Released: January 1972
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 40
Certified Platinum: 10/13/86
What have we here, O my sisters and brothers, but an album that serves as living proof that if you release 88 albums every month, at least one of them will make the charts and thus merit the attention of your humble record review staff?
America, three real young men whose only concession to a combined 15 years of English residence is one wrinkled Rod Stewart-style velour jacket of the sort you don't need to go to England to get any more, are strictly for those who find Crosby & co. inaccessibly cerebral.
On the strength of an extremely (a) lame, and (b) unashamedly Neil Young-imitative hit single, "A Horse With No Name," they've quickly become as big with whatever's left of the inwardly cleancut segment of the teen audience as Black Sabbath have with the reds/revolution/Ripple crowd.
Having failed to qualify as a teenager in each of the last five years, I am probably grossly unqualified to comment on them in a fair and objective fashion. If you must know, though, I find: their vocal harmonies engagingly pretty, if samey, their individual lead singing manneredly sensitive/vulnerable and a little noxious, their tunes occasionally mildly pleasant, and few of their words as militantly nauseating as, "In the desert you can remember your name cos there's no one there for to give you no pain," although mawkish sentiments and banal, pimply hyperboles about therein.
- John Mendelsohn, Rolling Stone, 4/27/72.
Sometime before you read this review, America's album will have been recalled by Warners, their hit single, "A Horse With No Name," added to the tunes, and the album then returned to the stores. And, by the time you read this, it will be hard to get a copy. Sold out, probably, if the constant airplay of several cuts is any indication. Not bad for a first album.
The object of all this attention is a group formed by three Army brats living in England who manage to sound like either Neil Young or CSN&Y, depending on which cut you're listening to. America, as they're known collectively, has evidently stockpiled a lot of knowledge in their young lives (18, 19 and 20 years) to be as facile as they are with close harmonies, tight arrangements and clever lyrics. They must also have clocked a lot of listening time around the old stereo, 'cause when you finally get over being stunned at how much they sound like Young & Co., you realize there are lots of other influences there, too, lurking underneath that most obvious one. (Kind of like, "How many Indians can you find hidden in this picture?")
A third listening revealed that the clever lyrics are, for the most part, only that. Mick Jagger doesn't have to move over just yet. But, I'm sure that time will provide Messrs. Bunnell, Beckley and Peek with ample opportunity and wherewithal to be "profound." For the moment, they can relax on catchy rhymes and rhythms as in "Sandman" -- the one that's been stuck in my head since the first time I heard it:
One could hear a whole lot worse than that lyric from people who've been around a whole lot longer. America obviously has a lot going for it; and if they're this good now, what will the next album be like?
- Daisy Buchanan, Words & Music, June 1972.
Released in January of 1972, America is the self-titled debut album from one of the most original and influential pop groups of the '70s. Yielding the No. 1 hit "A Horse With No Name," and its Top 10 follow-up, "I Need You," America highlights the exquisite harmonies and subtle acoustic shadings that would become an America trademark.
Dewey Bunnell, Gerry Beckley and Dan Peek -- each an accomplished vocalist and guitar player -- first met in England in 1967 while stationed with their parents at a U.S. Air Force base. A mutual interest in modern music kept up the acquaintance as they apprenticed in a series of local rock and folk ensembles. In 1969, while attending London's Central High, they began seriously writing and performing together, eventually taking the name of a homeland they hardly knew.
America quickly gained a reputation for incisive, evocative songwriting and appealing performances built around their distinctive three-part harmonies. In 1972 they landed a recording contract and set to work on their debut album.
Produced by Ian Samwell with Jeff Dexter and America, (and engineered by Ken Scott, who would go on to work with David Bowie and others) America, the album, features a dozen original songs including the Dewey Bunnell-penned smash "A Horse With No Name." The tune, which reached No. 1 in the U.S. in March of 1972, highlights surreal stream-of-consciousness lyrics and a sparkling acoustic arrangement. Its follow-up, Gerry Beckley's "I Need You," is a mesmerizing ballad that further established America's credentials as a top-notch composing and performing unit. Other standout cuts include "Here," "Riverside" and the Dan Peek composition "Rainy Day."
- CD liner notes, 1990.
Just such a beautiful, lush, timeless masterpiece.
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