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Published: 2008/03/27
by Brian Ferdman

America Live In Central Park 1979

Eagle Vision EVC 33048-9
The band America has never really appealed to this writer. Ive long thought that the kings of A.M. Gold played compositions that fused rock and jazz but managed to water-down both idioms and filter the music through an overly poppy lens. Sure, they had that A Horse With No Name tune that causes everyone to ask, Isnt this song about heroin? but otherwise, America didnt do much for me.
And then something changed after watching this DVD.
America Live In Central Park 1979 was filmed by unabashed America fan, director Peter Clifton. The Australian filmmaker had a huge hit with Led Zeppelins The Song Remains The Same, and he looked to recapture that magic on the big screen for one of his favorite acts. The Central Park concert was the finale of their world tour, so Clifton had four cameras and a mobile recording truck ready to record this event. Of course, with two perfectionists leading the band in Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Buckley, the vocals and guitar parts needed to be re-recorded later on and then overdubbed on to the final product. While such obsessive tactics are generally not appreciated by a warts and all fan like yours truly, its hard to argue with the final result. In their prime, this band thrived on lush harmonies and intricate acoustic lines, and those tracks that are preserved here sound fine. The laid-back folk-rocky figures of the classics Tin Man and Ventura Highway contrast nicely with the fierce energy of the driving Only Game In Town and the 1970s jazz-rock of Here. Hell, even the ultra-sappy love ballad, I Need You sounds pretty damn good. Of course, there are a couple of duds in the form of Another Try and a wretched cover of California Dreamin. Both of these tracks are way too reliant on heavy-handed piano and sound more like the kind of musical theater pieces one might find in the film Fame.
However, the man who makes this DVD really work is Clifton. Not content to stick with a mere concert film, he frequently cuts away to other footage of life on the streets of New York and Los Angeles, as well as shots of Bunnell and Buckley recording their overdubs in the studio. He even creates an entire fantasy sequence for A Horse With No Name involving a cadre of wild horses running across the infamous desert. That being said, his greatest shots are of life within Central Park. Here we see scores of people, gay and straight, dancing in the park, enjoying their own form of roller disco, or utilizing their entrepreneurial spirit to sell joints only a few feet away from the police. As the DVD opens with rabid fans running to get the best available seats in the amphitheater, its clear that this film certainly captures New York and an America (both band and country) from a different, much more innocent era.

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