Looking to step back into the 60's with a 70's sound all recorded in 2011? Loved by two generations of fans, America's latest release "Back Pages" continues their staple sound created by leaders Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell. Taking a cue from many other artists, this release is a collection of twelve wonderful interpretations of songs by other songwriters. One can only assume either they have run out of new material or truly felt it necessary to pay tribute to their favorite songwriters.
Unlike several classic artists from their era, these guys can still sing, and the recording glistens with their guitars and is rich with their warm harmonies and silky vocals. The album starts with Paul Simon's "America", albeit a bit corny to start with a song title that is also the name of the band, yet it works so well. Joni Mitchell's well treaded "Woodstock" is given a smooth sensibility, although with all its beauty, it doesn't live up to the original Joni and subsequent rocking CSN&Y versions. Combining the dreamy textures of the Beach Boys and songwriter Brian Wilson's renditions of "Caroline, No", America holds truer to the Wilson version and provides a laid back feel on this tune.
Much of Back Pages is glazed with spacious guitars, a round bass, and non intrusive drums. Vocals are close and enchanting with little dynamics, but a lot of range. These timeless songs are freshened up and are great for traveling or just kickin' back with some friends. The Zombies "Time of the Season" is tight and looses the exaggerated reverb that is prevalent on many recordings of the 60's era. James Taylor's "Something in the Way She Moves" really takes the listener back to the 70's with the pedal steel reminiscent of string sections that were common on pop recordings during that time. Niel Young's "On the Way Home" does not carry the angst of either the Buffalo Springfield nor Young's live version. If there was one track to miss, this would be it. The album closes with Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages", which alone in contrast is worth the price of admission. America has taken this to a extraordinary heartfelt level, embellishing with a concertina that accompanies a solo grand piano, and superb harmonies. Earlier renditions recorded by the Byrds and songwriter Bob Dylan made this song famous, but America has topped them all with their distinct branding.
This release is probably best acquired as a download from MOG or similar service, but for listeners who desire a fresh take on these tunes will want to pick up the CD. For dedicated America fans, this is a must have as it showcases renditions of their favorites in one collection.
Compact Disc or stream on Spotify.
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