After several albums in which he had allowed cover versions to dominate the sets, John Denver returned with an album, Poems, Prayers & Promises, in which he had written over half the songs. He should have had more confidence in his own songs, for this was at the beginning of a golden period for Denver when his songs would dominate the easy listening airwaves, especially his big hit singles. "Take Me Home Country Roads" and his first U.S. number one, "Sunshine on My Shoulders," both surprisingly failed to reach the charts at all in the U.K.; however, the opening title track set the scene for the whole album, pleasant acoustic songs sung by Denver backed in most cases by the picking and strumming of his acoustic guitar. So it was rather surprising that the album ended with the track "The Box," a spoken poem with no music at all, relating a story similar to Pandora, of a box that was chained and locked and labeled "Kindly do not touch, it's war." When someone did break it open, a bouncy ball -- a metaphor for war -- escaped and ran amok, bumping into everything, particularly the children. And no one had the wisdom to put the ball back into the box and reseal it. Sounds as if it would be awful, but really it was quite moving. Poems, Prayers & Promises was actually released in 1971 but was reissued after Rocky Mountain High nearly reached the Top Ten in 1973, and it became his second Top 20 album. Of the covers, there were two from the Beatles: "Let It Be," an even simpler version than the original, and the rather less famous "Junk" from Paul McCartney's debut solo album. He also covered the James Taylor classic "Fire and Rain," which was rather unnecessary -- for it was rather insipid compared to the version the public had become familiar with less than a year previously.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Sharon Mawer