There are some albums that just define a band or an artist, like Peter Frampton Comes Alive or the The Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore East… or any variety of live Dead… and while I will try to stay away from greatest hit collections, this is perhaps one of the most ubiquitous albums in the world. Seriously. I mean that in a good way, too for it truly is everywhere. I think you would be hard pressed to find someone in their 30s to 50s who grew up steeped in classic folk/rock who does NOT own this album.
With that said, I also think that many people do not go deeper with this band, which is really too bad, as they have some absolute gems tucked away in their albums. “Rainy Day,” off their debut is one of my faves, as is “Another Try” off their Holiday album.
America – Greatest Hits (1975)
I picked this one for a few reasons… First and surprisingly, I saw them live for the first time just three nights ago. Yes, shame on me…
Second, I have owned this album forever and it was one of the first CDs I ever bought.
And here is a nice kicker… In the mid 70s, they were produced by George Martin. Yes, that now officially dubbed Sir George Martin who worked with a little band called The Beatles!!! He is often referred to as “the fifth Beatle” and what he did for that band and for all Rock n’ Roll music is jaw-droppingly astounding.
The sounds here are classic… AM radio classic… into early FM radio classic… into put this album on in the cassette deck/and then later CD player and just drive, classic.
Here are some thoughts on my most beloved tracks…
Horse With No Name – For me on guitar, this became my “Stairway to Heaven.” I knew it and would break it out every time I picked up a guitar… You know, to impress the ladies. Based on my current status as a Rock ‘n Roll star, you know how that went! According to Wikipedia, this song was not on the original release… WHAT???!!! But when they re-released it with this song, the album skyrocketed.
Ventura Highway – This and the Allman Brothers’ “Jessica” are two of my all-time favorite road trip songs. Okay “Jessica” is hands down the greatest road trip/car driving song ever. Period. So just put the top down… or flick back the sunroof, or just roll down your windows and drive!
And let the debate rage on… Ven too rah or Ven choo rah… and what the hell are alligator lizards doing in the air???
Muskrat Love – Okay, yes… the first time I heard this was on the Captain and Tennille TV Specials… and yes, I had a huge crush on Toni Tennille. Only later would I discover it was actually America who wrote it… and yes, I like the America version better. Sheesh!
Tin Man – “But Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man, that he didn’t, didn’t already have.” Need I say more?
Lonely People – “Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup.” “Hit it!” I love playing harmonica to this song!
Sister Golden Hair – “And I just can’t live without you. Can’t you see it in my eyes?”
“Will you meet me in the middle? Will you meet me in the air…” Ahhh…
Daisy Jane – The haunting strings… that beautiful melody…
“Does she really love me? I think she does.
Like the stars above me, I know because
When the sky is bright, everything’s all right”
I love three or four-part harmonies, and while they can and do still plug that in with newer members and backup singers, the loss of original member Dan Peek back in 1977 changed a certain vocal dynamic for sure. But watching Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell and their band the other night was an absolute joy… Keep on going America! We’ve all come to look for you.