Some bands that have been at it since the early ‘70s have ended up haggard and straining credibility. America, who have close to a dozen songs that are still played with reverence on the radio, are not among them. Vocalists/guitarists Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek, and Gerry Beckley met while they were still in high school in the late '60s; all three were sons of U.S. Air Force officers who were stationed in the U.K. Their first album was written when they were still teenagers.
While ‘70s and ‘80s soft-rock (aka “Yacht Rock”) has been the subject of lively ribbing by modern hipsters, most will admit to a soft spot for much of America’s music. Case in point, America was tempted back into the studio in 2006 by longtime fans and musicians Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne and James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins to record the album Here & Now. Although encouraging Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley to stick to America's core sound, producers Schlesinger and Iha brought in younger musicians influenced by America to guest on the album including Ryan Adams, Nada Surf, Ben Kweller (11/18 at Pearl Street with Julia Nunes, FYI), members of My Morning Jacket, Smashing Pumpkins, and Fountains of Wayne (Pearl Street this Saturday 10/9 by the way.) The respect that Iha and Schlesinger have shown for America's talents is touching, drawing the best out of the band's close harmonies and gentle folk rock sound.
Over the decades, Beckley and Bunnell have lost none of their vocal compatibility or their guitar acumen. If anything, they're much better players than they were when they first rode into pop music history on their "Horse with No Name." I’d opine that they’ve fared better sonically than Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Eagles, and most other early '70s contemporaries.
Oh, and did you know that legendary Beatles producers George Martin and Geoff Emerick produced several America albums including their fourth, Holiday, which contained their smash hits "Tin Man" and "Lonely People." Their other chart toppers include their first hit "A Horse with No Name," which everyone thought was Neil Young under a pseudonym and ironically bumped Neil’s “Heart Of Gold” out of the #1 slot. And who can’t hum "Sister Golden Hair” with its memorable guitar riff admittedly inspired by George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord". Never mind “Don’t Cross The River (If you Can’t Swim The Tide),” "I Need You,” and "Ventura Highway." You can almost hear the bell bottoms flapping in the wind.
And finally it must be told that while the Captain and Tennille had the hit, America wrote the song “Muskrat Love” and recorded it first.
Tickets for America's 40th Anniversary Tour at the Calvin Theatre next Friday, October 15th at 8PM are $35, $45, & $55 and available at Northampton Box Office, 76 Main Street, 413-586-8686 and online at IHEG.com.
Also coming to the Calvin Theatre:
Remember Lennon: Imagine 70 this Friday, October 8th
Kansas on Saturday, November 6th
1964: The Beatles Tribute on Friday, November 12th
Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson on Thursday, November 18th