Thursday, 23 March 2017

"America" (1971 and 1972 Debut LP) by AMERICA - Inside "Original Album Series" (2012 Warner Brothers/Rhino 5CD Mini Box Set of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...






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Their 1971 Debut Album "America" on Warner Brothers BS 2576
(Reissued in 1972 with "A Horse With No Name" Added) 

"...Living On The Riverside..." 

I never did quite get why America and their Seventies albums are so derided in some quarters – they made a beautiful racket when they hit that CSNY Harmony Vocals sweet spot.

Sure the later stuff could be a tad schmaltzy on occasion – but this dinky little treasure trove offers seekers of Soft Rock an awful lot of good over bad. And "Holiday" from 1974 and "Hearts" from 1975 had the steer-ship of fifth Beatle George Martin at the Producer controls – both huge records - Top 5 albums in their native USA.

However for today – we’re going to concentrate on their rather stunning and now wildly overlooked debut – "America" – launched on an unsuspecting world at the tail end of 1971. Some are calling it a forgotten gem – quiet possibly the follow up to "Deja Vu" Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young never made. Anyway - time to name those horses and flush out that Sandman...

UK released 11 June 2012 - "Original Album Series" by AMERICA on Warner Brothers/Rhino 8122797457 (Barcode 081227974572) is a 5CD Mini Box Set with Five Single Card Repro Sleeves – it plays out as follows:

Disc 1 "America" (46:43 minutes):
1. Riverside
2. Sandman
3. Three Roses
4. Children
5. A Horse With No Name
6. Here
7. I Need You [Side 2]
8. Rainy Day
9. Never Found The Time
10. Clarice
11. Donkey Jaw
12. Pigeon Song
Tracks 1 to 4, 6 and 7 to 12 are their debut 11-track album "America" - released December 1971 in the USA on Warner Brothers BS 2576 and December 1971 in the UK on Warner Brothers K 46093. When the song "A Horse With No Name" (originally a stand alone 7" single) became a US hit in early 1972 (eventually went to No. 1 as did the album) - "America" the LP was repressed using the same American catalogue but with that track slotted in on Side 1 between "Children" and "Here" making it a 12-track LP. It is this version that is represented here (the UK 11-track LP and even later represses never featured "A Horse With No Name"). Produced by AMERICA, IAN SAMWELL and JEFF DEXTER - it peaked at No. 1 on the US LP charts and No. 14 in the UK.

Disc 2 "Homecoming" (33:20 minutes):
1. Ventura Highway
2. To Each His Own
3. Don't Cross The River
4. Moon Song
5. Only In Your Heart
6. Till The Sun Comes Up Again [Side 2]
7. Cornwall Blank
8. Head & Heart
9. California Revisited
10. Saturn Nights
Tracks 1 to 10 are their second studio album "Homecoming" - released November 1972 in the USA on Warner Brothers BS 2655 and December 1972 in the UK on Warner Brothers K 46180. Produced by AMERICA - it peaked at No. 9 in the USA and No. 21 in the UK.

Disc 3 "Hat Trick" (41:35 minutes):
1. Muskrat Love
2. Wind Wave
3. She's Gonna Let You Down
4. Rainbow Song
5. Submarine Ladies
6. It's Life
7. Hat Trick [Side 2]
8. Molten Love
9. Green Monkey
10. Willow Tree Lullaby
11. Goodbye
Tracks 1 to 11 are their 3rd studio album "Hat Trick" - released November 1973 in the USA on Warner Brothers BS 2728 and November 1973 in the UK on Warner Brothers K 56016. Produced by AMERICA - It peaked at No. 28 in the USA and No. 41 in the UK.

Disc 4 "Holiday" (32:56 minutes):
1. Miniature
2. Tin Man
3. Another Try
4. Lonely People
5. Glad To See You
6. Mad Dog
7. Hollywood [Side 2]
8. Baby It's Up To You
9. You
10. Old Man Took
11. What Does It Matter
12. In The Country
Tracks 1 to 12 are their 4th studio album "Holiday" - released July 1974 in the USA on Warner Brothers W 2808 and July 1974 in the UK on Warner Brothers K 56045. Produced by GEORGE MARTIN - it peaked at No. 3 in the USA (didn't chart in the UK)

Disc 5 "Hearts" (36:17 minutes):
1. Daisy Jane
2. Half A Man
3. Midnight
4. Bell Tree
5. Old Virginia
6. People In The Valley
7. Company [Side 2]
8. Woman Tonight
9. The Story Of A Teenager
10. Sister Golden Hair
11. Tomorrow
12. Seasons
Tracks 1 to 12 are their fifth studio album "Hearts" - released April 1975 in the USA on Warner Brothers BS 2852 and April 1975 in the UK on Warner Brothers K 56115. Produced by GEORGE MARTIN - it peaked at No. 4 in the USA (didn't chart in the UK).

AMERICA was:
DEWEY BUNNELL - Lead Vocals and Guitars
GERRY BECKLEY - Guitars and Vocals
DAN PEEK - Bass, Acoustic Guitars and Vocals 

The elaborate tri-gatefold that came with "Homecoming" and the inners and inserts that came with "Hat Trick" and the others are all AWOL in the single sleeve card sleeves and apart from track lists on the generic coloured CDs - there is bugger all by way of info with these multiple packs. As you can see from the front and rear album cover photos provided for "America" – the credits are barely legible and at this price that’s to be expected.

But the Audio is superb throughout – really great. Take "To Each His Own" on "Homecoming" or "Muskrat Love" on "Hat Trick" or "I Need You" on here - I've had Remasters of these and the audio here is pretty much the same - very clear - beautiful really. Now let’s talk about the debut in full...

It seems funny now to think that the British got the drop on America. The whole of their 11-track self-titled debut album "America" was recorded at Trident Studios in London with Dewey Bunnell's "A Horse With No Name" recorded later at Morgan Studios (in North London). Perhaps suspecting that its incessant hook was a chart winner – Warners decided to issue it as a stand-alone single prior to the album. So 21 November 1971 saw the UK 7" Demo for "A Horse With No Name" appear on Warner Brothers K 16128 as a 3-track EP - the non-album "Everyone I Meet Is From California" being A2 and the album's "Sandman" on the flipside. There is even a very rare Promo-Only picture sleeve for this issue interestingly with the tracks on the wrong order on the P/S.

The album appeared post Christmas December 1971 in both the USA and UK minus "A Horse With No Name". But when American DJs got hold of Warner Brothers WB 7555 in February 1972 (the release date for the US 45) they began playing that 'Neil Young' song listeners were asking for (Bunnell's nasal whine was similar to NY's voice). "A Horse With No Name" quickly began to build massive momentum - so much so that it eventually made the No. 1 spot (the LP did the same). Warner Brothers USA repressed the "America" LP with the same catalogue number as a 12-track reissue with the hit single slotted into Side 1 between "Children" and "Here". In fact the song had such legs that they pressed up a third variant of the vinyl LP which actually says 'Includes The Hit Single "A Horse With No Name"' in boxed print on the front cover lest you didn’t twig what goodies lay within. As a by the way – with Neil Young’s "Harvest" tearing up the US LP charts from the moment it was released in February 1972 – many American buyers thought America’s single was a song by him. It went as far apparently as one clever DJ dubbing the debut America album as "A Horse With No Neil" (he haw).

Speaking of bum notes - it's a bit of a shame that the jaunty and quite brilliant non-album B-side "Everyone I Meet is from California" isn't on Disc 1 as a further bonus. But what you do get is the similarly structured "Riverside" - as lovely a song as has ever opened an LP and a huge fan fave (Warners UK put it on the flipside of "I Need You" in August 1972 – Warner Brothers K 16178). I've always cringed at the drone of "Sandman" if I’m completely honest (and those nonsense lyrics). I'd rather be listening to the 'stop and see what I'm on about' song "Three Roses" - a wickedly infectious acoustic melody that still sounds amazingly fresh 46 years after the event.

The strummed "Here" – the piano love song "I Need You" and the gorgeous "Never Found The Time" (very Mercury Years Rod Stewart in its own way) – will all probably elicit tears amidst men of a certain age. And that acoustic guitar build-up intro to "Donkey Jaw" sounds beautiful and if it had the moniker Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young before it instead of America – would be declared a ‘quit ravishing the land’ masterpiece by every journo for miles.

"America" is a wonderful debut album – tunes – playing – top quality Production values – a pigeon named Fred - it was all there and still is... 
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