Sound: You either have to be completely self-confident or should have enough reasons to release a two-disk album. With their new album Here & Now the kings of '70s soft-rock sound America should have a bit of both.
The release follows the number of quite successful albums by their colleagues, re-united rock bands of the past century. Unlike them, America (who became a duo of Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell after all disagreements within the band) have never split and continued touring and recording in the '80s, '90s and even '00s. Here & Now represents the result of their latest work. There are 12 new songs (10 of which are original tracks and 2 covers), including collaborations with Ryan Adams, Nada Surf, Ben Kweller and the members of My Morning Jacket.
The album was produced by James Iha from Smashing Pumpkin and Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger, famous for his power-pop records. Both of the producers shared songwriting duties with the band and their influence is evident through the album in tracks like Indian Summer with danceable rhythms. You would be surprised to know Indian Summer is actually a cover song as it gets on with the rest of America's material very well. The track is originally by a band called Maplewood and it made it's way to the album due to the vocal harmonies and the vibe close to Ventura Highway. Chasing The Rainbow is a great choice for the opener track as it starts with a signature America's guitar lick. Love And Leaving is a beautiful gentle ballad and can make an alternative to a power ballad necessary for every modern rock record nowadays. There is sharp solo guitar and delicate, sometimes almost whispering, at others multi-layered vocals. Ride On is a retro song with 60s psychedelic feel and Ryan Adams playing a real retro guitar on it.
All this is only one part of the 2-CD set! Disk two is actually the entire America's History Greatest Hits album played live and it reminds you of what the band was famous for back in their heydays. It consists of tracks like A Horse With No Name, Sister Golden Hair and Don't Cross The River recorded at XM Studios on October 2005. // 9
Lyrics: The vocals are soft and gentle -- not only have they mellowed over years, but it also shows the different approach rock bands used with the singing 30 something years ago --not necessarily roaring and growling. Back in '70s people weren't afraid to sound gay -- you'll know what I mean after listening to Gerry Beckley in All I Think About Is You. Neither were they afraid to sound nave and primitive -- I've got all of our plans right here in my hands/ And things are gonna work out just fine/ 'Cause I know the sun's gonna shine on me this time (This Time) is a perfect example. And they managed to bring that through the years into 2007!
Even though the songs might seem light in their message, they carry some deeper meanings. Like Chasing The Rainbow that is about how we're always looking for something better. // 7
Overall Impression: You would need to give the album at least a couple of listens -- first to get the mood of it and second to listen to the lyrics (which are worth thinking about) and arrangements.
Though the CD is definitely not bringing back to glory days of the '70s rock, it's a great present to the fans. The guys are putting out not just another Greatest Hits compilation, but a proper studio album with new material. America has carried their own original style through the years, not trying to sound modern to sell the record. Anything has ever changed for the band's music over years, and that should be greatly appreciates by the listeners. There's a bit of country, a bit of nostalgia and of course a lot of signature acoustic guitar. // 8
- Kosh (c) 2007