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Rock - Released July 12, 2019 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released December 17, 2013 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released June 30, 1975 | Warner Records

America's debut album is a folk-pop classic, a stellar collection of memorable songs that would prove influential on such acts as the Eagles and Dan Fogelberg. Crosby, Stills & Nash are the group's obvious stylistic touchstone here, especially in the vocal harmonies used (compare the thick chordal singing of "Sandman" and "Children" to CS&N's "You Don't Have to Cry" and "Guinevere") and the prominent use of active strummed acoustic guitar arrangements (contrast "Riverside" to CS&N's "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes"). America's intricate interplay of acoustic guitar textures is more ambitious than that of their influences, however. Performance quality is usually good, though on occasion sloppily executed or out of tune (especially on the openings to "Donkey Jaw" and "I Never Found the Time"). Lengthy instrumental introductions ("Donkey Jaw"), middle improvisatory interludes ("Here"), and closings ("Clarice") are frequently encountered. Most of these selections boast highly unusual and inventive chord progressions that work well without drawing undue attention to themselves. Lyrics are sometimes trite ("I need you/Like the flower needs the rain") or obscure ("He flies the sky/Like an eagle in the eye/Of a hurricane that's abandoned"), but the music more than makes up for any verse problems; only the odd "Pigeon Song" seems an unsalvageable misstep. Sound quality here has a covered, intimate feel that lends a ghostly aura to this release. Chart hits from this album include the spectrally loping "A Horse with No Name," the squarishly tuneful "I Need You," and the nervously dour "Sandman." Other highlights include the buoyantly charming "Three Roses," the yearningly lovely "Rainy Day," and the quietly ringing "Clarice." In spite of its flaws, this platter is very highly recommended. ~ David Cleary
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Pop - Released August 21, 2001 | Rhino - Warner Records

The Complete Greatest Hits is an awkward title, but it's more or less accurate. Less because there are two new recordings here ("World of Light," "Paradise") at the end that couldn't qualify as hits. More because it does contain all of the group's greatest hits, from their Warner recordings from the '70s ("A Horse With No Name," "Tin Man," "Ventura Highway," "Lonely People," and "Sister Golden Hair") to their smooth recordings for Capitol in the early '80s ("You Can Do Magic," "The Border"). Not counting Rhino's superb box set, Highway, this is the first collection to do this, and it makes for an excellent listen and a great, succinct summary of their strengths. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released June 30, 1975 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released October 11, 1977 | Warner Records

Mirroring the cover art depiction of America's dual life in England and the U.S., History: Greatest Hits perfectly spotlights both the polished and layered production of British studio legend George Martin and the West Coast tones of the band's folk-pop style. Featuring the group's many chart toppers from the first half of the '70s, this definitive roundup includes Neil Young-style acoustic sides like "Lonely People," the hippie MOR of "Muskrat Love," and breezy acid rock like "Sandman." And even though Martin didn't produce the entire lot of songs here, his sophisticated and mostly subtle way with strings, keyboards, and multi-track guitars is in evidence throughout. Adding to the fun are additional highlights like the updated surf cut "Sister Golden Hair" and ingenious McCartney-esque pop like "Only in Your Heart" and "Daisy Jane." An essential collection for fans who like their '70s folk with a pop sheen, loads of hooks, and top-drawer arrangements. ~ Stephen Cook
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Rock - Released January 1, 1972 | Warner Records

Homecoming, America's finest album, refines and focuses the folk-pop approach found on their debut release. The songs here are tighter and more forthright, with fewer extended solo instrumental sections than before. The sound quality is clear and bright; the colorful arrangements, while still acoustic guitar-based, feature more electric guitar and keyboards. The performance quality is more assured, among the most urgently committed the group would ever put on vinyl. Verses are still sometimes banal and clunky ("You can't disregard your friends/But life gets so hard when you reach the end") or cryptic ("Sorry, boy, but I've been hit by purple rain"), but a number of the song subjects here exhibit a yearning sense of wanderlust and love of the outdoors that proves to be highly evocative and compelling (particularly on "Moon Song," "Ventura Highway," "California Revisited," and "Cornwall Blank"). Chordal progressions are sophisticated and contain many subtle surprises. A few new style wrinkles can be seen in the country-influenced "Don't Cross the River," the drivingly gutsy "California Revisited" (perhaps the hardest-rocking song the group would ever produce), and the hushed yet mildly funky "Head & Heart." Chart hits from this release include "Ventura Highway," "Only in Your Heart," and "Don't Cross the River," but each song here has something to recommend it. This top-flight album is a very rewarding listen. ~ David Cleary
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Pop - Released January 4, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

America fully recovered from Hat Trick's dismal results with 1974's Holiday, with producer George Martin's influence rubbing off on both of the album's Top Five singles. With "Tin Man"'s wonderfully polished soft pop ease and the wispiness of "Lonely People," the band was able to recapture the same formula that put early hits like "A Horse with No Name," "I Need You," and "Ventura Highway" in the Top Ten. The difference with "Holiday" is that their light and breezy melodies and attractive folk-rock sound filtered through more than just the two hit tracks on the album. "Another Try," "Old Man Took," "In the Country," and even the cliché-sounding "Baby It's Up to You" contain a sturdy enough mixture of guitar and harmony to rise them above inessential filler, at least as far as America's material is concerned. Cuts like "Mad Dog" and "Hollywood" suffer somewhat from trite lyrics and a seemingly hurried compositional formula, but this album as a whole ascertained that the group was definitely showing their true potential once more. The album that followed Holiday, 1975's Hearts, showed even stronger improvement, taking the overly catchy "Sister Golden Hair" to number one and scoring a Top 20 hit with the Sunday morning frailty of "Daisy Jane." ~ Mike DeGagne
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Rock - Released January 4, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop/Rock - Released February 5, 2007 | Burgundy Records

Even during its '70s heyday, soft rock never gained much respect, and of those soft rockers, perhaps no other act received as much disdain as America, a group inspired equally by the folk-rock of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and the pop of the Beatles. Aside from epitomizing the qualities that made soft rock anathema for hipsters and rock critics -- America, like the style itself, was too smooth, melodic, and square to be considered cool -- it's quite likely that the band received the brunt of the criticism because they wore their influences too plainly: their 1972 number one hit "A Horse with No Name" sounded uncannily like Neil Young, and they were produced by the fifth Beatle, George Martin, two moves that made it appear to some that America was acting as heirs to a throne that they did not deserve. They were also seen, along with fellow California soft rockers the Eagles, as diluting and perverting the ideals of folk-rock, turning it into bland pap for the masses, and they were scorned by the taste-makers for it: the second edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide rated all their studio albums between zero and one stars, while Robert Christgau rated their 1975 compilation History: America's Greatest Hits a C-. America may not have been acclaimed, but they were popular, with "Ventura Highway," "A Horse with No Name," "Tin Man," "Lonely People," and "Sister Golden Hair" all reaching the Billboard Top Ten in the first half of the '70s, all on the strength of their impeccable melodic craft and easy, sunny vibes -- qualities that turned out to be enduring, too, as these songs remained staples on oldies and soft pop stations well into the new millennium, earning new fans along the way, fans who weren't preoccupied with America's image and enjoyed the music on its own mellow terms. Among these fans were Gen-Xers like Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne and former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha, whose 1998 solo debut, Let It Come Down, was bathed in a hazy, sunny glow that was unmistakably reminiscent of America. Generation X was notorious for ironically embracing and reviving '70s icons, but there was no trace of irony behind Schlesinger and Iha's love of America, as their production of Here & Now, America's 16th studio album and first unabashed attempt at a comeback, proves. Schlesinger and Iha achieve something remarkable with Here & Now: they leave no fingerprints behind. The duo helms a production that is on paper a textbook indie rock hipster comeback record -- complete with cameos by Ryan Adams and Ben Kweller and covers of My Morning Jacket and Nada Surf -- but the finished album never sounds self-conscious or cloying, it sounds true to the sound and spirit of America. From the warm, welcoming production to the sweet harmonies, mellow vibes, and smooth melodies, Here & Now could easily be mistaken for an America album from the mid-'70s. There has been no attempt to modernize the group; Schlesinger and Iha have merely brought Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell back to their strengths. Gone are the heavy layers of synthesizers that plagued America since the early '80s; gone are the earnest but meandering adult pop that made such '90s albums as Hourglass and Human Nature underwhelming. In their place are layers of melody and harmony presented simply and cleanly through songs that so easy to enjoy that it's easy to overlook how well constructed they are. This understated craft also means that Here & Now does not produce any revelations about the band or how they influenced the modern musicians who wisely blend into the background here, but the quiet nature of this album fits comfortably with the best of the band's work. Indeed, like the hits that are still heard on oldies radio -- and are also revived here in a live bonus disc, where Beckley and Bunnell perform every song on History -- the songs on Here & Now are appealing upon first listen but reveal their true strength upon repeated spins, as the melodies begin to catch hold in the subconscious and the warmth of the music feels friendly and familiar. On these repeated listens, Here & Now gains stature and it not only feels like a successful comeback, but the record that America fans of all ages have been waiting decades to hear. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Pop/Rock - Released July 26, 2011 | eOne Music

America follows up their much-hyped major-label 2007 comeback Here & Now by shifting to an independent imprint and covering favorite songs. The move to an indie cleans up the production -- there’s not the old-school warmth that James Iha brought to it -- and lessens the scope, so apart from the touch-too-pristine surfaces, this sounds intimate and friendly. There are no great surprises in the song selection, it’s heavily weighted toward classic songwriters like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Brian Wilson, and has a selection from Schlesinger’s Fountains of Wayne, so the only surprises are tunes from the Gin Blossoms and the New Radicals, whose melodicism fits quite well here, and there are mild, subtle surprises within the arrangements, with Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley turning these familiar tunes into something that sounds distinctly like America. It’s comfortable and engaging without being complacent; it’s a visit with old friends that still can do something unexpected after all these years. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released May 17, 2019 | Caroline International

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Rock - Released July 17, 2015 | Rhino - Warner Records

A practical, no-frills clamshell box set celebrating the soft rock/folk-pop hitmakers' '70s heyday, the Warner Bros. Years 1971-1977 rounds up seven complete studio albums and one live LP. Comprised of America (1971), Homecoming (1972), Hat Trick (1973), Holiday (1974), Hearts (1975), Hideaway (1976), Harbor (1977), and America Live (1977), all of which were remastered in 2014, the collection is aimed squarely at completists. Like their closest sonic contemporaries Seals & Crofts, the trio of Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell, and Dan Peek was an unstoppable FM/AM radio force for the era, securing future classic soft rock staples like "Horse with No Name," "Ventura Highway,' "Muskrat Love," "Tin Man," "Lonely People," and "Sister Golden Hair," many of which were impeccably produced by George Martin. Really the only thing missing here is the group's 1982 comeback hit "You Can Do Magic," which would make Rhino's excellent 2000 Highway: 30 Years of America the better choice for casual fans, but longtime America devotees will appreciate having the new studio masters all in one place, as well as the neatly arranged original album art and inserts. ~ James Christopher Monger
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Rock - Released January 4, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released January 4, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

America's Hat Trick has the distinction of being the album that contained the first song that the band sang that wasn't theirs. Written by Willis Ramsey, the syrupy "Muskrat Love" only went as high as number 67 on the singles chart for America, but the Captain & Tennille managed to take it all the way to number four only three years later. The rest of Hat Trick failed to garner any hits and is a slight disappointment after the success of their self-titled debut in 1972, which harbored the band's first number one hit in "A Horse With No Name," and after Homecoming, their satisfying follow-up. Hat Trick peaked at number 28 on the album charts, faltering mainly because the songs lacked the cordial folk-rock melodies and mindful songwriting that prevailed on the earlier releases. "She's Gonna Let You Down" and "Rainbow Song" are the album's best cuts, but banal offerings such as "Green Monkey," "Willow Tree Lullaby," and "Molten Love" have Bunnell and Peek straying off course, sounding stale and musically feeble. The unsuccessful repercussions that evolved from Hat Trick both commercially and otherwise were not overlooked by the band, and they rebounded with 1974's Holiday, an album which yielded hits in "Tin Man" and "Lonely People," which both made Billboard's Top Five. ~ Mike DeGagne
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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
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Rock - Released November 11, 2013 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Rock - Released January 4, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Records

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Pop - Released January 4, 2005 | Rhino

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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