Picks and Pans Review: Perspective

updated 12/10/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/10/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST


America, a duo made up of Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley, began its career with a severe identity crisis. One of the group's first efforts, A Horse With No Name, was a smash hit. Unfortunately, almost everyone who heard it believed the song was by Neil Young because of its unvarnished acoustic sounds and toothachingly high, Youngish vocals. During the folk revival of the '70s, the group found a niche of its own: Such hits as Ventura Highway and Sister Golden Hair were pure Americana. Then the band's popularity waned, until its single You Can Do Magic put the duo back on the charts in 1982. At least no one can say that Bunnell and Beckley haven't been trying: Perspectives their 14th album in as many years. Bunnell's lead vocals are the group's distinctive hallmark. His tone is endearingly dulcet, though breathy. When he puts some muscle in his voice, he sounds like a combination of Stephen Stills and Dan Fogelberg. The songs on Perspective that Bunnell and Beckley themselves wrote or collaborated on weaken the record: They are derivative and lack verve. Only Beckley's Unconditional Love, which has a relentless beat reminiscent of the group Badfinger, has merit. More representative is Lady With a Bluebird, which would inspire comparisons to Buffalo Springfield if not for its gratuitous reggae overtones. Though fallow as songwriters, Bunnell and Beckley have, at least, borrowed well. We Got All Night, by Sue Shifrin and Terry Britten, allows Beckley to explore the smoky textures popularized by Michael McDonald. The single from Perspective, Special Girl, an Eddie Schwartz/ Dave Tyson collaboration, is a captivating love song. Since the two members of America don't play any instruments on this album and don't have to worry about practicing, you'd think they'd have time to pick more songs like these. (Capitol)

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