The United States of America – The Garden Of Earthly Delights

• “The Garden Of Earthly Delights” set to a trippy fan-created video. Thanks to jeffo0771 ..

9.3 “Classic Psychedelia from the USA”

From their sole LP “The United States of America” (Columbia CS-9614) released in March, 1968.

Joseph Byrd – fresh from his wonderful production on Phil Och’s “The Crucifixion” from ’67 – delivered another fine statement right here via his provocatively named group and their finely crafted, futuristic brand of psychedelia. A restless experimentalist of several years – he was, apparently, the last student of John Cage – he had stepped out of the avant-garde last year and enjoyed the experience. For his first venture into the world of “Rock n Roll” his group lined up: Joseph Byrd (electronic music, electric harpsichord, organ, calliope, piano, vocals); Dorothy Moskowitz (lead vocals); Gordon Marron (electric violin, ring modulator, vocals); Rand Forbes (electric bass); Craig Woodson (electric drums, percussion) and Ed Bogas (occasional organ, piano, calliope).

Said the group leader:

“We were very conscious that we were plunging into rock without any real knowledge of, or experience in, the medium. We had played Cage and Stockhausen, African and Indian music, and I thought we could simply bring all that to rock. But we knew almost nothing about the roots of rock and roll. We all improvised, of course, but in a “contemporary music” style. In retrospect, creating a rock band with no rock musicians was a bad decision on my part. Still, since I considered myself the most eclectic composer on the planet, I was confident that whatever the others couldn’t do I could write. And I had been listening to a lot of music: Country Joe and the Fish, Jefferson Airplane, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and the acid power trio Blue Cheer were all useful ingredients. I was certainly aware of the Beatles (probably too much so), and an early fan of the then unknown songwriter Randy Newman. Of course, I was – we all were – conversant with the drug culture, and that played a central role in our music. 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 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 60s. I composed about a dozen songs, Dorothy co-writing lyrics. I wrote out parts for everyone, and we rehearsed for a month, made a demo, and sent it to Columbia Records.”

Despite the widespread support of music critics, the album sold poorly and soon disappeared – fortunately those same critics have a great habit of keeping works alive until folks eventually come round to realising how good the creation was in the first place. Late 20th century works from Portishead and Broadcast show this to be true : – )

You can check out the rest of my album reviews for the year here.


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