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The United States Of America - The United States Of America  CD (album) cover

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

The United States Of America

 

Proto-Prog

4.13 | 40 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

friso
Prog Reviewer
5 stars The United States of America - st (1968)

There are a lot of mysteries when it comes to the history of humanity. How did the Romans conquer an rule halve of the known human world? How did the extremely poor '30 Germany became a super-power over night? Another mystery is how USA ever made this spectacular album with so many progressiveness in '68?! Did they invent a time-machine? How come they already had a drum'bass track twenty years before the genre was invented? How come they solely invented the majestic vocals prog-sound and just use it for one single song? How come they had sounds and effects that didn't even exist at the time? It took space-rock a couple of years to get these amazing loops and delays.

Another mysterious question; who is master-mind Joseph Byrd? The band has clearly some amazing qualities. Whilst the ideas and compositions on this album are brilliant, the other personal 'or population', as the cover calls them, are clearly talented to. Dorothy Moskowitz is a great female vocalist with a very authentic voice. At first I believed it was a male singer with a high pitched voice like on other old sixties records. Violin-player Gordan Marron is a real musical astronaut with instrument and equipments. His spacey influences are all over the place! Rand Forbes and Craig Woodson complete the band with a classy rhythmical section.

If you've been reading this review till this point, it has become clear I admire this sole album of The United States of America. It's totally unique, extremely progressive for it's year of release, a psychedelic rock classic, but yet it hasn't had the attention from the progressive rock community it rightfully deserves. In my opinion this should be PA top 25 material. I'll do a song by song review, because there aren't that many reviews on this album yet.

/turn on his vinyl record player/

Fanfares appear around me, seemingly totally confused, out of pitch, out of rhythm.. this is confusing! The opening section of The American Metaphysical Circus. After the Fanfares we are drown into the main theme of the song. Violin with free-jazz effects and spacey sounds, a hypnotic bass-melody and heart-breaking vocals. This song has the same impact as KC's I Talk to the Wind! Brilliant sound. The addition of the organ in the melody is classic and the song keeps on building tension by getting louder and the vocals get some distortion. It ends with the crazed fanfare sounds.

Hard Coming Love. The songs stars with a jam-sound bass and drums line with some more psychedelic violins and organs with the strangest of sounds. To bad the opening section sounds slightly out of pitch, or was it intended to be? As the vocals come in the band recovers from this intensive opening section with subtle female vocals with a classic sixties sound. The refrain is catchy. In the second couplet-refrain run we get some additions of spacey violin sounds. I love this laid-back ex-bluesrock/soul sound! The song has breaks with pleasant cacophonies, giving it a totally out of space feel.

Cloud Song. Is a gentle song that reminds me of the obscure 'Arthur'-record from the sixties. Gentle instrumentation and melodies, a bit dreamy. The vocals are also dreamy. The symphonic sounds used are very stylish. The song is said to be inspired by Pooh, I guess they mean Pooh-bear. The song would have fitted very well in the older series, though it is perhaps a bit too spacey.

The Garden of Earthly Delights. Another spacey intro with a special organ sound and percussions. This song has a more fierce expressions. The rhythmic section could be described as a an up-tempo Doors feel with spacey loops and intensive female vocals. The sound of this song is amazing, it's all over the place! Great recording. With some catchy moments throughout the song and amazing space-rock sounds this yet another amazing song.

I Won't Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar. A happy Beatles like psychedelic track with bizarre lyrics and some more crazy violin parts. This song is actually way more avant-garde then the Beatles ever were, but it somehow does some to have some influences from the Beatles. It reminds me a bit of Being for the Benefit of Mister Kite. Such a nice happy trip! The song has a outro with an emotional fanfare piece, as if some-one was buried.

/turns around the record, time for side two/

Where is Yesterday begins with church like vocal harmonies, with an organ far in the back. Well-recorded majestic atmosphere. Then comes the sliding violin with reverb. The song is based on a simple bass-melody with multiple vocal lines. The percussions are simple but very effective in this atmosphere. The use of spacey sound on the end of couplet's is effective to get fresh into the next couplet. When the drums come in and the bass become more complicated the song becomes really magical! Then return the dark sliding violins, such a creepy sound!

Coming Down start right after the dark violin sounds. This song is unbelievable. One of the main themes has a full-grown drum 'n bass styled sound. The opening section is however more sympho-prog like, before it is fired in the rhythmical drum'n bass theme. Some short avant-garde moments between the refrain and the couplet are very functional. This song is extremely innovative, yet catchy. It's very sticky.

Love Song For the Dead Ché is political song with an atmosphere like the gentle Cloud Song. This time the band has a very melodic and strong compositional approach. This song is almost as effective as I Talk to the Wind. Again. Great dreamy recording.

Stranded in Time. Suddenly we get an string section with for a Beatles-like melodic song. It reminds me of 'All the Lonely People', when it comes to the arrangements. USA uses this classy sound for a short while, because the psychedelic sounds of the punchy drums and spacey violins and strange organs is introduced.

The American Way of Love has more avant-garde and heavy psychedelic styled themes. The song has many sections, and a lot of evil happy fanfare sounds disturbing the melodies. The acid violin solo is great, a real explosion! After it a spacey sound-scape comes into existence which almost sounds as a cacophony of classical orchestra. Suddenly I'm fire into a soft psychedelic song, which is part II of the song, 'California Good- Time Music. After the gentle intro the sound has total change. All of the sudden we get to listen to a rhythmical piece that could have been used for a modern hip-hop songs haha! After this we get an overview of all songs that have passed so far, just like Pink Floyd would do two years later in the middle section of Atom Heart Mother. With fade-ins and outs all over the place! Now the avant-garde landscape is complete. The bizarre is explored and the music seems to make no sense at all anymore. Really psychedelic this final part of the album! 'How much fun it's been, how much fun it's been, how much fun it's been', sings Jospeh Byrd. What an extreme way of ending a record!

/the record-player raised it's needle in order to return to it's resting place/

Conclusion. As you can read this review was written whilst listening to the album, and it took almost an hour to complete it. It felt like this album needs some special attention, because it would be quite a loss if this album was forgotten. For people interested in the development of the progressive rock genre out of the psychedelic scene this album is a land-mark. The style of USA is more innovative then those of the Beatles and Pink Floyd the same year and I would perhaps call it as innovative as KC's Court in the Crimson King, though The USA was released a year earlier. For me this is THE masterpiece of '68, the most important album of that year. A masterpiece with an sound that will age, but with a vision that can stand the test of time easily, for this is MUSICAL EXPERIMENTATION IN IT'S PUREST FORM. Five stars.

friso | 5/5 |

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