Monday, 8 August 2011

America - Back Pages

Covering America

They've earned it. America's latest album Back Pages is a covers tribute, perhaps predictable in that so many other artists have taken this marketing route, but there is enough of the duo's distinctive sound stamped across known territory to make it a pleasant and pleasing stroll. Who wouldn't walk a familiar path enjoyed for so many years when this slight but safe detour is on offer?

The album begins eponymously with Simon and Garfunkel's America and I like the neatness of the platitude. The distinctive voices of Buckley and Bunnell make it their own though the beautiful melody truly carries the song. Third track Woodstock does, admittedly, evoke Matthews Southern Comfort more than their own sound, but with such a similarity that is a nuance for the most critical of ears. I was pleasantly surprised to hear their version of the New Radicals song Someday - a song I have always enjoyed and which gets an appreciative version here. Perhaps because the song choice is so appealing in itself and my love of America so deep-rooted I am bound to be an instant fan. I have had a long affinity with the band: they too were American boys growing up in England in the early 70s - Gerry Buckley, Dewey Bunnell and Dan Peek [sadly, very recently deceased] going to school in vibrant London whilst I had my midwestern culture reshaped in more provincial but tolerant Ipswich. We shared so much: a love of melody and harmony, these guys having an actual talent to produce and thrive, my nurturing an appreciative ear and only dreams of such achievements.

The Jimmy Webb penned and Garfunkel beautification of the ballad Crying In My Sleep is a little cloying as another version, but the Zombies' Time Of The Season, the eighth track, continues the melodic song selection and homage to pretty songwriting of the past. This marriage of America's harmonising with established hits is furthered with ninth track's covering of James Taylor's Something In The Way She Moves.

The album ends on probably the stand-out cover, this time Bob Dylan's My Back Pages. Solo piano chords lead into a heartfelt vocal harmonising of the familiar lines and meanings which is then continued with an accordion accompaniment. It's a simple but sweet version letting the words control rather than seeking to redefine its sound.

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