Wednesday, 9 January 2019

America - America (1971)


  

Released December 1971

America's debut album is a folk/rock classic, full of crystal clear acoustic guitars, airy melodies, gentle, harmonious vocals. They were clearly influenced by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and The Byrds, but, in turn, were hugely influential on groups like The Eagles.

TRACK LISTING

1. Riverside
2. Sandman
3. Three Roses
4. Children
5. A Horse With No Name
6. Here
7. I Need You
8. Rainy Day
9. Never Found The Time
10. Clarice
11. Donkey Jaw
12. Pigeon Song

"Riverside" is a tuneful, atmospheric opener, while "Sandman" ups the beat somewhat with some solid drums and buzzy guitar sounds and sumptuous bass. It is very much of its time, so very early early seventies, with echoes of the hippy era still floating around all over the place. "Three Roses" is just so typical America - razor sharp acoustic guitars, gentle bass, tender soft vocals and understated bongo rhythm backing (played by Ray Cooper, who went on to play with Elton John for many years). Yes, it may all sound a bit clich├ęd and of its time, but boy is it atmospheric. The latest remastering of it is wonderful too. So warm and clear. "Children" is another that fits the same description, although it is even more laid-back, if that were possible.

Then, of course, is the one everyone remembers - the sublime, lyrically mysterious and magnificently atmospheric "A Horse With No Name". In many ways, this track exemplifies early seventies folk rock more than any other, by any other group. It captivated me as a thirteen year old in early 1972 and still sends shivers down my spine now It is simply gorgeous. "After nine days I let the horse run free....". Such an evocative line.

The guitars on the lively "Here" are just superb, as indeed is the bas and drums. This rocky track showed that they could do some upbeat acoustic rock with the best of them. This is a wonderful track, with some mightily impressive finger-picking guitar in the middle too. Great stuff. So uplifting. In many ways, the guitar work is more intricate than that of their influencers. "I Need You" strangely fades in plaintively, although it kicks in to a Beatles-esque drum part half way through. Again, there are rock stylings to this, particularly near the end as well as the folk ones. "Rainy Day" is beautifully laid-back, with more sublime guitar work, both acoustic and sublime. So much material was influenced by this, particularly the way rock bands would approach acoustic balladry. Even now, an artist such as Paul Weller has put out stuff like this.

"Never Found The Time" is another low-key acoustic number with more crystal clear acoustic guitar. The same gentle mood is continued on the sensitive feel of "Clarice". As with quite a few of the tracks, about half way through the beat gets rocky and it ends on a far ore lively note than it began. "Donkey Jaw" has many changes of pace, mood and feel, almost like a prog-rock song. It is the album's most adventurous composition. Some of the guitar parts remind me of The Jam's "No One In The World". "Pigeon Song" is a short Neil Young-influenced number to end this very enjoyable, very influential early seventies folk/rock album. It is an album that never fails to lift my mood. Highly recommended.

B+

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