History - America's Greatest Hits


Warner Brothers Records, 1975


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I have always liked certain songs by the pop group America. (I will now pause to allow certain readers to stop laughing.)

I know that admitting one likes songs from a group that has been called saccharine-sweet is about as credible as betting on the Cubs to win the World Series. But I can't help it; I grew up with some of these songs, and loved them as a child. Some things have not changed, and it's only been recently that I've started to add some of this group's albums to the Pierce Memorial Archives. (Gimme a break, I picked 'em up for 49 cents.)

Their 1975 best-of History - America's Greatest Hits is one that I've had in the Archives now for about four years, but have just gotten around to listening to (no joke). And while the old classics are as enjoyable to my ears as they were in the mid-'70s, some of the lesser-known songs do prove themselves to be utter pig swill. But more on these in a moment.

This British-American band led by Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek and Gerry Buckley first gained prominence with their 1971 song "A Horse With No Name" - this song was my baptism into the group. The acoustic guitar work on this one occasionally has flashes of brilliance, although the two-chord progression does leave some things to be desired aesthetically. Bunnell's lead vocals are perfect for this song, as are the harmonies this band produces - so let me be unhip, I still love this song, and most likely always will.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The hits from AM radio are well-covered on History. "Ventura Highway" is another song that has received significant airplay over the years, though some of the lyrics do prove to be a tad banal. (Sample: "Seasons crying no despair / alligator lizards in the air." What the hell is that supposed to mean, Dewey?) Other hits sure to cause flashbacks to the days of bell-bottoms (or maybe watching the teenage rugrats at the mall will do the same thing) include "Tin Man," "Sister Golden Hair," "I Need You" and the lesser known "Sandman".

But as enjoyable as many moments on History are, there is one that is simply an unforgivable sin: "Muskrat Love". I'll admit it doesn't make me want to lose my lunch and claw out my eardrums like the Captain & Tenille version does, but this song is undoubtedly one of the worst pieces of shit ever crafted in the world of music. I don't care who does this song, this is something you don't want to hear when you call the suicide hotline and get put on hold. Cripes, the Grateful Dead could do this song, and I'd still be writhing in pain on the floor. For those of you who have been able to suppress memories of this song, allow me to trigger tonight's nightmare for you: "Muskrat Susie, Muskrat Sam / Do the jitterbug / Out in muskrat land / And they shimmy / And Sammy's so skinny." Give me a fuckin' break.

I must pause to take a Tums... my doctor warned me about too much stress on the job...

Now then... the lesser-known tracks by America don't shed any new light onto why this band was so big in their time. Songs like "Don't Cross The River" and "Daisy Jane" are at least listenable, but they have nowhere near the magic that the hits do. They're easy enough to pass through on the old CD player, I guess.

America would enjoy one more big hit in the early '80s before slipping back into obscurity with "You Can Do Magic," a song that I seem to recall was pretty good. But History paints a two-sided portrait of America the group, and the hits almost get tarnished by the weaker material. Passing fans might get chased off by the weaker material, while older fans will only be interested in the cuts they know about. And in retrospect, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Rating: C

User Rating: A-


Open your fucking ears and listen to the genious of this band. Brilliant guitars, awesome harmonies, see them live and learn to appreciate good music.

© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.