Our March reviews include albums by America, Kenny Loggins, Stephen Bishop, Lauren Wood and Lee Ritenour.
“Homecoming” by America (1973)
“Homecoming” was a suitable title for America’s second album. After the success of their debut Dewey Bunnell, Gerry Buckley and Dan Peek relocated from London to L.A. where they produced the successor themselves. Supported by Joe Osborn on bass and Hal Blaine on drums, the trio continued to develop their harmonized acoustic guitar-based folk-rock – featuring a richer instrumentation with more electric guitars and keyboards. “Homecoming” was released in January 1973 and became a Top 10 hit in the U.S. Their first single “Ventura Highway” became their third Top 10 hit and one of the band’s most popular songs. Written by Bunnell the lyrics were inspired by a family trip through Southern California in the 60s. “Homecoming” is if not even their best at least one of America’s finest albums and a real West Coast classic.
“Nightwatch” by Kenny Loggins (1978)
Kenny Loggins‘ second solo album “Nightwatch”, released in 1978, is a late 70’s blueprint for sucessful contemporary softrock. Loggins created in collaboration with producer Bob James an irresistible mix of catchy melodies, jazzy grooves and glossy soft-rock. The result proved them right: the fulminant Loggins/ Stevie Nicks duet “Whenever I Call You Friend” peaked at number 5 on the pop charts. More important: the “Mount Rushmore of West Coast music” was released on this album for the first time: “What a Fool Believes”, the outstandig songwriting-collaboration of Loggins and Michael McDonald. Loggins‘ triumphal procession continued: only one year later he released “Keep the Fire”. “Nightwatch” is an essential Yacht Rock recording!
“Bish” by Stephen Bishop (1979)
In 1978 Stephen Bishop released his second album “Bish”. The record opens with a reminiscence to “Wizard of Oz” before the “Charming Guy With Guitar” from “Animal House” enchanted his audience with his mellow, slightly melancholic song pearls like the gentle ballad “Looking for the Right One”, the easy-going “Everybody Needs Love” or the smooth “A Fool at Heart”. The list of guest stars is too long for one post – only a few names: Steve Cropper, Art Garfunkel, Chaka Khan, Natalie Cole and Michael McDonald. It’s an elegant, sophisticated album – Princess Leia approved!
“Lauren Wood” by Lauren Wood (1979)
Singer-songwriter Lauren Wood started her music career as back-up singer for Frank Zappa before she became lead singer of the band Chunky. In 1979 she released her self-titled solo-debut album featuring her old bandmates Novi Novog and Ernie Emerita. Wood’s album is one of the great West Coast recordings of the golden age. The list of guest musicians is overwhelming – to name a few: Michael McDonald, Little Feat members Bill Payne and Fred Tackett, Jeff Porcaro, Steve Lukather, Ronnie Montrose, Jim Keltner and Bobby Kimball. The Michael McDonald duet “Please Don’t Leave” went to No. 5 on Billboard’s adult contemporary chart. The album impresses with high quality song material like the atmospheric Michael McDonald cover “Nothing But A Heartache”, the uplifting “Gotta Love” or the Doobie Brothers obeisance “Hollywood”. Lauren Wood’s debut album is not less than a West Coast masterpiece – highly recommended.
“Rit” by Lee Ritenour (1981)
Lee Ritenour himself described his 1981 album “Rit” as “a reunion of old friends and great musicians”. And you can hear the harmony, spirit and familiarity of this great cast of session musicians – including Jeff Porcaro, Bill Champlin and Harvey Mason – on every track! Refined with guest vocals by Eric Tagg, co-produced by David Foster and inspired by Quincy Jones, “Rit” is a West Coast masterpiece of the early 80s and a timeless classic!
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