AMERICA – Back Pages (2011)
In the ’70s America were the darlings of rock&pop radio. The trio (which became a duo) had a vocal blend and sound that were less threatening than the Eagles’, and they were enjoyed by teenagers and middle-aged people who preferred soft music.
They even somehow even attracted the involvement of George Martin, who had produced such monsters as the Beatles and Jeff Beck. They always sounded like pretty nice guys, and they probably were and probably still are.
America has never completely gone away, continuing to tour behind such classics as ‘Horse With No Name’ and ‘Sister Golden Hair’ and the airplay they still get on easy listening and classic rock stations.
The two remaining members who have carried the torch, Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley (Dan Peek left 35 years ago for a Christian music career), really never wrote much together, and their biggest hits were songs that they had written individually or had co-written with others.
So on their new album “Back Pages”, Beckley and Bunnell have wisely decided to perform songs that have influenced and motivated them, with many of those songs originally performed by artists whom they no doubt have had personal associations with.
Titled for the Bob Dylan penned classic of the same name, “Back Pages” a hit for The Byrds in the past, actually shows the gutsy side of America, in that they aren’t afraid to tackle some iconic material that many would have wisely shied away from.
Other significant songwriters from this era are also well represented on the album as the band covers songs written by the likes of James Taylor (“Something In The Way She Moves”), Joni Mitchell (“Woodstock”), Brian Wilson (“Caroline, No”), Neil Young (“On The Way Home”), Jimmy Webb (“Crying In My Sleep”) and Paul Simon (imagine America covering “America” … a new theme song, perhaps???).
They also do a version of The Zombies’ hit “Time Of The Season” written by Rod Argent, where they heavily overdone guitar effects.
But it’s not just ‘golden oldies’ that America is tackling this time around.
They also have cut new versions of “Till I Hear It From You” by The Gin Blossoms, “Someday We’ll Know” by The New Radicals, along with my personal favorite, “A Road Song” by Fountains Of Wayne.
“A Road Song” is a great track that has all of the characteristics of an America hit. In fact, they truly make it their own with a little musical twist at the end. If radio will simply play it … and they should. Seriously, this version deserves to be heard.
Mark Knopfler’s excellent story song “Sailing to Philadelphia” is also featured, with Knopfler himself providing some great guitar.
America’s “Back Pages” isn’t in the style or genres covered by this blog.
But who cares. This is just great music.
I grow up listening to this masters, and so most of rock ‘n roll artists whom cite them as influence. This is timeless music, and a good one.
Instead of going strictly for nostalgia, Bunnell and Beckley were smart enough to realize that there have been some pretty good songwriters out there since the ‘70s.
America’s voices and ranges don’t seem to have changed a bit; if anything, these guys are just getting better, as they sing with the confidence that only age can bring.
“Back Pages” #1 on Amazon’s Adult Contemporary Chart, and that’s not a surprise.
I love this band, you should do also…
01 – America
02 – A Road Song
03 – Woodstock
04 – Caroline No
05 – Someday We’ll Know
06 – Sailing To Philadelphia
07 – Crying In My Sleep
08 – Time Of The Season
09 – Something In The Way She Moves
10 – On The Way Home
11 – Til I Hear It From You
12 – My Back Pages
Gerry Beckley: Lead & backing vocals, keyboards, guitars, bass
Dewey Bunnell: Lead & backing vocals, guitars, percussion
Mark Knopfler: guest guitar
BUY IT !