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Saturday, February 4, 2012

John Denver - Seasons of the Heart

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the release of John Denver’s sixteenth studio album. 1982’s Seasons of the Heart went to number 39 on the US Billboard Hot 200 and number 18 on the US Country Album charts. This Gold selling album generated a trio of marginally successful singles.

The album cover is kind of a different choice. It is rather dark and shadowy with Denver descending down some stone steps to the Purple Cloud Cave in Hangzhou, China. Only the sunlight off of his blonde hair give any indication that it is the singer for his face is completely in shadow. This was taken of him while he was over in China where it would appear he also wrote a number of these songs.


Side one starts with the title track. “Seasons of the Heart” was the second single released from the album; it only got as high as number 78 on the US Billboard Hot 100 but did better on the US Adult Contemporary charts (number 23) and on the Canadian Adult Contemporary charts (number 16). The gentle piano accompaniment and somber saxophone mirror the fragile state of the singer’s heart as he realizes he must seek love once more with another. He has to believe he will find love again for it is the only dream he knows.

The third single “Opposite Tables” did not make any kind of splash on the charts. The faint percussion at the start gives way to a more upbeat tempo as the song progresses. The lyrics have a message of peace and understanding, directed to two opposing sides in a conflict.

“Relatively Speaking” is about how one person makes another whole, how they balance out their weaknesses and shortcomings. A yin for a yang. I can definitely relate to this song as it is often how I feel about my wife of over twenty one years.

On the next song, Denver proposes that “Dreams” are what help guide us through our days, giving us something to strive for or to hope for.

“Nothing But a Breeze” has a bouncy, country-rock rhythm to it. This is definitely my favorite of the tracks on this first side. And, as always, I enjoy the saxophone solo here.

The side closes with another piano ballad. “What One Man Can Do” is about how one person can make a difference, to make the world a better place.

Side two opens with “Shanghai Breezes”, which was the first single. It went to number 31 on the US Billboard Hot 100 (his final Top 40 hit), and number 1 on both the US and the Canadian Adult Contemporary charts. The lyrics tell of two people half a world apart but remain close to one another due to the love in their hearts.

“Islands” is one of those songs that sound amazing with headphones on as you can really distinguish the instruments in each channel. It gives the music a flowing effect like waves gently breaking on a shore line.

“Heart to Heart” is a simple celebration of love, filled with optimism and faith.

“Perhaps Love” was originally done as a duet between Denver and Plácido Domingo for the later singer’s album of the same name in 1981. The version on this album is a solo re-recording. Lyrically, the song is directed to Denver’s wife while they were going through a separation before their divorce. Like earlier songs on this album, this one seems to be an open letter for some kind of reconciliation.

The album closes with “Children of the Universe”, a song filled with images of nature. I like how the song gently fades out with the single guitar chords.

Though Seasons of the Heart does not contain any huge hits, it does contain some very beautiful, relaxing music. John Denver always had a rich, melodic voice and knew how to write songs that could be enjoyed by a wide listening audience. While this wasn’t the type of music I would have been listening to back in 1982 when I was a junior in high school, as an adult who has experienced a lot more I can relate the topics he is singing about.

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