You’d be forgiven for thinking that the band America was from that side of the Atlantic. Aside from their name, they also sound a lot like an American proposition; not a million miles away from the soft-rock and smooth harmonies of the Eagles.
Formed in 1970, the trio (one British-born, two American-born) met each other while studying in London where their respective fathers were stationed in the U.S. Air Force. They wisely named themselves America to avoid people thinking they were a British band trying to sound American.
Unfortunately they’re the type of band that is now relegated to charity shops. Future singles A Horse With No Name (later added to this album upon its release as a single) and Ventura Highway are both fantastic and still sound great today.
Produced by Ian Samwell, the man who wrote Cliff Richard’s Move It, the band’s self-titled debut is a nice slice of somewhat melancholic folk pop. More than anything, they follow the template set down by Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young) – in fact, the lead single on this record, I Need You, bears more than a passing resemblance to CSNY’s Our House from their Déjà Vu album.
As an aside, surely Neil Young’s sometime-membership of that band should compel us to refer to them as Crosby, Stills, Nash Or Young…
I should like this band – they’re from Oldham! One of the founding members went to my school. They’re probably Oldham’s most famous musical exports, except for the Inspiral Carpets perhaps. And those N-Trance guys. And Mark Owen from Take That. And Darren Wharton, the keyboard player from Thin Lizzy. Wow, Oldham was really a melting pot of talent!
I’m not au fait with Barclay James Harvest’s music though. I’m very familiar with the Barclays bank in Oldham – just on the corner of High Street. I don’t think that counts though. I might send in a fake CV to the branch, using the name James Harvest, and crowbarring all of their song titles into the cover letter – you know, just for shits and giggles. Given the average intelligence level in Oldham – about as low as the number of teenage pregnancies is high – and the general lack of interest in the town’s history by its inhabitants, it would just get thrown in a bin by the HR manager. Oh well, it’s an idea. Maybe I’ll do it when I’m retired, if Barclay’s still exist by then. The bank can’t be doing well; I’d bet most Oldhamers (Oldhamites?) keep their money under the mattress, next to their stockpile of Woodbines.
Barclay James Harvest write melodic folk rock, not a million miles away from the likes of America. The band America, that is, not the country. Although the country is about a million miles away from the town of Oldham, recently named the most deprived town in England. In fact, that might make it more similar to some places in America – Oldham, twinned with the Bronx!
The thrift stores / charity shops in New Zealand aren’t great. We call them op shops here, short for ‘opportunity’. I’m not really sure why. I guess it’s like jandals (flip-flops) and trundlers (trolleys) – they just decided on their own name when they started up over here.
I check the op shops every now and again, but aside from a face-full of Nana Mouskouri (and what a face!), I tend to leave empty-handed with dirty hands and a smell of dead people in my nostrils. Fingering Nana Mouskouri seldom has its rewards. I might find an album like this for a dollar; and of course the name of the producer on the back (the Beatles’ George Martin) means that a dollar will be well-spent.
If you look at George Martin’s post-Beatles’ career in the ‘70s, there seems to be a lot of material along the lines of America – safe AOR, possibly more suited to Martin’s age at the time. All accomplished musicians but hardly anything to rock the boat. He probably deserved something a little stressful after revolutionising recording techniques with the fab four. This was like his retirement. It was either this or cruising.
Oddly, the artwork for the album cover was by Phil Hartman, at the time a little-known artist who would end up on Saturday Night Live and on the early seasons of the Simpsons as Troy McClure. Hartman was eventually murdered by his wife in the middle of the night in 1998.
Gun-control might make America the country very dangerous, but America the band are very safe. It’s almost impossible to believe that George Martin produced them, given how similar every song sounds production-wise. They’re well recorded of course, but there’s just no production. I think I bought this record on the same day as I bought Seals & Croft’s Greatest Hits, a collection of similarly radio-friendly hits and Chicago’s X album. They were probably from the same person’s collection. It’s nice that I was able to keep them together.