Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Back Home Again" by John Denver (1974)

View the Premise & Ground Rules for Revisiting Vinyl

Filed between: Deep Purple and Derek & The Dominos

Key Tracks:
Thank God I'm a Country Boy, Cool an' Green an' Shady (there's a clarinet!), Eclipse - seriously, find four minutes of quiet time and listen to Eclipse.

Obvious Filler & Swings-and-Misses:
It's up to You is a fair song, but it sticks out like a sore thumb in the context of everything else.  Sweet Surrender is a an empty, tedious song that plays and then repeats itself in toto.

My Overall Rating of the Tracks Separately:
Above Average (2.5/4 stars)

"Sometimes it takes forever for the day to end; sometimes it takes a lifetime."

John Denver gets a bad rap.  Along with Dee Snider and Frank Zappa, he is responsible for keeping government oversight out of a musician's artistic license.  But people never talk about that.  People always talk about the over-emotive quality of his songs.  Granted, he did some cheesy, hokey garbage, but he also made some really good music as well.

I'll demonstrate.  Let's compare and contrast two of the better known songs on "Back Home Again" - Annie's Song and Thank God I'm a Country Boy.

Annie's Song is a dilletante folkie's wet dream - simplistic and spare lyrics, a slight wavering tremelo in the voice, thick orchestration, the list goes on and on - none of it good.  I remember hearing snippets of this song when I was a kid and commercials would roll for an LP of John Denver's greatest hits.  "It has all the classics you love... Take Me Home (Country Roads), Rocky Mountain High and, of course, Annie's Song."  Even as a kid I knew I didn't like that song; hearing it made me want to punch that dude with the glasses and the pageboy haircut in the face.

And then I grew up.  More or less.  But I still don't care for that song.

On the other hand, Thank God I'm a Country Boy became a song I really like, but it took a very long time.  My introduction to it was sixth grade music class.  That song was never intended to be performed by a roomful of tone-deaf, indentured servants accompanied by a waaaaay too showtunesish piano.  I will allow that the original has an overwhelming "aw shucks" attitude to it, but when you look at a lot of other homespun favorites, you realize that's part of the schtick.  TGIACB should be americana canon, not something you're forced to sing in middle school chorus.

I know, I know.  John Denver didn't write TGIACB.  However, he did write Eclipse, which contains the quote at the top of this entry.  I think that's a really good line.  I like that line a lot.  I like that song a lot and I'm not ashamed to say it.  I wish more people felt the same way.

So, is it an album?  Yes.  Except for It's up to You, "Back Home Again" feels like you're sitting around a roaring hearth fire on a winter night with J.D. and his buddies picking for everyone's entertainment.

Up next we give Van Halen a run for their money in the "again?" category as we spin our third entry from Elton John.  This time around it's "Madman across the Water."

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