America: History -- America's Greatest Hits (1975)

While I chafe at the concept of "guilty pleasures" (I'm 53 years old, I should care what anyone else thinks about the album I'm listening to???), America's Greatest Hits is nonetheless a definitive guilty pleasure.  It's banal schlock, watered-down CSNY, the nadir of Eagles-era California singer-songwriter bland country-rock, etc... but it was also something every household in the 70s was obligated by law to own (filed alongside Carole King's Tapestry), to sing around the campfire at overnight camp in Wisconsin while that one counselor with long hair and an acoustic guitar strummed along, and, dammit, it has a bunch of songs I'll still play today.

Yes, there is much to mock.  "Muskrat Love," whether in the America or Captain & Tennille iteration, is perhaps the worst pop song ever composed, and its inclusion on a greatest hits album calls into question the quality of the band's album tracks that didn't make the cut.  (Full disclosure: I own some of the band's regular albums, and there are many songs that belong here in lieu of "Muskrat Love.")  And "Horse With No Name," notwithstanding its standing as an AOR classic and ace Neil Young imitation, sports some of the most embarrassing lyrics ever written, to wit:

   There were plants and birds and rocks and things, there was sand and hills and rings. 
   The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz, and the sky with no clouds.
   The heat was hot and the ground was dry, but the air was full of sound.

Nevertheless... There is also "Sister Golden Hair."  And that one doesn't need a "guilty pleasure" caveat; it's a great song, no shame at all.  If America were a one-hit wonder with only "Sister Golden Hair" to show for it, they'd still be favorably remembered today.  But there are a few other tunes here that are pretty decent.  "Ventura Highway" is a great example of that whole SoCal 70s vibe, pleasant and light but wholly unobjectionable (notwithstanding their return to questionable lyric territory with "Alligator lizards in the air").  Sure, it's a sound ably mocked by the Blue Jean Committee, the faux band from Fred Armisen and Bill Hader's Documentary Now, but it confirms there was in fact a sound worth mocking.  "Daisy Jane" is nice, "Tin Man" is perfectly fine (though coming close to "Horse"-like attempts at silly profundity), and "Lonely People" and "Only In Your Heart" retain some of their 70s campfire charm; plus, I still get a bit of a chill from the moody, dark folk of "Sandman."  I can do without the proto-disco yacht rock of "Woman Tonight," and the sappy "I Need You" is a little much, but, hey, it's all perfectly nice, right?  No guilt, folks.

Here's "Sister Golden Hair."  You like it.  You know you like it.
...and, what the hell, how about "Ventura Highway"?
Hey, here's a nifty live "Sandman" which actually jams and rocks out a bit: