Title - 'Heritage II: Demos/Alternate Takes' [RSD CD]
Artist - America
For those not in the know, America is an American rock band that was formed in London in 1970 by Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek and Gerry Beckley.
Achieving significant popularity in the 1970's, the trio was famous for its close vocal harmonies and light acoustic folk rock sound. The band released a string of hit albums and singles, many of which found airplay on pop/soft rock stations.
The band came together shortly after the members' graduation from high school, and a record deal with Warner Bros. Records followed. Its debut 1971 album, America, included the transatlantic hits 'A Horse with No Name' and 'I Need You'; Homecoming (1972) included the single 'Ventura Highway'; and Hat Trick (1973), a modest success on the charts that fared poorly in sales, included one minor charting song 'Muskrat Love'.
1974's Holiday featured the hits 'Tin Man' and 'Lonely People'; and 1975's Hearts generated the number one single 'Sister Golden Hair' alongside 'Daisy Jane'.
History: America's Greatest Hits, a compilation of hit singles, was released the same year and was certified multi-platinum in the United States and Australia.
Peek left the group in 1977 and their commercial fortunes declined, despite a brief return to the top 10 in 1982 with the single 'You Can Do Magic'. The band's final Top 40 hit was 'The Border', which reached no.33 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1983.
The group continues to record material and tour with regularity. Its 2007 album Here & Now was a collaboration with a new generation of musicians who credited the band as an influence.
America won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist and were nominated for Best Pop Vocal Group at the 15th Annual Grammy Awards in 1973. The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2006 and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012.
For the upcoming Record Store Day 2020, Omnivore Recordings has announced the release of Heritage II: Demos/Alternate Takes. This CD features 11 previously-unissued demos and alternate tracks from 1971-1976, including the long-rumored 13 minute acoustic jam 'Jameroony'.
1. 'CORNWALL BLANK' (Demo #2)
2. 'JAMEROONY' (Acoustic Jam)
3. 'MANDY' (Demo)
4. 'IN MAN' (Backing Track With Backing Vocals)
5. 'WHAT DOES IT MATTER' (Demo)
6. 'YOU' (Vocals/Strings Excerpt)
7. 'MAD DOG' (Demo/Track Mix With Backing Vocals)
8. 'SIMPLE LIFE' (Alternate Mix)
9. 'LOVELY NIGHT' (Demo)
10. 'TODAY’S THE DAY' (Alternate Mix)
11. 'AMBER CASCADES' (Acoustic Mix/Take 3)
12. 'LETTER' (Alternate Mix)
13. 'JET BOY BLUE' (Alternate Mix)
Complete with liner notes by the band’s Gerry Beckley himself, this collection picks up where the first volume (released in 2017) left off, centering mostly on the beginning of the Sir George Martin era.
George Martin produced seven albums by America and Heritage II focuses in on demos and alternate takes from the Holiday, Hearts, and Hideaway albums from 1974–1976.
Opening with the symphonic majesty of 'Cornwall Blank,' they back that up with their acoustic guitar jam 'Jameroony,' with both the lo-fi 'Mandy' and the breezy 'Tin Man' along next.
The beautiful storytelling found within the magnificent 'What Does It Matter' are backed by soaring majesty of 'You,' the foot-tappin' ditty 'Mad Dog,' and then the lush piano work on 'Simple Life' comes forth.
Next up is the jaunty lo-fi bounce of 'Lovely Night' which is followed by delicate piano work and enveloping lyrics of 'Today's The Day,' with the light acoustic guitar of 'Amber Cascade' a definite highlight here.
The album then rounds out with the low slung bass vibe of 'Letter' and closes on the quite brilliant, '70s poptastic flow of 'Jet Boy Blue.'
If you stay tuned, an addition after that last track includes a long lost TV advert from back in the day which is an advert for their Gold (greatest hits) album of the time.
Fun to listen to today, you also get to hear many snippets of their greatest hits, which is never a bad thing.
I mean, simply put, if you the music of America, and care to savor some aspects of the recording process, you realize here on this second album (and the first, of course) just how much raw talent Gerry, Dewey and Dan had even in the early years doing covers while honing their writing skills and musical craft.
Complete with quite wondrous, free flowing three-part harmonies like you've never heard before, for my money, all their albums are sublime, but this collection lets you peek behind the curtains into their creative process.
As detailed above, you get to hear for the very first time, an unreleased Gerry Beckley song, 'Mandy,' demos of songs from Holiday ('What Does It Matter' and 'Mad Dog'), outtakes from Hearts ('Simple Life') and alternate mixes from Hideaway ('Amber Cascades' and 'Today’s The Day').
For me, this heritage sequel album can also smoothly serve as a gateway, or a fine introduction, to any listeners that aren't familiar with their early albums.
Even in their "home demo" state, these songs still shine, and Beckley and his partners sound inspired and confident. Whether it be the known album tracks or the outtakes, quite simply, this is just a sheer pleasure to listen to and I would love to hear more jewels like this from the America vaults.
In addition to all those aforementioned gems, there’s a real rarity included herein from 1971, the aforementioned acoustic instrumental jam by Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell and Dan Peek entitled, 'Jameroony' (lasting nearly 13 minutes!)
Unearthed from the band’s archives, this track has been rumored for years but only just found recently.
So, and in closing, this is a really lovely, enjoyable and soothingly pleasant collection of songs from a group that broke out big only a few years later. So even if you are not an America fan, this would be good listening for you, given the "music" being put out today!
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