George Starostin's Reviews



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Richard <> (12.05.2004)

I first heard this band when I heard the 'Garden of Earthly Delights' single played. The B side was 'Love Song For a Dead Che'. I went out and bought the album.

Over 30 years on, and I am still playing it, I love it.

I'll look out for Fifty Foot Hose - Cualdron, that one passed me by.


Nick Vesey <> (23.11.2002)

Right on, George! This is one of my absolute favorite psychedelic albums, and my 2nd favorite American psychedelic album (the first being Oar by Skippy, which I'm quite glad you picked up as well). I love how these guys incorporated electronic, avante-garde and even classical influences into their music. Lyrically, alot of the songs remind me of what Zappa was doing with satire at around the same time. Alot of the lyrics on 'I Won't Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar' remind me of, say, 'Brown Shoes Don't Make It', in pointing out the shallowness of the American middle class. Doesn't "be a loyal plastic robot for a world that doesn't care" or "TV dinner by the pool, I'm so glad I finished school" strike the same chord as "got three sweet kids and the Yorkshire terrier too", "couple next door who do the things we do" and "every Saturday we sit around the pool"? I mean, aside from the obvious swimming pool reference in the last example. This attitude is really one of the main aspects of the album, and can also be found in "Stranded In Time" (a jab at people who base their lives around financial goals), "The American Way Of Love" (a mockery of generic, non-threatening entertainment) and "The American Metaphysical Circus" which I consider to be both a full-blown psychedelic song and a disgusted description of the popularity of freak shows. "Where Is Yesterday" is definitly a highlight for me, because it makes me picture some mysterious ritual being performed me in an ancient monastary. "The American Metaphysical Circus" is probably my favorite track, because of the afore-mentioned morbid, frightening lyrics as well as the twisting and twirling echoes that rotate the melody and Dorothy's voice being electrically encoded and then reverted to how it started. Don't you think Dorothry Moskowitz sounds similar to Grace Slick? Anyway, this album really is full of good, melodic, revolutionary and unique music, and it's a shame that it is so often overlooked. By the way, this is the only album put out by USA, but after the band broke up Joe Byrd formed another psychedelic band called Joe Byrd & The Field Hippies, and they also released just one album in 1969 called The American Metaphysical Circus. This is considered by some to be a sequel to USA's album even though Byrd is the only band member who was in both. This is much more obscure than United States Of America, and is no longer in print, but luckily I was able to find a vinyl version of it on eBay. I won't be getting it for a few days, so I can't tell you how it is, but from what I've heard it isn't as good, but I just had to take a chance.

Kevin Baker <> (03.01.2003)

I just finished the novel Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse today, and I thought this was odd----the price of admission to The Magic Theater (For Madmen Only!) is "your mind"---apparently, our good USA's members were quite well read, but I guess that's to be expected for a bunch of college folks. Haven't heard the album yet, but I plan to snatch it up at the first chance!

redpanda <> (24.01.2004)

I would say this was the best album of 1968 and the best album ever made by an act who failed to establish some kind of a career or earn a living in rock. Lyrically its exceptionally intelligent and daring. A weakness is the tape splice medley which closes the album. 'Wooden Wife' is far from being the best song here - The Garden Of Earthly Delights and Coming Down could have been hit singles. Intense psychedelic masterpiece - totally obscure, totally brilliant. If you like this - check out Fifty Foot Hose - Cualdron - 1969 for another ephemeral accomplished intriquing avant garde psychedelic one album band.

Andrew Broughton <> (09.07.2004)

I'd say the most 'adequate summization' of this record is America's answer to Sgt Pepper, and surely it is at least almost as visionary as that masterpiece. As for 'Love song for the Dead Che' being 'tuneless boredom'... come on!!!

Shepherd, Graham <> (13.08.2005)

"Garden of Earthly Delights" WAS a single - in the UK anyway. I don't know if the album ever touched the charts, but it did make something of an impression - check out an album by Locomotive which features a cover of "Hard Coming Love". This was the second album I ever owned (the first being Electric Ladyland) and it was MONO. (since replaced by a stereo copy and then CD). The use of electronics is groundbreaking - apart from the obvious ring modulator, there's frequency shifting ("Stranded in Time" features a solo stringed instrument, not a quartet, and it's a cello - except - no, it's a violin with the pitch shifted way down), there's all sorts of other stuff that you would only otherwise hear from Terry Riley or the BBC radiophonic workshop - all done with analogue electronics and tape. If you like this, try "An Electric Storm" by White Noise - featuring the late Delia Derbyshire, who was a major part of the Radiophonic Workshop, and who created the original "Dr Who" theme music - much of which survives in this year's version. "Electric Storm does have a couple of "novelty" songs, but side 2 consists of two tracks of the spookiest sounds ever to haunt vinyl - "Visitations" and "Black Mass - An Electric Storm in Hell".

Ben Dominici <> (27.08.2006)

Wow, what an amazing, unique album, even for 1968. Truly a lost, obscure classic. Every cut is a gem, and a dintinct as the USA's style is throughout, it's actually fairly ecclectic, from the psudo-hard rockin' "Hard Coming Love" to the gentle "Cloud Song" and "Love Song For Dead Che" to the menacing/myterious "Garden Of Earthly Delights", "Metaphysical Circus" and "Where is Yesterday" to the comic satire of of the "straights" in "Wooden Wife" and "Stranded In Time" to the mini-suite that closes the album. As I said, wow. With all the variation on the bands inimitable style represented by all these fantasic cuts, I can't possibly pick a favorite. Also, all the musicians are great and both Gordon Marron's electric violin and the electronic blurps and blips provided by Joe Byrd are nice touches. And Dorothy Moskowitz's vocals are some of the best female rock vocals ever. She rules!

It's really a shame that hardly anyone has heard this, because as "out-there" as it can be at times, I think there are a lot of fans oflate 60's music that would dig this if they heard it. The same goes for Tomorrow's self-titled only album (arguably the best thing that Steve Howe was ever on), Grapefruit's debut, "Around Grapefruit" (the first band to be signed to Apple records by John Lennon, and for good reason) and slightly more well-known self-titled debuts by The Blossom Toes, Giles Giles and Fripp, Moby Grape, and It's A Beatiful Day (see reviews for the latter two on this very site). All these groups had a short lifespan, so maybe that's why they've either been forgotten or never even heard in the first place. But, in my opinion, all those albums hold their own against every universally-proclaimed pysche classic of the era. But none of them are quite as original as this amazing, eperimental classic. P.S.- Oh yeah, also check out the first two Silver Apples albums for another (less melodic) example of the first electronic instrumentation used on a rock record.

Fred Down <> (01.09.2006)

'I won't leave my wooden wife for you' was on a sampler album in the UK called I think The Rock Machine put out by Columbia Records it cost 15 shillings (75p) which was less than half the price of a normal album. It was very popular at the time other artists on the album were Leonard Cohen and Al Cooper and I think Grace Slick

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