The air is full of America’s sound
Polished harmonies and iconic melodies fill MACC show
When America’s co-founders Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley decided to release their first album of covers a few years ago, they recorded a number of iconic songs including Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” Simon and Garfunkel’s “America,” and a stunning version of the Beach Boys’ classic “Caroline No,” which really impressed its composer, Brian Wilson.
“Dewey said he would love to do ‘Caroline No,’ and I thought it was one of those things that’s sacred, we shouldn’t touch it,” says Beckley. “But I couldn’t have been more wrong as Dewey did such an incredible job of singing it. We played it for Brian and he said, ‘I almost cried.’ He’s a dear friend we’ve known since the early ’70s. We did a tour recently and he sat on stage. He wanted to hear ‘Sister,’ he loves ‘Sister Golden Hair.’ Afterwards I said, ‘Well Brian, what did you think?’ He says, ‘Gerry, you rushed it.’ “
With their bright melodies, rich harmonies, and intricate acoustic guitar textures, America produced an array of memorable gems from “A Horse with No Name,” “Ventura Highway” and “Tin Man,” to “Lonely People,” “Sister Golden Hair,” and “You Can Do Magic.”
If there is one song that quintessentially captures America’s sound, Beckley suggests it’s their evocative road song “Ventura Highway.”
“Much as it defaults to ‘Horse’ because it’s in the lyric — ‘On the first part of the journey’ — and it defines the whole trip for us, but I would pick ‘Ventura Highway.’ It’s a definitive song and by that time we had had three or four hits. A tour manager used to refer to it as nothing-can-hurt-me-now music. It’s got a put-the-top-down and head-up-the-coast vibe, and it’s got lovely acoustics and harmonies.”
America’s foundation was initially laid in England in the early 1970s. The sons of U.S. Air Force personnel stationed near London, Beckley, Bunnell and Dan Peek began playing together in high school.
“Dewey and I both have English mothers, so there was a lot of English culture growing up,” he says. “It was a great time to be in London.”
As a trio, America began playing gigs in the city including opening for Pink Floyd and The Who.
“I remember we were 17 years old on stools at the Roundhouse playing a 30-minute acoustic set and then Pink Floyd did ‘Atom Heart Mother’ with a 90-piece orchestra and choir,” Beckley recalls. “I ran into Roger Waters a few years ago and reintroduced myself, and I said, ‘Do you remember?’ and he said, ‘Of course I remember.’ “
Playing guitar since the age of 10, Beckley is known for favoring a 12-string instrument, which he says was initially influenced by George Harrison and the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn.
“The whole ‘My Sweet Lord’ with 12-string and slide guitar is the direct source for ‘Sister Golden Hair,’ “ he notes. “I love the mid-era Beatles stuff of ‘Rubber Soul,’ when there was a lot of acoustic instruments, and of course the 12- string was McGuinn’s signature.”
Lately in their shows they’ve been including covers of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and the Mamas and Papas’ “California Dreaming.”
“Over 10 years ago we said ‘Let’s put a Beatles’ song in,’ “ he explains. “It was something we rotated. We did ‘Nowhere Man’ and ‘You’re Going to Lose That Girl.’ Then it fell out of the show, and we put a Beatles’ song back as a nice way to mention George Martin.”
After helping polish the Beatles’ sound, Martin, who died last year, began working with America. Beginning with “Holiday,” featuring the hits “Tin Man” and “Lonely People,” he produced seven of their albums and a number of their top charting songs.
“He was so great and nurturing, like a father figure to us,” Beckley says.
America’s most recent album, “Lost & Found,” featured new songs recorded between 2000 and 2011 that showcased their classic sound, with standouts including Beckley’s “Driving” and “One Horse Town.”
” ‘Driving’ is in the show now,” he says. “It’s one of the highlights. It’s lovely to have found this stuff.”
Still blessed with fine voices, founding members Beckley and Bunnell continue to please fans performing their signature songs and newer material.
“The ’70s hit makers continue to find new life in their classic discography, assisted by a particularly-strong touring band,” praised a recent Orange County Register review.
“Backed by three other talented musicians, the two frontmen hit the hits right away, leading off with ‘Tin Man,’ followed by ‘You Can Do Magic,’ “ noted Florida’s Naples Daily News. “They played ‘Ventura Highway,’ and the audience went wild as Beckley laid down the iconic acoustic guitar riff.”
Looking forward to returning for shows in the islands, Beckley says: “We love Maui. We do a lot of shows and people say, ‘How come it’s been so long since you’ve been to Scranton or wherever?’ and I say, ‘We don’t pick where we go, if I did I’d be in Maui every month.’ “
Fleetwood’s on Front St. will celebrate its fifth anniversary with some special shows in August. A big show with Mick Fleetwood, guitarist/vocalist Rick Vito and singer Gretchen Rhodes will be held at 8 p.m. Aug. 26, which also coincides with an early release of Fleetwood’s new book, “Love That Burns.”
Chronicling the early history of Fleetwood Mac, the book is published in a limited edition of 2,000 copies, with every one individually signed by the legendary drummer.
The book comes with a seven-inch vinyl picture disc featuring Peter Green’s blues classic “Love That Burns,” from the “Mr. Wonderful” album, and a rare instrumental track, first recorded in June 1967, titled “Fleetwood Mac,” from which the band took its name.
“The focus is on the formation years with Peter Green,” says Fleetwood about the book. “It’s a chronicle covering the inception at the Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival in 1967 up until the day that Stevie (Nicks) and Lindsey (Buckingham) joined.”
Tickets for the Aug. 26 show range from $670 for a VIP couple booth (which includes the book and meet and greet with the drummer) to $95 for standing (no book).
As part of the fifth anniversary, Fleetwood will headline with Willie K and Rhodes at 8 p.m. on Aug. 16, 21 and 30, with The House Shakers opening. More details are available online at www.fleetwoodsonfrontst.com.
Ebb & Flow Arts’ “Violin Synergy Festival” will feature music for four violins at three island concert sites beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Seabury Hall’s ‘A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center in Makawao. Programs will include world and Hawaii premieres, including works commissioned by E&FA, performed by leading members of San Francisco Symphony’s first violin section — Sarn Oliver, Mariko Smiley, Melissa Kleinbart and Yun Chu.
The concert will feature works by Oliver, Bela Bartok, Luciano Berio, Witold Lutoslawski, Pelarin Bacos, Robert Pollock, Lauren Vendervelden, Bertold Hummel and Joyce Orenstein. A pre-concert discussion will be held at 6:30 p.m.
At 4 p.m. Saturday at the Makawao Union Church, the festival will include an “informance” led by Oliver on the history and structure of the violin; as well as master classes led by members of San Francisco Symphony with area students who study violin with Teresa Skinner, Rona Landrigan and Iolani Yamashiro; and chamber music coaching of area students in their performance of Halsey Stevens’s “Four Pieces for Four Violins.”
The 4 p.m. Sunday concert at Keawala’i Congregational Church in Makena will feature the same program as Friday’s Seabury Hall event.
Admission to all events is free. For more information, call 876-1854 or visit www.ebbandflowarts.org.
Grammy-nominated guitarist Ottmar Liebert will make his Maui debut at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at the MACC’s McCoy Studio Theater. Liebert rose to success in the 1990s with his Spanish-influenced instrumental music that he termed “nouveau flamenco.” His debut album sold double platinum. Fusing influences from jazz, classical, pop and Latin music he continued to sell millions of albums and earn Grammy nominations for “Borrasca,” “The Hours Between Night + Day,” and “Opium.” His most recent album “slow” includes a tribute to Prince.
The acclaimed guitarist will perform as a trio with Luna Negra. Tickets are $45 and $65 (plus applicable fees). For more information, call 242-7469 or visit www.mauiarts.org.