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You Can Do Magic

Artist
America
Year Released
1982

This is pretty much everything I look for in a rock band. It’s especially a great song from America because Gerry and Dewey both have a significant presence: Gerry takes the lead on the verses and Dewey sings the backup vocals and the chorus. The bass player and drummer lock in to a really tight groove while the acoustic guitar carries the rhythm. On top of that you’ll hear the lead guitar, a triangle, a reverse cymbal and a keyboard color the song in all the right places. The song has a very clear hook – “you can do magic” (the title of the song) – but the vocals throughout are in perfect pitch, something the band has obviously taken very seriously over the tenure of their career (listen to Dewey’s backup vocals and you’ll appreciate harmony like you would hearing CSNY).

I remember hearing this song for the first time not long ago and thinking that America was never given the credit they rightfully deserved. They’re unfortunately known for their early 70’s hit “A Horse With No Name,” which is a great song, but also which represents so little of what they are capable of. “You can Do Magic” off their tenth studio album “View from the Ground” sums up their new found direction after ditching George Martin as their producer in the late seventies – a direction they’d take all throughout the 80’s and arguably to this day. It was Russ Ballard who wrote this song and guided them into a new era, revitalizing their career after Martin had given them five albums that only reached mediocre commercial success. What makes this song particularly interesting to me is that I can’t hep but think the band is speaking to Ballard as their mentor when saying “you can do magic.”