Mission: Immersion 7.0 – History by America

Warner Bros 1975

I’ve heard tons of America songs over the years, but I never even realized it. That’s always cool to me, when you’re just casually listening to some record and a song pops up that you know. It transforms the whole experience and makes you listen a little closer, and in my case makes me want to look up a bunch of info on Wikipedia and the like. It was a domino effect with History, America’s greatest hits record – I put it on thinking I would only know two of the songs, realized I knew more like five or six, started looking at the album cover more closely and realized it was produced by George Fucking Martin, looked up the Wikiness and realized late SNL great Phil Hartman did the album cover, and BOOM! Now I’m kind of in love with it.

I only say “kind of” in love with it because a lot of the songs themselves are kinda blah. There are some good ideas floating around, but there’s a reason these guys were a bigger success on the adult contemporary charts than they were on the normal ones. There’s a breezy, almost yacht-rock (but more Midwest-sounding….prairie rock, I guess) vibe to all the songs that makes them run together a bit. Some of the songs rip each other off hardcore, like two of the band’s biggest hits, “Ventura Highway” and “A Horse With No Name”, which utilize almost the exact same vocal hook. But, I have to hand it to America – they were barely out of their teens when they put out their first record, which garnered a #1 single right out of the gate. And in the case of that song (“Horse”), it’s one of those big-ass hits that’s a pretty good song – again, it’s a bit blah, but there are some good things going on. I actually learned to like it a little more after it was brilliantly featured in an episode of my favorite show on TV, Breaking Bad (the episode was even named after it). Also, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have George Martin producing (as well as remixing the tracks he didn’t produce initially), who brings an undeniable ear-candy quality to America’s songs.

Let’s put it into perspective – History is a greatest hits collection released after five albums in only four years by America, and it contains 12 tracks with 3 #1 hits and at least four other pretty major ones. That’s really impressive for any band, let alone a band that was so young at the time. America still tours and has a really loyal fan base, so yeah, even though I know I’ll never be that fanatical about this band, I can definitely admit they have done a lot of things right. I’m glad I own this if only for “Sister Golden Hair”, which is a damn fine tune. Martin produced that George Harrison-esque slide guitar so knowingly, and lovingly, and it just works. ***1/2

Listening Again? Most likely

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