America first became famous in the early 1970s as a young trio of musicians creating acoustic masterpieces such as "A Horse With No Name," "I Need You" and "Ventura Highway." Their sound matured by the middle of the decade under the tutelage of famed Beatles producer George Martin with pop classics like "Tin Man," "Lonely People" and "Sister Golden Hair." After Dan Peek left in 1977, America hit a dry spell before regaining their commercial footing with their 1982 smash hit "You Can Do Magic" from the View From The Ground album.
America was able to ride the crest of its resurgent popularity for a short while, charting with the hits "Right Before Your Eyes (Rudolph Valentino)" and "The Border" in 1983, the latter from the Your Move album. By 1984, however, band members Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell decided to experiment with the heavily synthesized pop sound then in vogue. From this came Perspective, released on Capitol Records in September 1984.
Perspective was, if nothing else, an ambitious effort. Beckley and Bunnell, as "executive producers," utilized three different producers (Richard James Burgess, Richie Zito, and Matthew McCauley) and a long list of prominent studio musicians to create a sound completely different than anything America had ever tried. Longtime fans were alienated, and the critics, who never took kindly to America to begin with, shunned the album altogether. The album died quietly at number 185 on the Billboard album charts in November 1984, spending a mere three weeks on the chart. This poor performance effectively put an end to America's recording career for the time being. America released one more live album on Capitol in 1985 to close out their contract, and then disappeared from the pop scene. They didn't release any new material until they included four new tracks on Rhino's Encore: More Greatest Hits release in 1991, and did not put out a new studio album until Hourglass, released on American Gramaphone Records in 1994. Not until Here & Now was released on Sony's Burgundy Records label in 2007 did America put out another major-label release.
In hindsight, however, Perspective was not a total failure. It did produce two minor adult contemporary hits. One was "Special Girl," a somewhat brooding pop confection which was later covered by Meatloaf. The other, "Can't Fall Asleep To A Lullaby," was penned by Bunnell along with Journey frontman Steve Perry and Bill Mumy (of "Lost In Space" fame) and Robert Haimer. This wonderfully atmospheric ballad was noteworthy for Perry's backing vocals and a sparkling sax solo by Phil Kenzie, and stands as one of America's finest songs during its Capitol tenure.
The album is full of interesting tracks unlike anything on any other America album. "See How The Love Goes" sounds like a cross between the Pointer Sisters and Flashdance (perhaps that's because the Pointer Sisters had recorded the track in 1982). "5th Avenue" is surprisingly effective with layers of moody synthesizers. "We Got All Night" is perhaps the most straight-out bouncy pop track on the album. "Cinderella" features Eagle Timothy B. Schmit on backing vocals. "Lady With A Bluebird" is an intriguing stab at a reggae sound (America had tried this once before on Hideaway's "Lovely Night"). "Stereo" was co-written between Beckley and famed songwriter/composer Jimmy Webb.
Perhaps because we now know that America would ultimately return to a more organic, acoustic sound, Perspective stands out like an unusual pop experiment of its age. Yet it remains an enjoyable listen on its own merits. Even in reviews that predictably tend to pan the album, like Stephen Thomas Erlewine's review on AllMusic.com, the album is described as "endearing." This album is well worth giving a second listen - it's actually pretty good.