Thursday, 19 July 2018

America - Greatest Hits


This is a beautiful compilation of early 70s three-part harmony-driven, largely acoustic “easy listening” rock.


1. A Horse With No Name
2. I Need You
3. Sandman
4. Ventura Highway
5. Don't Cross The River
6. Only In Your Heart
7. Muskrat Love
8. Tin Man
9. Lonely People
10. Sister Golden Hair
11. Daisy Jane
12. Woman Tonight                          

The influence of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young is never far away from many of the songs. The Byrds too. Beach Boys for the harmonies. The influence of America on The Eagles is clear on occasions too, “Woman Tonight” could almost be “Rumours” era Fleetwood Mac. Bits of Steely Dan “Haitian Divorce” guitar in there too, and a few years earlier than the "Dan" too.

The sound quality on this is simply stunning. Crystal clear acoustic guitar and a lovely, melodic bass sound, with a warm, full drum sound.

"A Horse With No Name" was the huge hit from 1972, lyrically perplexing and musically totally entrancing - “In the desert, you can’t remember your name, for there ain’t no-one for to for to give you no pain....”. See what I mean? Just such a great song, though, takes me right back to 1972 and this coming over the tannoy before football matches. "I Need You" is very, very Crosby, Stills & Nash. Plaintive, tuneful, harmonious and uplifting. Nice bass, drums and acoustic guitar sound. "Sandman" is one of the heavier, rockier tracks, featuring a deep bass sound and some thumping drums. Some almost late 60s Traffic-like riffs in places. A great bass solo at the close of the song, mixing with some excellent acoustic guitar.

The lovely "Ventura Highway" was equally as atmospheric as "A Horse With No Name", not quite as big a hit. Just makes you feel you are travelling down that highway with a cool breeze in your face. Hippy heaven. "Don't Cross The River" was another obviously C, S & N-influenced track. Extremely "Marrakesh Express". It launches after a slow opening into an upbeat piece of violin-backed country rock. The vocals, as always are superb. The bass lines on all this album are excellent. The perfectly harmonious "Only In Your Heart" sees 70s melodic folk rock to the fore again. Hints somewhere in it of Gilbert O'Sullivan's songs from the same period. Storming electric guitar solo at the end. The bizarre "Muskrat Love" was a hit in the late 70s for The Captain And Tennille. This version is still pretty odd but not quite as syrupy as theirs - it is a song about two muskrats (called Sam and Suzie!) and their romance - "nibbling on bacon, chewing on cheese". The lyrics are quite amusing in places and of course the harmonies are lovely, as again is the bass line, but it just is a strange song.

The recognisable "Tin Man" was the third of the group's hits. This is a delicious chilled-out stream of consciousness relaxing song with Dewey Burrell's instantly recognisable voice to the fore. More addictive three-part harmonies.

On "Lonely People",  a Dylanesque harmonica features. A lovely acoustic intro and that blissfully gentle bass guitar again. The drums kick and are joined by some bar-room piano and we are in to a classic piece of 70s country rock. It finishes a little too soon for my liking. "Sister Golden Hair", however, is a simply lovely slice of laid back 70s US folk rock. Hippy in both its title and ambience. So many redolences of Neil Young here, particularly in the vocal delivery. A solid country rock beat similar to that often used in the early Eagles recordings. Some nice steel guitar parts too. "Daisy Jane" has a plaintive vocal over a faint "heartbeat" rhythm before the usual acoustic, laid-back sound kicks in and a fuller drum sound. "Woman Tonight" is so redolent of "Rumours" era Fleetwood Mac. As I said in the introduction, hints of the guitar from Steely Dan's "Haitian Divorce". As with many of the featured tracks, it ends far too soon, just when you are starting to enjoy it.

Overall, though, this is a breath of fresh rocky mountain/California freeway air.


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