America “America”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#445 in the Series) is the debut, self-titled debut from America

America? Cool? I say heck yeah, especially this album. This was 1971. I remember walking up to Roseland Music Store and buying my first ‘45s’ ever. In fact, they were just about the only 45s I even bought. I went pretty much right into albums. That day, however, I did by two. They were two songs by two artists that I think we’re very similar at this time. They were America, “Horse With No Name,” and Neil Young, “Heart of Gold.” Similar, at this stage of their music, absolutely. Listen to Horse With No Name and tell me that that couldn’t be a Neil Young song. If it had been his it would have been considered one of his classics.

Yeah, I will admit that they did have a couple schmaltzy tracks later in their career, but we’re talking about the first album here.  I think it’s one of the best debut albums ever.  This music was right up there with some of the best folk-rock, Americana etc. 

Are you only familiar with this band from the later hits?  Well, let me suggest listening to the first three songs on the video playlist below.  They are three of the best songs that the band ever recorded. They are, “Riverside,”, “Sandman “and “Three Roses.”   The live versions of those are just fantastic. That’s what I’ve placed on the playlist.

I first had a chance to see them in 1984 or 1985 at a small place called Carlton West in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  It was a great venue. Surprisingly, the song that I remember the most from that show was “I Need You.” What I remember mostly about that song live was the big drum ending.  I looked and looked and could not find a video version with that style.

One of the reasons we decided to feature this album was to honor the memory of Dan Peek. Dan Peek, who started America with Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell 40 some years ago passed away two days ago. His music will live forever.

— Larry Carta

Track listing

  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

Personnel

  • 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

Links

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Posted by Larry Carta

2 Comments

  1. Chris Bryant (10 Dec 2012, 12:04)
    Reply

    “Watched some rehearsal sessions of America’s early days on Youtube recently. I’m thinking they were completely unaware of the significance of their sound and the provenance they were establishing at that time. Ventura Highway, Tin Man, Sister Golden Hair, I need You, A Horse with no Name, etc….these were and are national treasures, whose meaning was just coherent enough to walk away with something special. Amazingly, none of these guys singly had strong voices, but the key to their unique sound was the balance of harmonies and warm tone. The signature guitar lines, and keyboard all combined to create a sophisticated folk/rock sound. I have read columns where the author or writer appears to be apologizing for their sound, as if there’s something less than dignified about their music. No chance – and the emphasis should be on the fact that this was a sound that reached an apex in folk/rock history. America and its original members (Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell, and Dan Peek) all have so much to be honored for.”

    My personal favorite…”Ventura Highway, the quintessential AMERICA tune (for me)… While I like a slew of hits from America, this is the central theme song for this band, with its signature guitar lines, excellent harmonies, pensive thought patterns, narrative imagery, a character named Joe, and a highway named “Ventura”. The thing one can’t adequately describe is the vocals ‘tween the lines – which America excels at more than any other band. Their signature ‘bridge’ vocals – not exactly actual recognizable words but more like…doo-doo-doo; doo-duh-doo. It’s the thing that conquers the right side of the brain – and indellibly remains there. It stung me good when as a teenager, I found my sound.

    As a vocalist myself, I was drawn to this style of music, and found my home there. I’ve sung many different forms of music (R&B, classic rock, country) and traveled myself as a musician in the 80’s with a Christian band in California – but in terms of music styles – I am at home with the sound that America birthed – now 40 plus years ago. Here’s to you America!

  2. Dave Gonet (12 Sep 2013, 20:51)
    Reply

    In Neil Young’s auto biography he wirtes about doing a lot of drugs around the time America’s debut hit. He said that he heard “Horse With No Name”, and he didn’t remember recording it.



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