Space Shuttle, promoted cultural exchange with Russia, did a tour of China, and released an album to raise money for the homeless. A true Renaissance man, John Denver was an excellent pilot who flew his own Lear jet and vintage aircraft. but died while flying a small experimental aircraft in 1997, leaving this world at only 53.
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