Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Good Ship Rediscovery: The Five Americans – The Best Of The Five Americans

We all forget about the older stuff from time to time, in our quest to stay up to speed with the latest and greatest. But one should always respect their elders. So don’t forget about them, y’hear?

We're gonna go a ways back today, my loves, all the way back to the golden, glorious 60s. The Five Americans were totally off my radar for a long, long time, and then one day I took a chance and just happened to get the Best Of you see pictured here. It's a thing I often do, get my hands on a recording by a band I know nothing about, and this time it ended well. The wandering gents of The Five Americans ended up in Dallas, and over their brief lifespan (5 years at most) churned out some interesting pop rock.

The Best Of offers up a crash course on The Five Americans, going for the win right off the bat by installing the chugging, dang catchy "I See The Light" as first song. You can hear the mid-60s all over the place, from the slightly tinny, metronomic drums to the organ to the nice echo of the guitars (a sound that reminds me almost of what bands like The Strange Boys are getting up to today). "Western Union" trends more towards the poppy end of the spectrum, with smoother, more polished vocals and more of a storyline for lyrical content. The songs, when compared, really show the duality of the band over its' recording life. But be they poppier or more aggressive, the songs are all good.

"The Losing Game" reminds me, instrumentally, of some madcap mix of a Leonard Cohen and Burt Bacharach song, melancholy but so very gently played. As I listen, I see a sun-drenched band of five, playing wistfully and looking moody in the middle of a ghost town. On "Good Times," the yelping, rougher vocals return, and so does the tougher attitude ("I don't need you/cuz I need my good times"). The keys are worked to a maddening froth, and the song is most certainly in a tizzy.

We go back to the pop side in "Now That It's Over," a song that reminds me of an American, more laid-back version of The Zombie's "I Love You." It's less frantic and less forceful, but has some sonic similarities to be sure. "Evol - Not Love" got my attention for the name, but I'm also a fan of the slightly saccharine song as a whole. It's a good 60s pop song, this one. "Don't Blame Me" goes back to the huffing and puffing and darker side of The Five Americans. For some reason, at times the vocals almost remind me of the MC5, though certainly much tamer. As for the song "Virginia Girl," it gets bonus points for the name alone, and is 60s sweetness personified.

There are 25 songs on this Best Of, which ought to be plenty of time in which to win you over. The split personalities of the band's recordings make for an interesting listen, and if you've not yet met The Five Americans, I hope you'll enjoy your introduction to them.

m4a: I See The Light (The Five Americans from The Best Of The Five Americans)

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