Live in Concert
Wildwood Springs

Release Date: October 14, 2008
Produced by: Jeff Worrell
Format: CD



Mark Squirek


America: Live in Concert Wildwood Springs celebrates a line that started with the release of their first album in 1972. Both releases open with Riverside, a song which perfectly captures America’s greatest assets, pure harmonies and damn near perfect songwriting. Inspired by the success with their last release, (2007’s Here and Now), they sound as alive as they did they first formed in high school in 1969. Recorded in front of an intimate audience at Wildwood Springs in Missouri, America has made their finest live release and one of their best albums ever. The 19 songs emphasize the acoustic side of America that first brought them to our attention all those years ago. 

Over the course of the concert America pulls out a few hits as well as some obscurities from their massive catalog. The connecting point for all the songs is that, stripped of synthesizers and forced orchestration that seemed to show up on so many of their later releases, America has always created the perfect mixture of the Beatles and Crosby Stills and Nash. Like the Beatles they came with a very strong pop sensibility. George Martin didn’t work with America for so long because they are idiots. He knew how gifted as songwriters they are. Like CSN, they understand harmony as only the Beach Boys, The Everly Brothers and the very best of Do Wop groups seem to. It is an instinctive and natural  understanding that makes singing sound so pure, so easy, that you either fly with them or die of envy.

While the release holds it’s share of hits, it is the more obscure songs from the America  catalog that prove to be the real gems. We have all heard Ventura Highway, I Need You, Tin Man and Sister Golden Hair . However, when placed besides Windwave, Submarine Ladies or especially Cornwall/Blank/Hollywood, you begin to see how strong America has been all these years. New songs from Here and Now such as Chasin’ the Rainbow and Ride On fit seamlessly into the set and sound as if they were always there.

It is the willingness of Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell to rely on the songs themselves that really makes this such a great CD. Everything they play is stripped to it’s essence. The piano and slight tapping on the bass that open Daisy Jane only needs the addition of a single guitar and the faultless harmonies to open the song up. When the bass kicks in after the first chorus it creates such a warm intimacy that you feel as if you are eavesdropping on the singer as he confesses to his girl. As often as I have heard this song, it sounds brand new.

Their debut featured a fair amount of acoustic jamming. As they became successful so quickly, America tended to steer clear of this and concentrate on the tightness of the song. Wildwood Springs sees America stretching out on one or two songs and doing it with some strong results. Judging from the applause that greats the middle of Cornwall Blank when they start to attack the heck out of song and than, without blinking, move it straight into a very forceful version of Hollywood that leaves the original stranded in the hills, this is something they should do a little more often. 

In the three decades plus that lay between the 1972 debut and the new live album America has traveled the world and become road warriors, armed with acoustic guitars and voices that melt together. Featuring a memorable guest spot by Rusty Young (Poco) near the end, Live in Concert Wildwood Springs perfectly reminds us what is missing from so much of music today; musicians who can sing without pro-tools, songwriters who craft a hook from their heart instead of their previously sampled chart success, and especially performers who don’t take their audience for granted.

This release to may be a bit to find. You might have to go through CD Baby to get it. It will be worth the effort. The concert they have recorded is among their best work ever and deserves to be heard.









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