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Denver Nuggets

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John Denver’s best work — his remarkable string of hits from the ’70s — combined a lyrical purity and warmth with melodies that seemed familiar on first listening. In later years, his folkie style ambled into synthesized easy listening, with social-activism songs like ”Earth Day, Every Day” replacing laid-back classics like ”Take Me Home, Country Roads.” But if his newer work was not always in demand, his signature songs were. More than half of Denver’s catalog is not available on single CDs, but compilations abound in several forms. Recommended albums:

The Rocky Mountain Collection (1996, RCA) Not to be confused with the just-released Country Roads Collection (an overly generous four CDs of 79 tracks), these concise two discs deliver more bang for the buck, essentially combining Denver’s three greatest-hits records into one definitive boxed set. A

The Wildlife Concert (1995, Sony Legacy) Joined by sidemen James Burton and Jim Horn, Denver turns in graceful renditions of 28 of his songs on this live recording to benefit the Wildlife Conservation Society. An abridged version with two new songs is available as The Best of John Denver Live (1997, Sony Legacy). Both: A

Different Directions (1991, Windstar) Denver’s last album of all-new material finds him in a mellow mood. B

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