I had a very special reason for requesting this album to review. Since the early 70's, America has been one of my all-time favourite bands and Gerry Beckley, along with his schooldays friends Dewey Bunnell and Dan Peak, was one of the founders of this immensely successful group. Despite the name, the band was formed in England. Gerry has been one of the two lead singers throughout the intervening years and contributes to the band's unique sound. The band still tours today with Gerry and Dewey Bunnell although the other founder member Dan Peek died some years ago. I was first attracted to the band and their particular brand of soft rock music thanks to the "Homecoming" album which I purchased whilst living in Zambia. The track that stood out for me at that time was "Ventura Highway" although the album did not contain "A Horse With No Name" for which the band initially became famous.
Gerry Beckley has been playing piano since the age of 3 and took up the guitar a few years later. His voice still retains, at times, a rather childish charm and sound which belies his age of 64. In breaks from his work with America, he has collaborated with a number of artists including Dan Fogelberg, Jeff Larson, David Cassidy, Robert Lamm and Carl Wilson of Beach Boys fame. He is also a member of the "Les Deux Love Orchestra.! A genuine lover of music, he has also worked as a session musician for a plethora of other famous artists.
So what of this latest album, his sixth as a solo artist? Well, the first track "Tokyo" is straight from the America songbook with both the sound and vocals having that distinctive sound associated with his band. Upbeat, melodic and all backed up by Gerry's distinctive acoustic guitar sound! Certainly most of the tracks could be interchanged with the band without noticing the difference, such is the influence of Beckley on America.
Amongst the many very listenable tracks is the slow "Nature's Way." "Lifeline" is in similar vogue, very reliant on the clarity of Gerry's voice and the acoustic guitar. All but two of the tracks have either been written or co-written by Gerry. The two being "To Each And Everyone" written by the now sadly departed Gerry Rafferty. I think Rafferty would be very pleased with this version. The other non Beckley number is a fabulous version of Gerry Marsden's beautiful "Don't let The Sun Catch You Crying." A song that, at the risk of upsetting every Liverpool FC fan on the planet was, to my mind his greatest recording triumph. Beckley here gives it the treatment that the song rightly deserves. A trio of Gerrys here for all to enjoy! I wonder if there is a collective noun to cover that?
Amongst all these wonderful tracks is one that I cannot quite get my head around. "Widows Weeds." It is a strange track played on the ukulele and accompanied by scratching sound reminiscent of a badly looked after and very old 78rpm record. It presumably refers to the Roanoke Colony, also known as the Lost Colony, although the story and the song combine to baffle me. "Once A Distant Heart" starts with the spoken word from a very English sounding lady, or possibly Gerry messing about, but then drifts into a very harmonic but short love song.
"Fly" is a song that typifies Beckley's voice and music. Soft vocals, superb harmonies with that subtle acoustic guitar running through it! It really is a delightful track. The album closes with the title track "Carousel" a wonderful warm song with piano and oboe backing. It suits Gerry's voice perfectly.
This new release is a must for all fans of America and Gerry Beckley. It most certainly is a winner for me!
|Jim Eldon: Songs And Fiddle Tunes||Conor Caldwell & Danny Diamond: North|
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