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THE GREAT AMERICAN EAGLE TRAGEDY

Earth Opera

Proto-Prog


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Earth Opera The Great American Eagle Tragedy album cover
2.65 | 8 ratings | 2 reviews | 12% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1969

Songs / Tracks Listing

Side A
1. Home to You (4:27)
2. Mad Lydia's Waltz (3:47)
3. Alfie Finney (2:34)
4. Sanctuary From the Law (2:54)
5. All Winter Long; (5:57)

Side B:
1. American Eagle Tragedy (10:41)
2. Roast Beef Love (3:16)
3. It's Love (4:09)

Total Time: 37:45

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Rowan / acoustic guitar, electric guitar, tenor saxophone, vocals
- David Grisman / mandolin, mandocello, piano, alto saxophone, vocals
- Paul Dillon / drums, acoustic guitar, percussion, vocals
- John Nagy / electric bass, cello, mandocello

Earth Opera was joined on this recording by:
- Jack Bonus / tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, flute
- Richard Grando / c-soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, bass recorder
- John Cale / viola
- David Horowitz / piano, organ
- Bill Keith / pedal steel guitar
- Herb Bushler / double bass
- Bob Zachary / triangle

Thanks to Sean Trane for the addition
and to ProgLucky for the last updates
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Great American Eagle TragedyGreat American Eagle Tragedy
Wounded Bird Records 2001
$98.98
$18.00 (used)

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EARTH OPERA The Great American Eagle Tragedy ratings distribution


2.65
(8 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(12%)
12%
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(25%)
25%
Good, but non-essential (50%)
50%
Collectors/fans only (12%)
12%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

EARTH OPERA The Great American Eagle Tragedy reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!

After a very interesting debut album, Earth Opera's second opus was probably the make or break album, and it was no good omen that vibraphonist Stevenson was gone, even if the group called upon many guest musician, including Velvet Underground's John Cale on viola. The album had another strong artwork, made out of a collage of faces on which was superimposed another eerie collage mixing the American eagle US emblem with a human skull, but by the time of release (it would climb up to the lower rung of the US Billboard, both single and album charts), the group was almost gone. Leader Rowen again writing the huge majority of the songs, it is a bit of a wonder how the group sounded so different with the Stevenson's vibes.

This album is unfortunately not quite as strong as its forerunner, this one veering more often in country rock, including a relatively disastrous start with Home To You and the next three tracks following suit. Only the A-side closer the 6-mins All Winter Long manages some kind of interest, with a lovely sax-flute duo.

The flipside is a totally different matter with the absolutely breathtaking 10-min+ title track, a strong cry out against Vietnam events, starting out on the spine-chilling sax wailings (ala Nucleus) then the percussion sections taking over, before the group invading the aural space in a dramatic fashion, even curdling the blood at times with all out sax and searing guitars, sometimes reminiscent of Audience's most chaotic moments. Indeed, this is really the only track hinting that the group might have had a bright future if they had not been pressured to be commercial by their label. The rest of the album is uninteresting at best, even if the closing It's Love is a rip off of the Animals' House Of The Rising Sun, offering a bit of a soothing cream over a pus-ing wound, as one can think of the waste of talent this album induced.. The album comes with a bonus track from these recording sessions After You, which is better than most of the tracks on TGAET album.

Saved solely by its awesome title track, this album is not really recommended, but it comes with their debut album in an Elektra 2 CD box-set. Peter Rowen would then go on with Sea Train (later Seatrain), whose first album is of interest for the site.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars With few takers of the uniquely idiosyncratic chamber folk progressive pop antics of their self-titled debut, Elektra Records gave EARTH OPERA one more chance to carve out their niche in an ever expanding psychedelic and experimental market that had exploded by the tail end of the 60s. On the debut album, Peter Rowan and David Grisman steered their band into the highly experimental pastures that utilized a chamber folk background and infused it with a bizarre set of unique instruments in addition to the typical rock instrumentation. Despite a highly eclectic form of psychedelic folk that ticked off the usual anti-war stances of the era, the band failed to connect to a larger audience possibly because of the awkwardness that the album exuded for despite all best efforts the everything but the kitchen sink approach didn't quite gel into a tangible and enjoyable musical reality.

Changing gears completely on the sophomore album THE GREAT AMERICAN EAGLE TRAGEDY, the band embraced the country rock and bluegrass origins of the founders Peter Rowan and David Grisman and ran with their strengths instead of forcing progressive ideas into unreceptive nooks and crannies of the music. A new lineup didn't mean the departure of previous members. Bill Stevenson continued his duties on keyboards, harpsichord, organ and vibraphone. Paul Dillon on guitar and percussion. Billy Mundi as main percussionist and John Nagy on bass. New talent was employed in order to spice up the mix a bit. Jack Bonus joined in on flute, sax and wind instruments. Richard Grando also on sax. Bill Keith on pedal steel and steel guitar and a surprise guest appearance by the Velvet Underground's own John Cale who lent a hand with guitar, viola and vocals. A couple other session musicians would also add extra bass and keys.

Once again Peter Rowan was the primary composer but this time around the music was more uniform in its approach and added the much need rock elements that were missing from the debut albeit in a more streamlined country rock context with elements of bluegrass, jazz and progressive rock finding their way into the mix. The album continued its poetic bite with hardcore anti-war lyrics and even a controversial album cover which displayed the US presidential seal with a superimposed death skull and a backdrop of bloodstains. While bold in appearance and content, the band started to make a small dent on the national music scene but ultimately was too little, too late for Elektra Records to waste any more time on the band. They would be dropped from their contract and quickly break up soon thereafter.

Lyrically both EARTH OPERA albums are rather similar with their hardcore anti-war stance but musically THE GREAT AMERICAN EAGLE TRAGEDY is by far the more consistent of the two. Despite more instruments and musicians finding their way into the mix, the album is just simply more focused albeit far less experimental. The duo of Rowan and Grisman seemed to realize that they needed to focus on their strengths rather than stuff as many elements as possible into the contours of the musical flow. On album #2 they succeed in creating a bona fide angry rock album that contains heavy guitar riffing, angry saxophone squawks and percussive outbursts woefully absent from the debut. It also helped that Rowan found his stride with his vocal presentation in a style that suits his range.

My impression with THE GREAT AMERICAN EAGLE TRAGEDY is that at this point EARTH OPERA really were starting to sound like an East Coast version of The Grateful Dead with a jazz fueled version of country rock that incorporated bluegrass and folk elements. Unfortunately the main creative duo of Rowan and Grisman were on the wrong coast for such antics. Despite the utter commercial failure of EARTH OPERA, the duo would soon relocate to California and pursue their logical musical careers in the genres of country rock and bluegrass and David Grisman would even play with Jerry Garcia on a series of solo bluegrass albums. While EARTH OPERA couldn't be considered one of the greats of rock history, they certainly deserve a special recognition for their innovative and explorative recordings. While not perfectly executed, the two albums unleashed represent an interesting moment in music history when everything was possible. Personally despite the less experimental nature, i find this sophomore album to be the more interesting of the two. 3.5 rounded down

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