John Denver was one of the most renowned artists of the 1970s. His unique, mellow style resonated with audiences to the tune of twelve gold-certified and four platinum-certified albums, and a whopping 33 million records sold worldwide. Though his best-known albums arrived in the early 1970s, Denver’s music journey had begun long before, as a member of The Mitchell Trio, and as one-third of Denver, Boise & Johnson. This Friday, November 9, Varese Sarabande will release a new CD collection of these 1967 and 1968 recordings, including early versions of “Leaving on A Jet Plane” and “Take Me to Tomorrow,” as well as four previously unreleased tracks.
Born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. in 1943, he picked up the guitar at a young age. By the time he was in college he was a mainstay in local coffeehouses and clubs. He was urged by a fellow folkie to change his surname to something more marquee-friendly and the name John Denver stuck. In 1965, Denver joined The Mitchell Trio, replacing the group’s founder, Chad Mitchell. The group had previously found success with folk standards and covers of Dylan and Paxton tunes (in fact, they recorded the first-ever version of “Blowin’ in the Wind.”) But Denver brought with him some new original compositions, including “Babe, I Hate to Go,” which eventually became “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” They released a handful of albums on Reprise Records before undergoing some personnel changes and eventually settling as the trio Denver, Boise, and Johnson.
Now, fifty years on, Varese has collected a selection of the Reprise repertoire of both groups, plus four previously unreleased recordings. Among the tracks are two different Mitchell Trio versions of “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” plus Denver, Boise & Johnson’s previously unreleased take on Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” and a Mitchell Trio cover of The Beatles’ “She Loves You.” The album also includes an unreleased live version of “If You Had Me in Shackles,” an outtake recorded for The Mitchell Trio’s 1967 concert album, Alive. Together, the 12 songs on the new set celebrate the early years of a much-loved American troubadour, who tackles originals and covers alike in his inimitable style. Mike Ragogna provides the new liner notes in the booklet designed by Bill Pitzonka, and Steve Massie has remastered.
Leaving On a Jet Plane arrives on Friday from Varese and is now available for pre-order. You can find a full track list and pre-order links below!
- Leaving On a Jet Plane (Electric Version) – The Mitchell Trio
- Baby, That’s Where It Is – The Mitchell Trio
- Like To Deal With The Ladies As Sung In The Shower Accompanied By a Twenty-Seven Piece Band – The Mitchell Trio
- Both Sides Now – Denver, Boise & Johnson *
- Take Me To Tomorrow – Denver, Boise & Johnson
- Victoria Dines Alone – Denver, Boise & Johnson *
- ’68 Nixon (This Year’s Model) – Denver, Boise & Johnson
- Yellow Cat – Denver, Boise & Johnson *
- Leaving On a Jet Plane – The Mitchell Trio
- She Loves You – The Mitchell Trio
- He Was a Friend Of Mine – The Mitchell Trio
- If You Had Me In Shackles – The Mitchell Trio *
Tracks 1-2 released on Reprise single 0588, 1967
Tracks 3 and 10 released on Reprise single 0630, 1967
Tracks 4, 6 and 8 previously unreleased
Tracks 5 and 7 released on Reprise single 0695, 1968
Tracks 9 and 11 from The Mitchell Trio Alive – Reprise RS 6258, 1967
Track 12 is a previously unreleased outtake from The Mitchell Trio Alive