Picks and Pans Review: A Celebration of Life
His voice was an almost perfect instrument for the pop songs he performed, as vivid and textured as aspens photographed in morning light. At his best, John Denver soared above his impulse to sentimentalize, and in this recently released album, billed as "his last recordings" and completed little more than a year before his death in October, he revisited many of the tunes that made him one of the most commercially successful singers of the 1970s. While corn was never far from his palette ("Perhaps Love," "I'm Sorry"), Denver also left a store of memorable, tightly crafted tunes like "Leavin' on a Jet Plane," which became a No. 1 hit for Peter, Paul & Mary in 1969, and "Rocky Mountain High," his soaring, 1972 celebration of a city-damaged soul reborn in nature. For these re-recordings, Denver didn't stray far from his original versions, although his tendency toward overwrought optimism does seem tethered at times by a touch of melancholy. It is a feeling old fans may feel as well after hearing this bittersweet collection. (River North)
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