Oliver Again

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Although it doesn't contain "Sunday Mornin'," the chart hit which came between Oliver Again and the popular songs from the self-titled previous outing, "Good Morning Starshine" and "Jean," "Producer/Director" Bob Crewe returns with covers of a 1957 Johnny Mathis hit, "The Twelfth of Never," as well as a rendition of a tune released by Peter, Paul & Mary in 1967 which charted at the end of 1969, "Leaving on a Jet Plane." Donny Osmond scored in the Top 40 with "The Twelfth of Never" just a few years after this, so Crewe and company had the right idea, it's just that the execution is way off. For such an instinctive producer with a great track record to spread the singer across so many styles was one of the major flaws here ...along with the fact that they allowed Oliver to try his hand at songwriting again. The most commercial track is a los Bravos-style arrangement of "Leaving on a Jet Plane," perhaps the most rock & roll sounding of any John Denver song recorded up to this point in time, and far and away the best cut on Oliver Again. Bob Crewe throws some of those little symphonic ditties in that made the Buckinghams' 1967 hit "Susan" such a delight and puts some stylish instrumentation into the grooves. Also, when William "Oliver" Swofford sings in that "Good Morning Starshine" kind of voice as he does on "Leaving on a Jet Plane," it is very appealing. The overstated Jacques Brel/Rod McKuen style vocals on their "If You Go Away" or even the too-passionate reading of "The Twelfth of Never" erase all the potential and go beyond being cumbersome. They are downright annoying. "I Can Remember," which leads off side two, works because Oliver is kept in the format that works best for him, and because Bob Crewe actually puts his nose to the grindstone and allows his own creativity to shine. The Barry Mann/Cynthia Weill tune also gets a thumbs up, "Angelica" may not be a hit, but it is a good album track. "The Picture of Kathleen Dunne" resplendent in Hawaiian guitar is not bad filler, either, and who can quarrel with including music by Buffy Saint-Marie? It's the failure of the label president and producer to stick to the program that makes Oliver Again one album that is very, very hard to find.

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