America: Homecoming (1972)

Homecoming was America’s second album, a sizable step forward in several ways from their debut. I loved the layered acoustic guitars and harmony vocals of their first album. If you’re a guitar freak, that’s a dense album of guitar rhythms.

Homecoming displays their tightened songwriting, full band musicianship and more commercial production, but keeps some of the moodiness, acoustic guitars and of course, the harmonies.  This album was one of the finest examples of soft rock, which the decade was known for.  There is nothing limp or weak in this collection.

In 1972, life was confusing. War, Watergate and many other divisions in the country. Music was a way to unite and bridge, at least for the length of a record. The smooth, hooked-laden music of the gentle Southern California sound gave comfort in those turbulent times.  The song was number eight on Hot 100 Chart and number three on the Easy Listening Chart, both kids and adults were listening.

Homecoming isn’t the best, but it is not the least of American’s first decade of recording.  The album is solid, and is a mix of the reflective and acoustic guitar sound of the first album, and the more commercial sound that would begin with album number four.  If you want to sample what America did so great in the 1970s, this is the album for you.  Not every song is made to be an AM hit, although three or four songs were.  The others were a bit dark and moody, with tasty guitar work that showed the Bunnell, Peck and Beckley were very capable musicians.

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Self-produced, the album clocks in at 33 minutes, lean and efficient. They brought in Wrecking Crew members Hal Blaine (drums) and Joe Osborn (bass) to fill out the sound.

The first single, “Ventura Highway” is arguably their best song ever, and a top ten hit.

 

Title Writer(s) Length

“Ventura Highway” Dewey Bunnell 3:32 It doesn’t get any better than this. Excellently written, blending of acoustic guitar and a band, with the trademark harmony vocals. This is a traveling song, put it in the 8-track and aim the Bug down the road.

“To Each His Own” Gerry Beckley 3:13  A soft, beautiful piano song.  Plaintive, a song of loss.

“Don’t Cross the River” Dan Peek 2:30  A country-rock dandy with photographer Henry Diltz on banjo. A good-time single, with the bouncy melody, that cracked the top 40.  A classic.

“Moon Song” Bunnell 3:41 A song that would have been at home on the last album with the acoustic guitars, but here, it is a harder rock song.  It shows the group’s musical chops.

“Only in Your Heart” Beckley 3:16  A soft piano/acoustic guitar song, with a coda of backwards electric guitar/synthesizer.

“Till the Sun Comes Up Again” Beckley 2:12  Another soft, beautiful melody, mainly on piano and acoustic guitar.  Underrated song, probably because of the short duration. Beckley writes melodies like Paul McCartney, airy and infectious.

“Cornwall Blank” Bunnell 4:19  Like the “Moon Song” this is a heavier rock song, very moody in attitude, a great mix of guitars.  The America harmonies are great.

“Head and Heart” John Martyn 3:49 Unusual for the group to do a cover.  Moody electric piano and acoustic guitar are featured.  It fits in with the emotional texture of the album.

“California Revisited” Peek 3:03  A fast, driving acoustic based song.  Similar to “Don’t Cross the River” but a more serious tone and absent the banjo.

“Saturn Nights” Peek 3:31  Beautiful, but somber song. Haunting in its presentation. Great harmony vocals. You want to turn the record over and start again.


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