Posted by Amelia Swhizzagers On 2:27 AM
Their self-titled record was recorded in December 1967, produced by David Rubinson for CBS Records, and released in 1968. It was rereleased on CD by Sundazed Records in 2004 with various alternate takes, demos, and outtakes.
Their sound blended a range of musical genres, including avant-garde, psychedelic, and progressive. One of the more notable points of the band was that it had no guitar player, which for its time was quite radical, as the electric guitar occupied a central position in rock music of the time. Instead, they used strings, keyboards and electronics, including primitive synthesizers, and various audio processors, including the ring modulator.
The record was released in early 1968, at a time when there was a receptive audience for “underground music” which combined musical experimentalism with radical social and/or political lyrics – other examples, in their very different ways, including the Velvet Underground (who shared a common background in the New York experimental music scene; according to Moskowitz, Nico at one point tried to join the USA), Frank Zappa (whom Byrd considered a niche-marketer "subsumed in a self-referential loop", Love’s Forever Changes, Country Joe and the Fish, and Jefferson Airplane.
Whether intended or not, the record took the form of a coherent “song cycle”, a radical commentary on contemporary American society. The words ranged from satires on decadence ("The American Metaphysical Circus" , "..Wooden Wife..") to lyrical expressions of longing (the pastoral "Cloud Song", the political "Love Song For The Dead Che"). Musically, the songs ranged from pseudo-classical elegance ("Stranded In Time", "Where Is Yesterday") to aggressive discordance and hard rock ("The Garden of Earthly Delights", "Hard Coming Love"), with heavy electronic distortion and collages of “found” music such as brass bands, Byrd being heavily influenced by Charles Ives. The final suite "The American Way of Love" integrates most of these elements, with a dreamlike ending containing a collage of earlier tracks.
The United States of America was, along with the Doors and Jimi Hendrix, one of the most played "alternative" rock albums when alternative rock meant something. After the 60's, some of these albums made it into the classic pantheon, others, just as good, like USA, are obscure.
In 1968, 99% of the rock stations refused to play this because it was too good, too topical, too loud, too literate, too weird and, well, too psychedelic. Only low power college stations would dare to played it and boy, did they ever! Over and over all night!
Dorothy Moskowitz had (has?) a voice with the beauty and power of the Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick. Dorothy, it's good to hear from you. You were great, Dorothy, why did you stop?
USA, with their synthesizer and distortion violin and without lead guitar goes where no album had gone before and few since. The first rock album to make extensive use of synthesizer as a lead instrument. This was the first and as far as I know the ONLY rock album ever released on the prestigeous classical Columbia Masterworks label.
Commander America said, "The US of A was...the most successful attempt to simulate the mental and bodily sensations of certain popular intoxicants of the Sixties".
To be appreciated it MUST BE HEARD THROUGH HEADPHONES. "Hard Coming Love" hops around your head like a rattlesnake on a skillet in an attempt to simulate an orgasm between your ears!
Full of musical and literary references, Byrd often sounds like late Charles Ives repeatedly quoting "Columbia the Gem of the Ocean". "Steppenwolf" (the book by Hesse, not the band) "the cost of one admission is your mind". "Winnie the Pooh". The visions of Hironymous Bosch's, "Garden of Earthly Delight" where Bryd descibes what he sees inside his girlfriends eyes.
"Song for Dead Che" a beautiful ballad, "Agnus Dei" which compares the aftermath of love and memory to a nuclear blast "shadows on the pavement but no bodies do you find". "Coming Down".
Don't be scared by Byrd's lead-off vehement anti-war diatribe about the military industrial complex, the "American Metaphysical Circus". I still can't listen to American Metaphysical Circus without a feeling of fear and loathing.
From beginning to end a lost classic of the sixties. Alternately lyrical, thought provoking, excessive, paranoid, beautiful, raucous, US of A is a classic with a short half-life which repeatedly appears and disappears from the marketplace. This is the real sixties, not the "Peace and Love - Flower Power" you usually hear about.
USofA was a statment against all that was violent, trivial and puerile in America. There was a war on. Students hated this war and the draft with a anger 1000% higher than war opposition today. Kids were being drafted and sent to die in a war they violently opposed. In the midst of this war, blacks were rioting everywhere. It was a violent angry, dangerous, time. The DC, Detriot, Chicago, Watts were in flames. People were dying everywhere. Today the 60's were viewed as flower-power and silly clothes and drugs, but in reality, these were escapist reactions to the ongoing madness over which they had little control.
This album was definitely NOT viewed as a gimmick. It was the leading edge. The avant garde. Synthesizers were brand new inventions, there were only 3 very obscure Pop albums on the market that used them (Gershon Kingsly), no rock bands.
This was the direction not taken in music because no one else had the wits and talent to pull it off. And no other record company had the guts to release it. by Rash67
1. The American Metaphysical Circus
2. Hard Coming Love
3. Cloud Song
4. The Garden Of Earthly Delights
5. I Won't Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar
6. Where Is Yesterday
7. Coming Down
8. Love Song For The Dead Che
9. Stranded In Time
10. The American Way Of Love: Part I- Metaphor For An Olderman/Part II- California Good-Time Music/Part III- Love Is All
11. Osamu's Birthday
12. No Love To Give
13. I Won't Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar
14. You Can Never Come Down
15. Perry Pier
16. Tailor Man
17. Do You Follow Me
18. The American Metaphysical Circus
19. Mouse (The Garden Of Earthly Delights)
20. Heresy (Coming Down)