REVIEW: America “Heritage II” is One Long Melodic Groove


America – Heritage II – Demos/Alternative Takes 1971-1976 – Omnivore Records

Several demos here are recorded so well they sound like finished pieces. This release picks up where the first volume left off & focuses on Sir George Martin’s (The Beatles) era. Martin produced 7 LPs for The British-American band America (2 Yanks & 1 Brit — formed in London).

This 13-track LP America – Heritage II – Demos/Alternative Takes 1971-1976 (Omnivore Records – vinyl drops 4/18 & CD 4/24).

I recall America’s “A Horse With No Name,” “Sandman,” & “Tin Man,” & was convinced it was great new music from Neil Young. But gradually “Ventura Highway,” & “Sister Golden Hair,” proved this band was original & similarities coincidental.

This demo/alt LP has nuggets. Recorded at LA’s Record Plant “Cornwall Blank (2),” sounds delicious if you’re an early America fan. It features Hal Blaine on drums, & Joe Osborne (bass).

The rare instrumental ’71 acoustic guitar jam “Jameroony,” is 13-minutes of ideas that unfold as multiple other songs that were never written. It’s what made Grateful Dead jams interesting – especially when they got into a melodic groove. America is one long melodic groove.

America: Gerry Beckley (lead vocals/acoustic), Dewey Bunnell (lead vocal/acoustic guitar) & Dan Peek (lead vocal/electric guitar) – assembled in 1970.

The ‘74 demo for Beckley’s “Mandy,” is thin but a beautiful song. Dated today with what sounds like a harpsichord but probably an ARP Beckley performs this solo & sincerely. Reminds me of the melodic beauty & the poignancy of Bobby Darin’s “Amy.”  This is not Barry Manilow’s “Mandy,” (not a bad song), but this America demo is a jewel.

Some songs will be just for collectors & completists. Entertaining nonetheless to hear instrumentals of hit songs & backing tracks. Some reminiscent of English music hall bands – “What Does It Matter” is what Stackridge/Korgis/Andy Davis was known for. Who produced Stackridge? George Martin. Andy Davis would’ve been a great addition to America as a songwriter/singer. His “Jabe,” off Clevedon Pier for example.

The George Martin touch is evident on “You.” The vocals have brilliance. I understand better why Martin after producing The Beatles went to America. “Mad Dog,” after a false start sounds like a finished track with some more music hall piano, & typical Martin brass touches. This almost sounds Stackridge/Klatuu.

From “Simple Life,” America has journeyed far from “A Horse With No Name.” It’s more pop-oriented but the alt mix shows musical growth without losing its original focus. The group exemplifies its diversity.

“Today’s The Day,” – an alt-mix has a George Harrison guitar feel & Beach Boys vocal approach by Dan Peek who played guitar. Executed well. “Amber Cascade,” is like the old America – Dewey sings lead & it has a classic warm early 70s sound. Martin plays piano on the alt-mix “Letter.”

Dan Peek left in 1977, recorded solo LPs & died in 2011.

The 53-minute Heritage II was produced for release by Brad Rosenberger & Jeff Larson. Available here:   .

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