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Solid collection despite sonic flaws
on July 19, 2000
I've been listening to America since my pre-teen years in the 70s and have long since worn out my vinyl copies of their albums through the early 80s. I bought several of the One Way re-issues of their post Warner Bros albums and was tempted by the ... Japanese imports of the "H" albums. When this collection was announced I was excited that I'd finally get to hear remasters of the songs on "History" (all are included here) as well as more album tracks and lesser known singles.
So I was terribly disappointed to hear that the tracks from the first album sound like they were mastered from casette tape. "Rainy Day" wows, flutters and distorts all over the place. The guitars, lead and background vocals on "Here" and "Three Roses" are also distorted. This is more than a minor annoyance: if this were vinyl I'd be checking for fuzz on the needle. "Sandman" has a dropout on the left speaker 4 seconds in and the levels are all over the place. I can only assume that the master tapes Rhino got ahold of had been baking in the sun for the past 30 years.
Happily, the sound quality improves tremendously from "Everyone I Meet Is From California" on, and I only caught a few more glitches on the first two discs. "Only In Your Heart" has a dropout in the right speaker at 1:51 but otherwise sounds very good. "God of the Sun" has a dropout at 2:01. Disc three starts off with more sonic problems ("California Dreaming", "Only Game In Town" and "1960" warble a bit) but then gets back on track.
Overall this is a solid collection with all the hits for the casual fan and enough singles, alternate mixes and demos to please the hardcore fan. The songs are mostly culled from the Dan Peek years (1970-77), although Hearts is only represented by three songs (the same three that made it onto History) and misses some of Dewey Bunnell's best work, while Hideaway inexplicably donates seven tracks. The post Peek (and post peak) albums are under-represented, but these albums have been re-issued on CD so the avid fan can fill in the blanks.
The packaging is excellent, resembling a hard-bound book with the CDs stored inside the front and back covers (ala the Cheap Trick boxed set). The writing nicely mixes historical perspective with personal recollections and moves along well.