Gerry Beckley served as one of the three captains of soft-rock renegades America, a distinguished role he continues to hold. But all careers begin somewhere; Beckley’s songwriting chops are on full display on Discovering America, a new collection of seven early recordings. Dating from around 1970, the seven songs capture a very young talent finding his groove. Beckley’s knack for writing a sweet pop/rock song is undeniable. If you’re looking for proto-America style soft rock harmonies, Discovering America might be a slight disappointment.
What one does hear, though, is a young man experimenting with the sounds of the day. “We Should Be Free” is pure Sunshine Pop; with a jaunty piano lick, one can’t deny the influence of The Monkees. “(Our Love Is) Spinning Around” offers up bubblegum-flavored pop, while “Empty Roads” and “Turning” offer kind-hearted folk rock a la The Lovin’ Spoonful and The Turtles. It’s only on the bizarre “Coca-Cola” –a proposed advertisement—does the band tap into psychedelia, going straight for Byrds territory. Only two songs, “Aphrodite” and “Today” hint at the sound to come. The former is a dreamy three-part harmony rocker would have sounded at home on America’s debut, but it’s “Today” that proves this album’s highlight. With warm harmonies and a McCartney-style melody (is that a lick from The Beatles‘ “You Never Give Me Your Money” we hear?), it’s a stunner–especially considering the author’s young age.
Discovering America offers only a brief glimpse into the past,. but what it lacks in substance it more than makes up for in heart. Pals Dewey Bunnell and Dan Peck were waiting around the corner, and greatness would soon befall Beckley and his friends. Listening to these early sketches. such success seems inevitable…
Purchase Gerry Beckley Discovering America: Amazon