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If you were to step into a time machine and request to be sent to “a hot summer day in the early ’70s in the U.S.A.,” there’s a damn good chance History: America’s Greatest Hits would be the album blaring through the transmitter during liftoff.
History is the sound of a VW van driving toward a multi-colored sunset in 1971. It is the thunk of a frisbee landing in the mouth of a leaping dog wearing a bandana around its neck in 1972. It is the whoosh of a breeze blowing through the long, middle-parted, Herbal Essence™ scented hair of a “lady” in 1973…
Damn. Sorry about all that. I’m getting transported and I’m not even listening to History right now, I’m just freakin’ thinking about it (and trying to imagine what the hell flying alligator lizards look like).
History was released in November of 1975 and featured all the singles the soft rock trio of Dewey Bunnell, Gerry Beckley, and Dan Peek had released up to that point. Six of the album’s 12 tracks had been Top 10 hits on the Billboard pop chart: “A Horse With No Name,” “I Need You,” “Ventura Highway,” ‘Tin Man,” “Lonely People” and “Sister Golden Hair.” The album’s other six tracks didn’t hit those same heights, and they range in quality from mighty fine (“Daisy Jane”) to just okay (we’ll get to those coattail riders shortly). History went platinum both in the U.S. (4 million copies) and Australia (450,000 copies) and to this day remains the band’s best-selling album.
Now while millions of regular citizens enjoyed that sweet, windblown America sound, the music press emphatically did not. The Rolling Stone Album Guide described their music as “little more than bubblegum for adolescent hippies.” They also offered this snooty slap-and-run attack on the trio’s most popular and beloved songs:
America’s early ’70s hits were all variations on the same themes: mawkish love songs (“I Need You”), clumsy impressionism (“Horse With No Name,” “Ventura Highway”), childhood fairy-tale metaphors (“Tin Man”), and corny affirmations (“Lonely People”).
Okay then, Rolling Stone. History class dismissed, bitches.