Homecoming, America's finest album, refines and focuses the folk-pop approach found on their debut release. The songs here are tighter and more forthright, with fewer extended solo instrumental sections than before. The sound quality is clear and bright; the colorful arrangements, while still acoustic guitar-based, feature more electric guitar and keyboards. The performance quality is more assured, among the most urgently committed the group would ever put on vinyl. Verses are still sometimes banal and clunky ("You can't disregard your friends/But life gets so hard when you reach the end") or cryptic ("Sorry, boy, but I've been hit by purple rain"), but a number of the song subjects here exhibit a yearning sense of wanderlust and love of the outdoors that proves to be highly evocative and compelling (particularly on "Moon Song," "Ventura Highway," "California Revisited," and "Cornwall Blank"). Chordal progressions are sophisticated and contain many subtle surprises. A few new style wrinkles can be seen in the country-influenced "Don't Cross the River," the drivingly gutsy "California Revisited" (perhaps the hardest-rocking song the group would ever produce), and the hushed yet mildly funky "Head & Heart." Chart hits from this release include "Ventura Highway," "Only in Your Heart," and "Don't Cross the River," but each song here has something to recommend it. This top-flight album is a very rewarding listen.
by David Cleary