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Rock - Released January 1, 1982 | Capitol Records

The claim to fame for America's 1982 album, View From the Ground, is that it yielded the soft rock duo's last Top Ten hit, "You Can Do Magic." Vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Gerry Beckley and vocalist/guitarist Dewey Bunnell scored big with this infectious, hook-riddled single. It was written and produced by Argent guitarist and solo artist Russ Ballard, who is most famous for penning songs that others have hit with. View From the Ground is an exceptionally slick-sounding yet pedestrian album overall, despite -- or because of -- the famous hired guns and anonymous session pros involved. In addition to Beckley, Bunnell, and Ballard, Blood, Sweat & Tears veteran Bobby Colomby produced a couple of tracks. Toto is represented by guitarist Steve Lukather, bass guitarist Mike Porcaro, and drummer Jeff Porcaro. Backing vocalists include the Beach Boys' Carl Wilson, Christopher Cross, and the Eagles' Timothy B. Schmit. Actor/musician Bill Mumy contributes guitar work and co-wrote a few tunes, including the brightly upbeat "Never Be Lonely." "Desperate Love" is frantically melodic, even edgy -- for America, that is; the flashes of biting guitar that pepper this song and other portions of View From the Ground probably all emanate from Lukather. "Right Before Your Eyes" is a pop ballad that just missed the Top 40. The best way to experience America is through its singles, which means greatest-hits albums are the answer. Although View From the Ground was reissued on CD by One Way, go for one of the two readily available collections with "You Can Do Magic": 1991's Encore: More Greatest Hits or 2001's The Complete Greatest Hits. © Bret Adams /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1980 | Capitol Records

George Martin stopped working America as the '70s became the '80s. Truth be told, it probably wasn't that painful of a departure. The time had come to part ways with Martin -- not only had they spent a decade with the celebrity producer, they were moving toward a slick, radio-ready adult contemporary direction that was entirely too calculated for Martin. So, they split, and Sir George effectively went into retirement while America worked with Matthew McCauley and Fred Mollin for 1980's Alibi. Essentially, the album picks up where Silent Letter left off, meaning that it's a set of pleasant soft pop, but it's slicker and slighter than its predecessor. That's not to say that it's without moments; like its predecessor, Alibi opens strongly with a pair of winners ("Survival," "Might Be Your Love"), and there are moments (such as "You Could've Been the One" or "Right Back to Me," which has a nice, bouncy chorus) that deliver later in the album. Still, it meanders fast and it meanders far, even into such ridiculous territory as the faux hard rock (in the sense that the Eagles' "Life in the Fast Lane" is hard rock) of "Hangover," whose lyrics are at least worth a chuckle or two. Ultimately, Alibi suffers from not only its uneven material, but from the production, which is nowhere near as invitingly lush as Silent Letter. Nevertheless, McCauley and Mollin's production does sound exactly like MOR radio in 1980, and fans of that era may find this to be an enjoyable artifact, even with its flaws. Nevertheless, Alibi doesn't qualify as one of America's better latter-day efforts (even though it's certainly not one of their worst). They did this sound better on the subsequent View From the Ground. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Pop - Released February 3, 1997 | Capitol Records

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Rock - Released January 1, 1979 | Capitol Records

In a way, Silent Letter was a new beginning for America. Although they were still produced and arranged by George Martin, they had signed with a new label, Capitol Records, and had decided to delve deeply into lush adult contemporary, which was a different beast than the folky Californian soft rock that made their reputation. The change in sound didn't result in new hits (ironically, the same year they released Silent Letter they scraped the charts with a cover of "California Dreamin'" that was not included on the record), but it did revitalize them, ever so slightly. There is a fair amount of filler scattered throughout Silent Letter, along with a couple of interestingly awkward and ambitious songs like the segmented closer "High in the City," but there are also several very fine soft rock numbers. As a matter of fact, the opening one-two punch of "Only Game in Town" and "All Around" (which has a killer chorus) makes the record sound like it will be excellent. It begins to drift a little bit after that, but it never strays too far; every time that the album seems to lose momentum, it regains it. The end result may be flawed, but in an enjoyable way. And compared to the records that preceded it and some of albums that followed it, Silent Letter certainly seems like a latter-day highlight for America. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1983 | Capitol Records

View From the Ground brought America back into the Top Ten with the exquisite "You Can Do Magic," one of the best soft rock anthems of the early '80s. It was an unexpected but welcome comeback for the group, and it seemed like they could continue to spin out hits with its sequel, 1983's Your Move. That didn't turn out to be the case. Your Move feels wrong from the start, with its stiff drum-machine beats, synthesizers, and extremely slight song, "My Kinda Woman." Things pick up a little bit with the gentle, Californian breeze of "She's a Runaway," but that turns out to be an anomaly; most of Your Move sounds like "My Kinda Woman" and is about as catchy and memorable. It's hard to tell what happened to Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell, and it's not enough to blame Russ Ballard, who, after all, delivers a soft rock/adult contemporary record that plays by all the rules of 1983 radio. There's a distinct lack of spark in the material, production, and performance; only "The Border," which became a minor Top 40 hit, finds the right combination, and it's good enough to rank among the best of America's latter-day material. Unfortunately, it also serves to point out how lame the rest of the album is. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2006 | Capitol Records

Ventura Highway & Other Favorites is a budget-priced collection that may be of interest to casual fans on a tight budget, since it does contain America's biggest hits. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1984 | Capitol Records

Like many soft rock and adult contemporary groups in the early '80s, America began to experiment with synthesizers and drum machines -- after all, this was a cheaper way of making records, especially compared to the '70s method of recruiting the most expensive studio musicians available. They had begun to experiment with synths on Your Move, but only slightly; the album still had several numbers that were more or less organic. With their final album, Perspective, the band adapted to the '80s style of production, relying almost entirely on synthesized arrangements and programmed reasons. This method of making records would eventually cripple adult contemporary, making it sound way too slick and soulless, but here, the synths were simple enough to sound organic and there were other instruments that allowed them to breathe, plus the natural harmonies of Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell. Plus, in retrospect, there was something charming about these early, stiff drum machines. All of this makes Perspective sound like a period piece, which it is. There were no hits from the album and the songs (while better on the whole than those on the lame Your Move) were all pretty slight, which leaves the actual sound and production as the main reason to recommend the album, especially since the group doesn't seem really committed to making a record. So, it's not a great America record and not a great way for them to end their career, but pop culture anthropologists looking for a synthesized soft rock artifact from '70s veterans losing their way in 1984, just as the genre was disappearing from the Top 40, should be intrigued by this endearingly mediocre effort. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo