Picks and Pans Review: Dreamland Express

updated 08/26/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/26/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

John Denver

Not even his greatest admirers would ever call J.D. funky, so when he ends his version of Roy Orbison's Claudette by grunting out a James Brown-like "Good God!" one can only hope he's trying to be funny. Confusion reigns in any case. Recently divorced, Denver seems to be constructing a sort of lonely guy image, having dropped his glasses and resorted to moody black-and-white photographs on the LP jacket. Though the songs are sprinkled with "baby" references and a melancholy hardly consistent with Denver's usual sunny disposition, there are some pleasant tracks. If Ever, a Stevie Wonder/ Stephanie Andrews love song, has a naive kind of charm, decorated by exchanges between Wonder on harmonica and Jim Horn on saxophone. Randy Handley's Trail of Tears manages to lament the history of the American Indian without seeming maudlin. The most striking moment on the LP comes at the end of Denver's own African Sunrise. It's only a few seconds of chanting, recorded at a village in Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta), tacked on to the end of a message song about starvation in Africa. Those few seconds, filled with a vibrant energy, amount to an object lesson in what's missing from the rest of the album. (RCA)

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