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The United States Of America


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Easy Money
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars One of the earliest examples of progressive rock to come from the states, or even anywhere in the world for that matter, the USofA's only album is a great mix of west coast psychedelia, American styled avant-garde composition, electronics and left wing politics. Although USofA sounds like a lot of late 60s California bands (why do they all have violinists and female singers), they stand apart because of Joe Byrd's skills as a composer, arranger and early synthesizer player, Gordon Marroon's advanced technique on the violin, and Dorothy Moskowitz's outstanding vocals. Dorothy especially shines on the several quiet 'mystical' songs that were the hallmark of many 60s California bands.

Joe Byrd's background in academia as a student of modern American composers such as John Cage and others is evident throughout the album as he imitates Charles Ives and Cage himself by making musical collages that combine different types of classic American music, noise and electronics. Byrd's imaginative, almost avant-garde use of the analog synthesizer, which was in a very raw and infant state then, adds much to their sound, and he often combines his weird synth tones with Gordon's violin to make odd modern semi-orchestral timbres.

A curse that often plagues many west coast bands from this era is an inability to tune their instruments properly. Unfortunately, USofA seems to have that problem on one song, during which it is hard to tell if they are into quarter-tones, satire or just bad west coast tuning. The rest of the album is fairly sophisticated for it's era, especially the synthesizer sounds, which are often run through reverb and tape loop echo for maximum psychedelic effect.

There is a bizarre tape collage that closes the album that predates sampling by a couple of decades. The violinist multi tracks a jazz ballad string section while snippets of proclamations of love from various songs throughout pop history build a bizarre futuristic abstract love song.

If you want to hear classic late 60s west coast psychedelic rock with a lot of sophisticated avant-garde extras, this album is for you.

Report this review (#199584)
Posted Saturday, January 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars One of the weirder albums to come out of the US, this band made an often-experimental psych-prog rock album. As it is often compared with one of the earliest "prog" album, I'd prefer referring you to Vanilla Fudge and Touch or HP Lovecraft rather than this bizarre piece of psych-pop. Don't get me wrong, you will get thrills that most of us 60 & 70's fans are looking for, This female singer-fronted sextet is mainly the work of organ and touché-à-tout experimenter Joe Byrd

For some reasons, this writer can hear the full and many psych effects of the album without hearing much of the avant-garde subtleties described in the booklet of the Cd reissue. I can't even see this music as that much prog rock, more than some kind of extremely bizarre garage rock with some bizarre sound collage, such as the opening friar ambiances leading into some intriguing vocals. The opening American Metaphysical Circus is probably with the closing three-part American Way To Love , the obvious key to the concept of the album (not sure if there is, though). With the following Hard Coming Love and its eerie- searing fuzzed-out (un-listed) guitar, we're definitely in garage rock and full psychedelia (Jefferson Airplane-type), and many other whacked out songs, like I won't Leave My Wooden Wife (but not in the Zappa sense either) are giving this album its inimitable late 60's flavour (even if a lot of it hasn't aged that well), and some of the ideas are also typically early prog ala Vanilla Fudge (Where Is Yesterday) or Stranded In Time, obviously inspired by The Beatles' Eleanor Rigby

In other words, I can help but wonder f there is not way too much hype about this album, even though it is one of the interesting pioneering psych (I wouldn't really put prog forward that much, even though the violin's presence might lead you to think so. Not essential IMHO, but definitely worth the investigation.

Report this review (#210814)
Posted Thursday, April 9, 2009 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars Who are this guys and how they did it?

After having moved to a new house,and placing my vinys in order, found an LP from the days I used to help in the radio, the self titled album by THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, probably one of the weirdest records ever released, even when their music is daring but not perfect, and defies Rock history, I can't stop listening it on my old turntable..

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, has always been a mystery to me, even when essentially they are an Acid Psychedelic band, they add everything available in that moment and create a cocktail as explosive as their political ideas, the listener can find soft ballads, dissonant passages unlike any band of the era and clear touches of Avant Garde.

When most of he USA bands were using Farfisa Organ in the vein of The Doors, the keyboardist Joseph Byrd was adding electric harpsichord, organ, calliope, piano while Gordon Marron added violin as integral part of the music, and a couple of surprises more like electric drums and the lack of lead guitar.

In other words, this guys were really advanced for their era in USA and even for UK, the sweet voice Dorothy Moskowitz makes a strong contrast with the lyrics (hey, she dares to sing a track for Ché Guevara in USA), and the sound effects almost in pure Space Rock. Even when all the songs are really radical, the real impression comes near the end, with the almost Gregorian introduction of "Where is Yesterday" followed by an extremely elaborate vocal work and oriental leanings. something I would had never expected before the early 70's.

Also transcendental is the almost Baroque intro of "Stranded in Time"immediately turns into some sort of Classical oriented Vaudeville, this time with male vocals, but this isn't all the song keeps morphing through several genres but they only reach the peak of the weirdness in "The American Way of Love" where they blend dissonant Big Band Jazz passages with USA military hymns in the style of John Philip Souza and music from musicals of the 1940's.

If there's a band that fits perfectly the definition of Proto Progressive Rock, it's THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, they were natural iconoclasts who broke all the schemes long time before the vast majority.

Just read that a CD with 9 bonus tracks has been released in 2004, so I'm starting the musical safari to find it........Ahhh the rating.................Not important, but 4 Stars, because they dared to do what few even dreamed.

Report this review (#240801)
Posted Monday, September 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#292083)
Posted Tuesday, July 27, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Joseph Byrd who is the brains behind THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA came to New York City armed with his B.A. and M.A. all ready to study with John Cage.This was 1960 and New York was filled with artists of all kinds seeking to not only learn but to entertain and be entertained in this hub of artistic activity.There was every sort of artistic activity imaginable going on here. Joseph had earned his M.A. at Stanford where he had come under the influence of a group of avant-garde composers from Berkeley such as Terry Riley and Steve Reich. "The first New York concert of my new music was at a large Canal Street loft of a painter, a mysterious beautiful Japanese girl named Yoko Ono." Joseph eventually moved to L.A. in 1963 as he was offered a teaching assistantship at UCLA. His girlfriend Dorothy, the future THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA vocalist went with him. He says "If I was a tiny fish in the pond of avant-garde New York, I was a pioneer of experimental music in L.A.. My first year at UCLA I co-founded the New Music Workshop with Don Ellis. Don was already a brilliant Jazz trumpet player, but at UCLA he studied Indian music, as did Dorothy and I". "In 1965, with funding from UCLA Associated Students, we did an elaborate set of concerts and events called "Steamed Spring Vegetable Pie".The final concert of that series closed with LaMonte's piece in which a giant weather balloon is filled on stage (using a vacuum cleaner).This takes about half an hour, and I was concerned that I would lose my unsophisticated audience, so I put together a Blues band to play during it. Our singer was my friend Linda Rondstadt, who had just moved to Santa Monica, and was living with her Folk trio in a six block area that includied THE DOORS, Frank Zappa, and Dorothy and I". Joseph realized from this performance that Rock was an access to a larger audience and so the idea of forming a band came out of this.

"Things moved fast : I introduced Gordon to the ring modulator-to fatten the violin sound to a Hendrix fuzz, Rand bought an Ampeg fretless bass, and we set about electrifying the drums.The aural concept I had in mind was an edgy minimalist one, without the guitar clutter I was hearing in many Rock bands of the late 60's. I composed about a dozen songs, Dorothy co-wrote the lyrics. I wrote out parts for everyone,and we rehearsed for a month, made a demo, and sent it off to Columbia Records". "Everything we did on the album we had performed live, via the addition of two tape decks on stage. We travelled with a bunch of gear, including a calliope, a 3' x 4' neon American flag (which had been alternately flashing red and white stripes), and a full size plaster nun. We may have been the first to use fog machines; the low lying fog and flashing flag created as striking enviroment." Producer David Rubinson and Joseph mixed the tapes in New York City and Joseph was overwelmed with the final results. It sounded brilliant and as he left the studio at 4 am with freshly fallen snow on the streets he relates that this may have been the best high he's ever experienced.

I don't usually go into such background info but this "one off" deseves it because it was unique back in 1968, one of a kind really.That mix of Psych / Pop and Electronics is different that's for sure. Dorothy has a clear and excellent voice. It's experimental yet at times poppy. Psychedelic and spacey yet at other times structured in the traditional manner. It's an influencial recording full of ideas.

"The American Metaphysical Circus" opens with a circus melody before vocals arrive a minute in with a spacey backdrop. When she stops singing before 4 1/2 minutes it turns experimental to end it. A psychedelic gem right there. "Hard Coming Love" kicks in right away with some aggressive modulated violin (sounds like guitar). It stops and the vocals begin to lead 1 1/2 minutes in. A calm follows then it kicks back in. Contrasts continue. It's spacey and experimental late. "Cloud Song" is a dreamy psychedelic track with drifting vocals and vocal melodies. Some sparse violin and spacey winds as well. Amazing tune.

"The Garden Of Earthly Delights" is spacey to start then the vocals come in with a beat and bass. It kicks in before a minute. Spacey synths come and go. Another great track. "I Won't Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar" has these humerous lyrics and male vocals with lots of violin too. "Where Is Yesterday" has these manipulated vocals to start then this haunting soundscape takes over. Drums and a fuller sound before 2 1/2 minutes. Nice. It's haunting again late to end it. "Coming Down" has this raw sounding manipulated violin that sounds like guitar as the vocals come in and lead. It turns spacey late and blends into "Love Song For The Dead Che" as violin joins in then vocals. A mellow tune.

"Stranded In Time" opens with the violin slicing away as vocals join in.Very BEATLES-like here. "The American Way Of Love" has some attitude and the violin rips it up 1 1/2 minutes in as the bass and drums pound.It turns very spacey then changes again before 2 1/2 minutes with vocals. It turns heavy then psychedelic. It sounds like a psychedelic parade 5 minutes in. A freaky ending to this one too.

What an interesting listen this is.You can tell it's from the 60's yet it has that twist with the electronics and those experimental sounds. A solid 4 stars !

Report this review (#459118)
Posted Saturday, June 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Very cool stuff. Joe Byrd proves on this album that he can blend styles and bend genres with the best of them, combining psychedelic 60s rock with electronic sounds to create a borderline avant-garde style. Unlike a lot of other "experimental" 60s albums, however, "The United States of America" never sacrifices listenability in favor of experimentalism, and as a result it comes off as a wildly innovative, extremely well-put-together time capsule that, in retrospect, was wildly ahead of its time.

"The American Metaphysical Circus" starts off the album with some appropriately deranged circus music, which spirals off into a quite a cacophony before a markedly more sedate vocal melody enters. Interestingly, the track uses some distortion on the vocals and a variety of electronic sound effects in the background to really set itself from any other "pop" music that was being made in 1968. Despite this, however, the track isn't some weird, avant-garde experiment; in fact, it has an amazing melody and a great groove to it courtesy of the bassline. This collage of styles grows in intensity as the song progresses toward the climax, which manifests itself with some incredibly grand, distorted vocals from Dorothy Moskowitz. The track ends with a grand crash of noise and then more circus music. A fantastic, ahead- of-its-time, genre bender of a track.

"Hard Coming Love" is a bit more of a rocker, beginning with a fiery, distorted guitar solo that takes up close to a quarter of the track. More excellent vocals from Ms. Moskowitz which are this time set against backing music that sounds like Hawaiian traditional music run through a vocoder and mixed up with a funky bassline. The track is interspersed with sections of electronic effects, which break up the track nicely and differentiate it from just another bluesy rock track.

"Cloud Song," as you might expect from the title, is a more restrained affair, mixing more electronic effects with some minimal percussion and keyboards to create quite a unique atmosphere. Ms. Moskowitz proves that she is one of the great talents of the 60s, handling a serene, delicate, psychedelic track with just as much aplomb as she handled the previous rocker. With it's emphasis on electronics and complete lack of anything resembling typical rock instrumentation, "Cloud Song" sounds totally unlike any other music I've heard from this period.

"The Garden of Earthly Delights" has a more recognizable 60s feel to it, but with electronic textures and effects still making up the majority of the backing music here it's certainly still a unique track. Joe Byrd really shows a knack here for using sounds and electronics in a fully incorporated way that never feels forced or unnatural, despite the scarcity of this kind of sound in a lot of other music.

"I Won't Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar" sees Dorothy Moskowitz stepping back from lead vocal duty for the first time on the album, while someone else (presumably Joe Byrd) takes over. Musically the track has a very vintage, classic sound to it, despite the fact that there's still all kinds of sound effects flying around. Sporting some humorous but scathing lyrics as well, it's not hard to see The United States of America with a kind of proto- Zappa mentality. The track closes with some patriotic sounding horn music, which I suspect based on the subject matter of the track is used here rather ironically.

"Where Is Yesterday" follows, and begins in yet another vein, featuring more of those electronic effects this time with an almost chanting vocal style on top of them. Minimal and atmospheric instrumentation is the name of the game here, and it's used to great effect to maximize the impact of the vocals. I may sound like a broken record but I really have to emphasize how unique the textures used in this track are for the time that it was released. Astounding.

"Coming Down" returns to using Moskowitz' vocals as its centerpiece, backed by some really excellent bass and percussion work and, of course, those awesome electronic parts. Like "Hard Coming Love," the track mixes these electronics in with a more typical 60s sound to create a song that's both highly experimental and accessible. The song ends in a crash of distorted noise before transitioning into...

"Love Song for Dead Che," which drops the noisy effects for a moment in favor of a lush, gorgeous opening passage led by what sounds like an accordian. Dorothy Moskowitz channels a sultry, velvet-voiced lounge singer to great effect, and as a result of all of these elements "Love Song for Dead Che" comes out as a beautiful ballad that both hearkens back to the past while also pushing the boundaries of the standards of the time. An awesome change of pace and a beautiful song.

"Stranded in Time" uses some string textures combined with vocals to create a track that begins sounding a bit like the early Beatles or the Zombies. However, it differentiates itself by featuring a heavily arranged, noisy instrumental section before returning to its string-led motif, all in under 2 minutes.

"The American Way of Love" closes off the album, and it begins with a rather bluesy section which is interspersed with some more circus-souding music. This is followed by another great guitar solo, which gets some sound effects thrown over it as it transitions to the next section of the track, which is a poppy, uptempo, satirical take on "beach music." This section only lasts a little while before we get a rather dissonant, noisy section in which several themes from earlier in the album are reprised. I would say that this is really the only section of the album where the music sounds like it's trying too hard to be edgy-this noisy, reprise- collage goes on for almost 3 minutes, and while it's kind of fun to listen to it's a bit gratuitous after the near perfect arrangements that dominate the rest of the album.

Nonetheless, this self-titled release from the United States of America is a very, very good example of proto-prog music, combining influences from the pop music of the time with an incredibly wide range of other sounds to create what must be one of the most forward thinking albums ever made. At times its reach exceeds its grasp, but for the most part it's a wonderful, experimental journey that should hold a lot of appeal for any prog fan.


Report this review (#587567)
Posted Tuesday, December 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars In the psychedelic scene many unique sounds are to be heard, but seldom as unique as this jewel: the United States of America. The bizarre soundeffects this band delivered were sometimes made by own-made instruments of the genius of this band: Joseph Byrd. Therefor no other band sounds like this one. The music is very experimental - sometimes avant-garde - and was far ahead of it's time. Actually is sounds still fresh. This is my favourite record out of 1968 and I hope I can convince you why.

It all starts with the bizarre happy psychedelic fair piece at the beginning of "the American metaphysical circus". It's a chaos of happy sounds with barrel organ sounds, trumpets, drums and then some high pitch sounds come forth which I can not identify. The vocals of Dorothy Moskowitz - one of the best woman vocalists I've ever heard - starts with the many couplets this song have. There are many psychedelic spacy sounds effects which only can be heard a few years later in krautrockphenomena like Faust. The vocals become slowly more distorted as the song continues and the spacy sounds become more prominent. The drums become more intensive and the vocals become even more distorted. Then the song fades away and the psychedelic fair sounds of the beginning start all over again. - Woh!, what a great moment: can music become better?

"Hard coming love" starts with a distorted violin solo accompied with high pith (calioscope? sounds. Also here are lot's of spacy effects during the couplets. And in fact the spacy effects here sound like synthesizer spacerock of Klauz Schulze or Tangerine Dream, but in this time those instruments were not available. How did the USA did it? The "Cloud Song" is a song with some nice harmonie for the listening. A bit like meditation music which create fantasy soundscapes with dreamy vocals. "The garden of earthly delights" has some similarities with "Hard coming love".

"I won't leave my wooden wife for you, sugar" is a different sounding song. Joseph Byrd is on the vocals here with background vocals of Dorothy. The song is a happy psychedelic song with a jazzy couplet's and all over-the-top psychedelic musical intervals. This song is also really great. The first side of my vinyl record ends with some harmonic trumpet session.

-Side two- "Where is yesterday" begins with some churchlike chorus with a slightly dissonant keymelody. The lyrics are in latin to complete the idea. Joseph Byrd and Dorothy start singing and slowly on the song changes more into a rock song. "Coming Down" is a bit more normal, but still the atmosphere created is really distinctive of every other psychedelic band I've ever heard. "Lovesong for the dead Che" is a lovely song with a real nice easeful nature.

"Stranded in time" is the only song which sounds quete familiar, because it sounds really inspired by violin drived songs of the Beatles. This is somewhat more up-tempo however and there is some great instrumental bridge in it. "The American way of Love" is somewhat more aggressive and acid, but contains some nice barrel organ intervals. This song continues with spacy effects turning in old-school happy music with a childish like chorus. After this a great tape-manipulation circus starts with fragments of all earlier songs within a spacy context and acid outcry's with "Love?". Also some synthesizer-like and circus sounds are bombarded at you. When the repeating of "How much fun it's been?" starts, the song also turn into some Walt Disney like romantic atmosphere and then the records stops. Well, this is a hell of an ending track!

I've mentioned it before, but this record is really unique. This is IMHO more groundbreaking then The Court of the Crimson King or whatever record. The starting track "The American Metaphysical Circus" may be my favourite track of all times. After dozens of listenings I still really enjoy it. Even within the class of masterpieces this is one of the best!

Report this review (#633301)
Posted Monday, February 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars Unlike many classic albums that are timeless, this sole album by the band THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is just the opposite. This is a musical masterpiece that takes you to a specific place at a specific time. That place being Southern California and the time being 1968. Although the main music is a very well played psychedelic rock of the West Coast variety in the USA, the uniqueness of this album, however, doesn't lie in the well executed performances of psychedelic rock from 1968, which is not only some of the best the era has to offer with the excellent vocals of Dorothy Moskowitz but the true uniqueness comes from the creator and brainchild of this ahead of its time band Joseph Byrd who learned how to use samples, electronic loops and all kinds of special effects that would take a good 20 years to become mainstream. In addition to his tape manipulation abilities he also is the player of all the electronic music, harpischord, organ, calliope, piano and also contributes the male vocals on the album.

This album is a REAL trip. A real trip that is back to the psychedelic 60s. This album perfectly encompasses EVERYTHING about the era in which it was released and then some. I should say it captures the spirit. This album does sound very 60s in its song structure, but it is very different in every way. First of all, there are guitars here. Most of the parts of guitars are replaced by keyboards and very strange and avant-garde sound effects. In addition to the standard bass and drums there is a strong presence of electric violin and ring modulator. The lyrics are very political and the hippie vibe of 1968 is dominant throughout the album. It has the feeling of an album that burrowed its way through a wormhole from the future and nestled itself into the year 1968 simply because it has both a dated feel with a futuristic embellishment.

If you want to hear an absolute classic of proto-prog from the late 60s then don't just settle for The Beatles, Jefferson Airplane or even The Doors but check out this strange yet pleasant album that one-ups everything else that was being released at the time with possibly the exceptions of maybe The Mothers Of Invention or Soft Machine. After this album Joseph Byrd would go on to create a sole album with his other band Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies. A 60s classic that has remained under the radar for far too long. I have the remastered version with bonus tracks and although none of them are essential, they are interesting to hear how the band evolved and also how some of the tracks without the electronic embellishments sound fairly plain. They offer a glimpse into how the marriage of both the excellent songwriting and electronic effects make the whole much more interesting than the sum of the parts.

Report this review (#1181099)
Posted Friday, May 30, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Joe Byrd fell in love with oscillators about the time Silver Apples was busy cutting their self titled, and put a band together to explore the possibilities that they could open up. Mainly, he wanted to see what various instruments and voices would sound like having been sent through an oscillator, though he also experimented with making new sounds with them. Working within a highly psychedelic and progressive context, the band cut their own self titled, a wonderful part of the early prog and early electronic canons. The opener "American Metaphysical Circus" shows off Byrd's vision at its fullest and best: various tunes are sampled, to lead into a surreal main song with Moskowitz's vocals oscillated to an alien degree. Electronic sounds come in and out, and some quiet drums lead to way. Going on, the band plays some psych prog with the continued use of oscillators for sounds and effects. The band plays well, and the oscillators are put to good use. This isn't to the standards set by the opener, but it still is a unique and fine sound. In particular Moskowitz's singing remains top notch through the whole record. In the end, this is a one of a kind piece of experimental history, more than worth a listen even with its drawbacks.
Report this review (#1323518)
Posted Friday, December 12, 2014 | Review Permalink

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