Forgotten series: Cashman and West, “American City Suite” (1972)

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Terry Cashman and Tommy West were the musicians and mechanics behind American City Suite, which peaked at the No. 27 spot on the national charts in the autumn of 1972. Measuring over seven minutes in length, the track was initially considered too long for commercial airplay, but those steering the ship realized the song had something important to say, took a chance, and released it.

A social commentary, “American City Suite” (Dunhill Records) articulates how, at the time, New York City was rapidly going downhill. The worse was actually yet to come, but that’s another story altogether. Economic despair, drugs, racial issues, crime, crappy living conditions, and trash-lined streets gripped the slowly rotting Big Apple, making it one of the most dangerous and dirty dwellings of the era.

Starting out on a gingerly beat recalling the strummy good time sounds of the Lovin’ Spoonful, “American City Suite” eventually spills into the type of moody piano-oriented drama Billy Joel was soon to be known for crafting. Rich and confident vocals charge the sprawling piece, and the melodies are elegant and elaborate. Pairing pop perceptions with progressive rock furnishings, “American City Suite” is ambitious and moving.

Although “American City Suite” was to be Cashman and West’s sole hit single, they were by no means an obscurity, as they achieved additional success producing folk rock singer Jim Croce.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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