America: Heritage: Home Recordings/Demos 1970-1973 (Omnivore Recordings)

Folk-rock trio America came together in England in 1970, the project of three teenage sons of American Air Force pilots. The chemistry between guitarists Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell, and Dan Peek was instantaneous, their voices fitting in almost perfect harmony. Heritage: Home Recordings/Demos 1970-1973 shows just how quickly it all came together for the three young men.

The majority of the material found here is drawn from recording sessions at two locations: formative demo sessions from 1970 for their self-titled debut held at famous London-based studio Chalk Farm, and various sessions in 1972 and 1973 held at Buzz Studios, the name Beckley used for his home studio in California. The Chalk Farm sessions are most impressive; it’s amazing to think that these young men were new to the studio, as songs such as “Riverside” and “How Long” belie their relatively young age.

The sessions held at Buzz Studio show that as good as they were when they began they were only getting better. Early takes of album cuts “Goodbye” and “Wind Wave” are gorgeous in their simplicity, while lost songs “Mitchum Junction” and “Man Of Pride” could have easily rivaled the material that was released on 1972’s Homecoming and its follow up, Hat Trick. Two of their most beloved songs do appear here, “Ventura Highway” and “A Horse With No Name” (an unlisted bonus track), but these outtakes lack the magic of the finalized versions, and seem to be missing a certain spark. It’s a sure sign of greatness when a band can release a collection of demos and outtakes and the hit songs are not only not the highlights, but are easily the lesser moments of the collection.

America deserved the critical and commercial success that came their way, and Heritage shows that their talent was there from the get-go. It’s a remarkable feat for such a young band to be so perfectly formed at the outset of their career, and this collection is a delightful, intimate peek into the creative minds of one of best bands of their era.

Heritage: Home Recordings/Demos 1970-1973 is available now from Omnivore Recordings.

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