LIVE and remastered releases from Spirit, John Denver, and Graham Nash have gained the attention of County Gazette reviewer Kevin Bryan this week. 

John Denver, Live at Cedar Rapids 12/10/87 (Floating World)

Denver’s innocuous and happy-go-lucky image masked an artist whose best work highlighted humanitarian and social concerns which would only grow in importance as the decades slipped by.

This impressive two-CD set delves deeply into Denver’s illustrious back catalogue to revive much loved oldies such as 'Annie’s Song', 'Rocky Mountain High' and 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' alongside his affectionate covers of John Prine’s 'Blow Up Your TV' and Lennon and McCartney’s 'Mother Nature’s Son'. 

The singer-songwriter’s years of tumultuous commercial success were little more than a distant memory by the time that “Live at Cedar Rapids” was captured for posterity in 1987, but Denver remained a consumate live performer nonetheless, and this easy-on-the-ear collection provides a welcome introduction to the creative legacy of a perceptive acoustic balladeer whose finest musical creations still resonate with audiences today.

Graham Nash, Live (Proper Records) 

Blackpool-born and Salford-raised Graham Nash has assembled a sizeable body of work since he began writing songs with his old school friend Allan Clarke in The Hollies almost six decades ago, and the octogenarian singer-songwriter is still plying his trade with power and passion today.

This interesting live set focusses attention on Nash’s first two solo albums, 'Songs for Beginners' and 'Wild Tales', originally released in the early seventies and performed here in their entirety via recordings made at a variety of venues in the northeastern United States in 2019.

The subject matter of these typically wide-ranging Nash collections runs the gamut from the poignant romanticism of 'Simple Man' to fervent pleas for prison reform  and classic anti-war anthems such as 'Chicago' and 'Military Madness', the latter songs sadly still just as topical today as they were when first penned half a century ago.

Spirit, Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus - Deluxe Edition (Cherry Red) 

This newly remastered version of the classic fourth album from guitarist Randy California’s hugely influential outfit has been expanded into a two-CD set with the inclusion of a generous helping of bonus tracks and some hitherto unreleased live material culled from Spirit gigs in San Francisco and Boston in 1970.

The original long player spawned a string of classic creations from the band, including 'Animal Zoo', 'Nature’s Way' and 'Mr Skin'.

Spirit archivist and astute album compiler Mick Skidmore deserves a pat on the back for his sterling efforts here as he brings together concert recordings of all the tracks that I’ve just mentioned as well as some interesting alternate mono mixes and backing tracks from half a century ago.

California arguably never really reaped the rewards that his mercurial talents should have guaranteed, but he’s captured in particularly fine fettle here.