Friday, March 25, 2011

John Denver - "Definitive All-Time Greatest Hits"

"He was a Man Who Said Beautiful Things and He Said Them Beautifully" - Liner Notes to this album.

I discovered John Denver's music about three years ago. I had heard of him and knew his big songs but I never had one of his albums. My parents gave me this album for Christmas and I just loved his music and I now own a bunch of Denver CDs. He has become one of my favorite musicians. His lyrics are complex and catchy often linking everyday experiences to nature. He has a gift for catchy pop stylings that stay within his Folk/Country genre. His music is always honest and a large part of me wants to enter the magical world of Colorado that John Denver inhabits in his songs. The first song of Denver's that I ever heard was "Looking for Space." It was featured prominently in the "Magnum P.I." episode "Limbo." I loved that song and I often watched that episode simply to hear the song.

Denver has written some truly great great songs that are not given the appreciation that they deserve. He is often criticized for being too sentimental and overly earnest. I do not share those ideas. Denver always hits a chord inside my heart that makes me feel and that is what I want, sometimes, in my music. On one of the saddest days of my life, when my grandmother passed away, I sat in my room and listened to "Looking for Space" and "Sunshine on My Shoulders" because for those few minutes John Denver helped me feel better and made my heart calm.

This compilation is basically perfect. It collects his 20 finest and most popular songs, every track is golden and wonderful. This collects big hits like "Rocky Mountain High" and "Annie's Song" with lesser gems like "Wild Montana Skies" and "Shanghai Breezes." There are fine liner notes by fan David Wild as well as individual track memories by producer Milt Okum. There are a number of great photographs throughout the notes as well. There is also a second 4 track disc of early demos and a cover of The Band's "The Weight."

It saddens me that Denver passed away and when I was so young and before I had discovered his beautiful music. I am grateful that his music lives on to be discovered by old fans (like I shall become) and new converts (like I was). I am so grateful for his music and voice and for calming my heart and taking me on a trip through a magical world of Colorado. Thank you John Denver I hope you are riding on a Windsong through your beloved Rocky Mountains.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Delaney & Bonnie & Friends - "On Tour with Eric Clapton"

Delaney & Bonnie Bramlett were a husband and wife duo from California who made a series of, they actually crossed a number of different genres: Blues, Rock, Soul, Gospel and a little country. The duo recorded eight albums together before divorcing in the early 1970s causing the end of the pairing. Despite having a number of hits in the late 1960s they were never really superstars with the public. They are more well known for all their superstar "Friends" that performed with them such as, Clapton, George Harrison, Duane Allman and Dave Mason. They gained fame as Blind Faith's opening act for Blind Faith's only tour. A number of famous musicians joined their back up band and thus the group was called Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. The Brammlett's are also responsible for the formation of Derek & the Dominos all of whom played in their back up group. The same musicians were also used as backup on George Harrison's epic "All Things Must Pass" album. Delaney Bramlett also cowrote and produced Clapton's first solo album and persuaded Clapton to start a solo career.

This is Delaney & Bonnie's most famous album and one of the only ones still readily available for purchase or download. Their eleven piece band includes all of Derek & the Dominos, Clapton, Mason and Rita Coolidge. They perform like a white version of Ike and Tina Turner but with a better understanding of music. Clapton and Mason provide some strong guitar solos but the Bramletts are always the focus and they do put on a rousing show. They give strong renditions of "Things Get Better," Mason's "Only You Know and I Know" and Clapton's strong "Coming Home." (The version on the Clapton "Crossroads Box Set" has a much clearer sound however than the one presented here). The album though is a brief 40 minutes spear over nine tracks. There was a limited edition 4 disc box set feature the majority of the concerts that this album was culled from, it is a little hard to come by now.

Overall this is a fine live album not really necessary but a very important point in music history. Without this tour and album there would be no Dave Mason solo career, no Clapton solo career and worst of all no "Layla" album. That would be a tragedy.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Crosby & Nash - "Live"

This was the last recording, for many years, released by the duo of Crosby and Nash. They reunited with Stills after this album and have been together ever since. Originally released as a nine track album with poor sound. MCA records remastered and rereleased the album in 2000 with greatly improved sound and two new tracks. There is the excellent, never before released Crosby tune, "King of the Mountain" as well as a live version of "Bittersweet" with soaring vocals.

The performances are compiled from a number of shows during their 1975-76 tour. The pair are in good form with strong harmonious vocals. Their backing band, The Mighty Jitters, is spectacular and really push this disc up a notch. The song selection focuses on CN's three albums at the time and with a few selections from Nash's "Songs for Beginners." They only bring up their CSN history with a very trippy nine minute version of "Deja Vu" to close the album.

Overall this is a strong live album with very interesting versions of familiar songs, though most of them do not stray very far from the studio recordings. However, they are different enough though that fans of the pair will enjoy this release. If you do not care for CN's folk and country pop then this will not change your mind but if you are a fan this is a fine addition to the catalogue.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Crosby & Nash - "Graham Nash David Crosby"

There have been so many variations and permutations of Crosby, Stills & Nash that include CSN& Young, Stills-Young Band, Crosby-Nash-Young, Stills & Nash and yet the most successful variation would be Crosby & Nash.

After CSNY disbanded in late 1970 all four members released solo albums but in 1971 Crosby & Nash set out on a series of duo acoustic shows, which consisted of only the pair and two acoustic guitars performing songs from CSN as well as their solo work. The concerts were so successful that the pair went into the recording studio and released this album. It was a big hit and the start of several successful duo albums by the pair.

This is actually a recent purchase of mine and as I have said in previous posts I am big fan of CSN(Y) as well as their solo work, I had to get it. The pair divide the song writing credits equally and for the most part the songs are quite good. The sound is more folk and acoustic based than "Deja Vu" and is closer to the sounds of Nash's "Songs for Beginners."

"Southbound Train" and "Immigration Man" were the big hits off the album and retain that feel of CSN's first album. My favorite songs though are "Frozen Smiles," "Girl to be on My Mind" and "The Wall Song" all wonderful recordings that can only be found on this album. "Blacknotes" is a waste of one minute, basically Nash seemingly improvising lines for one minute. There are also the Crosby gems "Where Will I Be?" and "Page 43."

Overall this is probably best for fans of Crosby and Nash's solo work as well as big fans of CSN (like myself). Supposedly C&N are going to be re-release their duo catalog during 2011 maybe they will throw in some liner notes and such. Here's hoping.