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Forums :: America Fan Blog :: My box set has arrived!


Poster: MyUserNameIsKevin
Aside from the memorabilia and just deep treasure of fan-nerd nirvana you'll find in the America Half Century box set, the biggest treasures are the never before released songs. They are, for fans of the band, new songs. There are quite a few of them here, thirteen in fact. And they are all quite good. So good, in fact, that it's really hard to believe many of these were shelved in favor of some of the songs they ended up putting out at the time. "Bummer" is a song I had heard somewhere on some obscure demo recordings which wasn't very well produced. But this version is wonderful. It's a gem. Like finding a hundred dollar bill in an old jacket pocket. This is vintage first-album America, as strong as anything they released on America, the debut album. It's that Dewey Bunnell magic, with a real sense of conscience about the way the world is. Amazing song. "Sea of Destiny," as with "How Long," fall into the same category, recorded in the 1970 Chalk Farm sessions. But they were both previously released on Heritage. "I'm New In Town" is included on the Caribou Ranch Sessions CD. According to the notes, it was a demo recorded at Buzz Studios. It's in the "Lovely Night" vein, a fun, poppy Gerry Beckley piano song about a young musician trying to prove he is good enough. Then there are a handful of songs from the Poison Oak Sessions. This is really the heart of Half Century. This forms what was an unreleased America album, recorded after Alibi and before View From The Ground. There are so many strong, amazing songs here that deserve to have been taken out and shown the light of day. "Sailors And Seagulls" is a wistful Dewey Bunnell tune about the sea and dreaming of being somewhere else. It has a cool factor of 11 out of 10. Just one of those breezy Dewey Bunnell songs he made sound so easy, which is the genius of Dewey Bunnell. Gerry Beckley's "Look At Me Now" ended up on Here & Now but really this version is so different it's hard to tell it's the same song. I like the Here & Now version better because it's got a biting sense of self-depricating humor about a guy who isn't really doing better even though he insists he is. This version was more of the typical aftermath of a breakup song. "Now I Want Your Love" is a funky bass-driven Dewey Bunnell love song about a guy who is yearning for his woman. It's a refreshing change of pace for an America song. Different yet familiar. Nice trick to pull off. The goddammed coolest song of all is "China Sea/Notes For John." It's a Spanish guitar influenced Dewey Bunnell song about being free and finding new lives and experiences. It's almost criminal they left off of any subsequent releases. And just when you think it's over, the "notes for John" end the song. Not sure who John is, but the final twenty-five seconds are for him, and they are hair raising. "Doesn't The Time" is a Gerry Beckley love song from 1998. It's so much stronger than most of the songs that ended up on Human Nature, which was released about that same time. It's a shame this didn't make it on that album instead of so much of what did. Another song from 1998 is "Someday Forever," the Dewey Bunnell collaboration with Randy Goodrum, who wrote "It's Like You Never Left At All" on Perspective, one of the stronger songs on that forgettable album. In fact, every one of these previously unreleased songs from Half Century is so much stronger than most of what ended up on Perspective. "Someday Forever" is a cousin to "Can't Fall Asleep To A Lullabye." Also on this disc are earlier versions of "My Dear," "Sometimes Lovers," "All The People" (which became "Whole Wide World"), and "Inspector Mills," all of which were done justice when they were subsequently released. But the best song from the Poison Oak sessions is Gerry Beckley's "Coming On." It's one of those songs that you can't stop humming, with such an infectious hook in that classic Beckley style. It's got a lot of "Never Be Lonely" and "Sister Golden Hair" in its DNA. It's the kind of acoustic guitar led song you fell in love with America for in the first place. In fact, I'm going to listen to it again before I continue, so give me four minutes and ten seconds, thanks. I'm back. Damn, that's a good song. The last disc of music is mainly early demos of songs from Hourglass and Human Nature. The versions of the Human Nature songs sound almost identical as what was released. Not sure why they were included here. Or, on Human Nature for that matter. But there are three unreleased songs scattered within. "The Hills Are Green" is another Gerry Beckey song written for Dewey Bunnell. No new ground here, pretty much like every other song done this way. These songs are like Dewey Lite. Everything you love about Dewey but less. Even so, it's a nice tune about nature and birds and rocks and things. "I Can Take It" is another Beckley/Bunnell collaboration. This one is much stronger, with the undeniable America hook and acoustic guitar solo, about the end of a relationship and remaining friends. The disc closes with "Remembering," a remake of Gerry Beckley's tune from Unfortunate Casino. This version has a Beach Boys vibe, with an intro borrowed from Billy Joel's "Goodby Hollywood." This version is fuller, with different lyrics that are less introspective and more universal. Still a great song just slightly different. While there is so much rich fan stuff to get lost in with this incredible new box set, it's always about the music. After fifty years of making music these guys haven't lost a step. Thankfully, a lot of wonderful songs were released from captivity.

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