Keeping the Light On - The Best of Gerry Beckley Australia & New Zealand Release

Rare is the musician who can be part of an iconic band and still manage to carve out a path of their own that's as, if not more, creativ...



Rare is the musician who can be part of an iconic band and still manage to carve out a path of their own that's as, if not more, creatively rich and accomplished as that which made him famous. 

You will know him as half (originally one-third) of ‘America’, a troupe that celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and enjoys a legacy of enduring hit singles, membership of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. All well and good and still a going concern that Beckley remains proud to be part of. 

But like any band comprised of outsized talents, America is more than the sum of its parts and not necessarily able to house all the music Beckley creates. Since 1995's VAN GO GAN he's paralleled with his own albums, releasing eight studio sets so far as well as collaboration with Chicago's Robert Lamm and the late Beach Boy Carl Wilson. A body of work in its own right, an expression of an individual voice dedicated to exploring an artistic and sonic terrain that's entirely his own and forging a fresh path with familiar touchstones (that voice is, well, that voice).

KEEPING THE LIGHT ON - THE BEST OF GERRY BECKLEY takes stock of that journey. So far. The album offers a generous 20-track overview of Beckley's output, and beyond. The album also includes five previously unreleased tracks, including the single ‘(I'm Your) Heart Slave’, that offer proof of how prodigious Beckley's output is when he's in songwriting mode. 

"Yeah, I'm pretty prolific," he acknowledges, "but I like to preface this with the fact I come from the school of songwriting where you need to write 10 to come up with two that are keepers. That doesn't mean the other eight are crap, either. But you end up with an abundance of material, and you want to have a home for it."

The solo albums have also given Beckley a chance to immerse in different kinds of styles and textures. "It's a challenge because if you're going to sing all the songs you want to try to put variety in there," he explains. "Obviously one of the great things about America is the combined strength; Dewey (Bunnell is a fantastic partner and a great writer and singer and we really complement each other. So when I do something on my own it's not as simple as, 'Now here's a Dewey song, here's a Gerry song...' Fortunately there are a lot of different kinds of 'Gerry songs' that I've been able to put on these records."

Beckley's songs are, of course, the product of more than five decades of work and the impact and influence of a golden era of popular music. The Fort Worth native is something of a prodigy, starting piano at the age of three and adding guitar a few years later and playing in an instrumental surf band, the Vanguards, by the time he was 10. The Summer of Love, 1968, found Beckley in England after his father was named commander of a United States Air Force base near London. There, a teenaged Beckley immersed himself in burgeoning counterculture and music scene, an American invading the British Invasion, if you will, and at London Central High School met up with Bunnell and Dan Peek. 

Kindred spirits, they formed a band and began playing Friday night shows at a local teen club for Americans. In short order America signed a recording contract and, in 1972, hit big with ‘A Horse With No Name.’ "My brother was coming over from the States, and my dad said, I want you to talk to your little brother, 'cause he's got this music thing in his head. I'm just not sure that's the best avenue for him.” Beckley,who sang lead on America's second hit, ‘I Need You’, remembers with a laugh. "And by the time my brother came over, 'A Horse With No Name' was No. 1, and he said to my dad, 'What do you want me to tell him now?'"

The rest, of course, is history to the tune of six gold and platinum albums and nine Top 40 hits. Fast forward to 1995, however, and with America firmly ensconced in its heritage, Beckley was ready to set out on his own for the first time.

"VAN GO GAN was a lovely process," he says now of his first solo outing, whose ringing, uptempo ‘Emma’, smoothly dynamic ‘Now Sue’ and lush, lightly country flavored ‘Goodbye Highway’,all of which he co-produced with good pal Hal Linderman, are featured on KEEPING THE LIGHT ON -THE BEST OF GERRY BECKLEY “I had done a lot of home recording, for decades. I had a home studio right away in 1972, so I had a process of recording at home of demoing and trying things. But VAN GO GAN was a turning point where these were not just going to be demos anymore. This was going to be the real thing." 

That's certainly an apt description for all that came after; 2000's GO MAN GO, 2006's HORIZONTAL FALL, 2009's HAPPY HOUR, 2011's UNFORTUNATE CASINO, 2016's CAROUSEL and 2019's FIVE MILE ROAD. DISCOVERING AMERICA, meanwhile, resurrected sessions from 1970 at Morgan Studios in London, while the spacious ‘Watching the Time’ represents 2000's LIKE A BROTHER, the sole voyage from Beckley's trio with Lamm and Wilson (with then Chicago bassist Jason Scheff and Van Dyke Parks on accordion). 

"We had been friends and mutual fans of each other for years and years and always talked about doing something together," Beckley says. "It wasn't easy because all three of us were traveling all over the world. There wasn't a lot of daylight where we all had the same time off, but we made it happen and it was just a joy to work with two people I loved and was such a fan of their work." Wilson, sadly, passed away from cancer within a year of recording, and before LIKE A BROTHER was released, and before the trio could hatch its plan of having their three bands tour together so that they could perform some of the album's songs live. 

Working with singer/songwriter/archivist Jeff Larson, Beckley adds to his story on KEEPING THE LIGHT ON -THE BEST OF GERRY BECKLEY with the unreleased material. ‘I'm Calling You’ and ‘Self Image’ hearken back to the pre-solo album days of 1988, while ‘How Can I Turn You Away’  was recorded a decade later. ‘(I'm Your) Heart Slave’, created in tandem with Larson, hails from 2000, and ‘Norman’ dates to 2002 and features keyboards and backing vocals by Larson and longtime Beach Boys and Brian Wilson aide de camp Jeffrey Foskett.

"There are demos that go all the way back, not just for any one Gerry project but through the America archives and even back to my four-track days in the 70s," Beckley says. "There is a lot to pull from."

And if Beckley has his way, there will be more moving forward as well. KEEPING THE LIGHT ON - THE BEST OF GERRY BECKLEY is a culmination, but his writing and recording has continued, even amidst a global pandemic and shows no signs of abating any time soon. "This record is from this point back, and the stuff I've been writing and recording will be from this point forward", Beckley promises. "This is certainly a summation, I guess, but it's not the end of the story. It's amazing to have 50 years in this job. Now I can't wait to start the second half-century."

Gerry has been living in Sydney with family full time during lockdown. Infact, for the last 8 years he has commuted back and forth from homes in the US and in Sydney, in amongst a busy schedule of over a 100 shows a year with ‘America’. 

Gerry says  “America, like all touring acts, have been on hiatus for the last year but I consider myself so lucky to have been able to spend the year here in Sydney. I used the time to (finally) build a home studio here, something that I’d been considering for years. The studio has been a great outlet to keep the creative genes active & I now have a pretty good collection of all new material.”

KEEPING THE LIGHT ON - THE BEST OF GERRY BECKLEY is brimming, to overflowing, with a collection of outstandingly beautiful songs with stunning arrangement and production”.  

The newly formed label Tasman Music has licensed KEEPING THE LIGHT ON - THE BEST OF GERRY BECKLEY (CD) from Los Angeles label ‘Blue √Član Records’ for the Australian and New Zealand territories.  

Gerry said “I have treasured my frequent visits to New Zealand over the years. Performing from Auckland to Queenstown and many towns in between I have had the opportunity to enjoy, not just the scenery, but the hospitality of many Kiwis over the years, so bringing this music to Australian and New Zealand fans is something I am looking forward to”.

Managing Director of Tasman Records Aly Cook says…. “We are proud to be launching our label and bringing to Australian and New Zealand audiences one of the most prolific songwriters of our generation.  Bringing to the fans,  new work from legacy artists is something I have always wanted to be part of and although we are not limiting the label to this activity solely, it is great to be starting with someone as amazing as Gerry Beckley, who has so much to offer in his collection of songs that he has written and released outside of being in ‘America’. Songwriters like Gerry are masters of their craft and have so much to offer fans with their newer work, their life experiences, their maturity,  their knowledge as a songwriter and artist and so much more. “

Keeping the Light On - The Best of Gerry Beckley on Spotify 

https://open.spotify.com/album/4Pmy4Lx4NRF1V3NYHT6iAg?si=39YbnQcFSFCqPMLU6XremQ 

The Track is now available to radio hosts on AMRAP @CRS  & Key 2 Download area below 

Distributed in Australia by MGM and in NZ By Southbound 

Available at JBHIFI 

Australia https://www.jbhifi.com.au/products/cd-beckley-gerry-keeping-the-light-on-the-best-of-gerry-beckley-cd

New Zealand  https://www.jbhifi.co.nz/southbound/keeping-the-light-on-the-best-of-gerry-beckley/394695/ 

 

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Urban Craft Magazine: Keeping the Light On - The Best of Gerry Beckley Australia & New Zealand Release
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