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Monday, October 21, 2013

America - America (1971-72 us, brilliant country folk rock with gorgeous vocal harmonies, Hybrid SACD 2013 edition)

America's debut album is a folk-pop classic, a stellar collection of memorable songs that would prove influential on such acts as the Eagles and Dan Fogelberg. Crosby, Stills & Nash are the group's obvious stylistic touchstone here, especially in the vocal harmonies used (compare the thick chordal singing of "Sandman" and "Children" to CS&N's "You Don't Have to Cry" and "Guinevere") and the prominent use of active strummed acoustic guitar arrangements (contrast "Riverside" to CS&N's "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"). 

America's intricate interplay of acoustic guitar textures is more ambitious than that of their influences, however. Performance quality is usually good, though on occasion sloppily executed or out of tune (especially on the openings to "Donkey Jaw" and "I Never Found the Time"). Lengthy instrumental introductions ("Donkey Jaw"), middle improvisatory interludes ("Here"), and closings ("Clarice") are frequently encountered. Most of these selections boast highly unusual and inventive chord progressions that work well without drawing undue attention to themselves.

 Lyrics are sometimes trite ("I need you/Like the flower needs the rain") or obscure ("He flies the sky/Like an eagle in the eye/Of a hurricane that's abandoned"), but the music more than makes up for any verse problems; only the odd "Pigeon Song" seems an unsalvageable misstep. Sound quality here has a covered, intimate feel that lends a ghostly aura to this release. 

Chart hits from this album include the spectrally loping "A Horse with No Name," the squarishly tuneful "I Need You," and the nervously dour "Sandman." Other highlights include the buoyantly charming "Three Roses," the yearningly lovely "Rainy Day," and the quietly ringing "Clarice." In spite of its flaws, this platter is very highly recommended. 
by David Cleary

1. Riverside (Dewey Bunnell) - 3:03
2. Sandman (Bunnell) - 4:08
3. Three Roses (Bunnell) - 3:54
4. Children (Bunnell) - 3:07
5. A Horse With No Name (Bunnell) - 4:10
6. Here (Gerry Beckley) - 5:30
7. I Need You (Beckley) - 3:05
8. Rainy Day (Dan Peek) - 2:55
9. Never Found The Time (Peek) - 3:50
10.Clarice (Beckley) - 4:01
11.Donkey Jaw (Peek) - 5:17
12.Pigeon Song (Bunnell) - 2:18

*Gerry Beckley – Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Chimes, Piano
*Dewey Bunnell – Vocals, Guitars
*Dan Peek – Vocals, Guitars, Piano, Bass
*Dave Atwood – Drums
*Ray Cooper – Percussion
*Kim Haworth – Drums
*David Lindley – Electric Guitar

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