Thursday, July 4, 2019

The United States of America - Gifts and Creatures



The United States of America – Gifts and Creatures
(soniclovenoize “Second Album” reimagining)


Side A:
1.  Kalyani
2.   You Can’t Ever Come Down
3.  Tailor Man
4.  Nightmare Train
5.  Osamu’s Birthday
6.  Do You Follow Me

Side B:
7.  No Love
8.  The Sing-Along Song
9.  Perry Pier
10.  Invisible Man
11.  The Sub-Sylvian Litanies
12.  The Elephant At The Door
13.  The Sing-Along Song (Reprise)


Happy Fourth of July!  This is a reimaging of a possible second album from psychedelic-pop visionaries The United States of America.  Using a combination of solo recordings from band-leaders Joseph Byrd and Dorothy Moskowitz, as well as a few outtakes from the debut United States of America album, we will attempt to make what a theoretical sophomore 1969 album by the band would have sounded like.   All tracks have been volume adjusted from the best sources and crossfaded into two continuous LP sides of music. 

To put it simply, there was never a band like The United States of America, nor there ever will be again.  Formed by young ethnomusicologist and Fluxus art movement centerpiece Joseph Byrd and his former-partner Dorothy Moskowitz in 1967, the pair were somehow equally influenced by John Cage and The Beatles.  After composing a set of material with Byrd on keyboards and Moskowitz on vocals, the duo recruited the rest of the band from musicians whom they knew and performed with in the Los Angeles art, experimental and scholarly music scene: Gordon Marron was recruited to play an electrified violin through a ring modulator; African-drum student Craig Woodson was recruited to play a drumkit amplified by a number of contact mics; modern classical bassist Rand Forbes played fretless bass, often through a fuzz pedal.  The quintet was also joined by Marron’s friend Ed Bogas, who supplied additional keyboards.  Young art students who essentially wanted to create a rock band—despite being totally unfamiliar with the medium—were also highly tapped into revolutionary 1960s politics and the counter-culture, and sought to subvert the establishment by ironically dubbing the band The United States of America. 

After recording a demo in September 1967, success was found fairly quickly as The United States of America were signed to Columbia before they even performed their first show!  After touring with Richie Havens and The Troggs, the group began recording their self-titled debut that December with Moby Grape producer David Rubinson.  Cracks already began to form in the unit, as Rubinson allegedly attempted to elevate Moskowitz to being the star of the show; likewise, creative differences between Byrd and the union of Bogas, Marron and Rubinson put a strain on the recording sessions.  Regardless, the sextet and it's producer created an album unparalleled in its fusion of rock music, experimental electronics, counter culture social commentary and genre hopping from pop to Dixieland to sound collage.  Released in March 1968, the band followed its release with another tour with The Troggs and The Velvet Underground. 

Despite being on the cusp of fame, the band quickly disintegrated.   Unfortunate circumstances shadowed the tour, including audience hecklers, a random attack on Byrd by unhip locals and a literal backstage fistfight between Marron and Byrd.  Columbia records had a difficulty in marketing the musical (and literal) revolutionaries and the band wondered if they were “selling out to the man”.  Internal band dynamics began to reach a breaking point as each tried to vie power of the band from its originator, Byrd.  After an additional recording session in May 1968 for a follow-up single “You Can Never Come Down”, the band called it quits that summer, with Byrd walking away from the creature he created (or fired from the band, as he claimed!).  Not surprisingly, additional demo sessions with Moskowitz and a backing band of session musicians were recorded in late July still under the name of The United States of America, indicating Columbia’s desire to continue the moniker with Dorothy as the centerpiece.  These recording of two Moskowitz originals “Tailor Man” and “Perry Pier”, as well as a third penned by Kenneth Edwards of Linda Ronstadt’s band Stone Ponies, “Do You Follow Me”, were decidedly more commercial-sounding, featured a standard rock instrumentation rather than the guitar-less and cutting edge sound of The United States of America.  Regardless, nothing came of these recordings, which were shelved after the band’s break-up.

Meanwhile, the outcast Byrd struggled to find direction.  Salvation came when Columbia Records, recognizing him as a genius despite the failure to market and keep his band alive, offered him the chance to make a second album, this time a solo effort in which he (allegedly) had total creative control.  Like Moskowitz just recently prior, Byrd gathered several session musicians—dubbed The Field Hippies—and recorded a song cycle of hastily-written material under the working title Gifts and Creatures, using a new version of the unused United States of America single “You Can Never Come Down” as a centerpiece.  Although the sessions were difficult and Byrd had to utilize a series of female vocalists in obvious mimicry of his departed muse Moskowitz, the resulting album The American Metaphysical Circus was somewhat of a sequel to the sole Unites States of America album.  Again mixing experimental rock and pop with Dixieland and gospel, the album began with a suite of songs designed to replicate an LSD trip, followed by a suite of sharp-tonged songs dedicated to President Lyndon B Johnson and concluding with another suite parodying the decaying older generation and their early retirement farms.  Released in 1969, the album miraculously became a cult hit and remained in the Columbia Masterworks catalog for over 20 years, despite being too rock for the classical crowd and too arty for the pop crowd.  Both The United States of America and The American Metaphysical Circus became cult classics of the psychedelic 60s, remaining hidden gems of the era, waiting patiently to be discovered by music aficionados over the next 50 years. 

Even through the album title’s implication and the obvious continuity of band-leader Byrd, The American Metaphysical Circus wasn’t quite the sequel that these second-generation United States of America fans hoped for.  While having some musical similarities, The Field Hippies seemed to go on tangents that circled Byrd’s own fascination with traditional American music and his study in ethnomusicology.  And of course, the obvious lack of Dorothy Moskowitz strong yet cool voice, replaced by ragtag facsimiles Christie Thompson, Susan de Lange and Victoria Bond who simply could not hit the mark.  Is there somehow a way to reconstruct the album to make it more a proper encore to The United States of America?  

For my reimagining, we will use the core of The American Metaphysical Circus, but patch in the original United States of America recording of “You Can Never Come Down”, the three Moskowitz-lead United States of America recordings from 1968 and two outtakes from the self-titled 1967 sessions in order to make it a more appropriate follow-up that will almost solely feature lead vocals by either Dorothy or Joseph.  Sources are simply the 1996 One Way Records remaster of The American Metaphysical Circus and the 2004 Sundazed remaster of The United States of America, the later featuring a number of the required bonus tracks for this reimagining.  We will call the album Gifts and Creatures, the original, intended title of The American Metaphysical Circus, with cover art featuring imagery from The United States of America’s live shows in 1968. 

Side A begins with The Field Hippy’s “Kalyani”, but is hard edited into the USofA’s “You Can Never Come Down”, ideally establishing the intent of this reimagining.  Crossfading back into the outro of The Field Hippy’s version of the same song, we go directly into Moskowitz’s “Tailor Man”, followed by The Field Hippy’s “Nightmare Train”.  Next is The United States of America “Osamu’s Birthday”, an outtake from their debut album, with Moskowitz’s “Do You Follow Me” closing the side.

Side B begins with another outtake from the first USofA debut, “No Love”, going directly into The Field Hippie’s “The Sing-Along Song”.  Moskowitz’s “Perry Pier” follows and then edited into The Field Hippy’s “Invisible Man”.  Now, we could not have a United State of America album without a sound collage, right? If I may be so bold, what follows is my own creation from previously heard sound elements, ideally creating a reappropriation of several themes on the album into a new context, in which we will call “The Sub-Sylvian Litanies”.  We will use the most USofA-sounding selection from The Field Hippies as the epic track to conclude the album; hopefully there is a suspension of disbelief as we feature a lead vocal by Susan de Lange instead of our beloved Dorothy. 

What is the result of Gifts and Creatures?  While defiantly an interesting experiment of what could have been, two things become quite obvious.  Firstly, both Dorothy and Joseph seemed to depart from the experimental rock of their debut album, with Moskowitz leaning towards the female soft-rock singer-songwriter territory and Byrd towards ethnomusicological pursuits.   Strangely enough, those two sounds seems to match fairly well and make a cohesive album, despite it not really sounding like a true USofA album.  Which leads us to the second point: the truth is, the trinity of Marron’s modulated violin, Forbes’ fuzzy bass and Woodson’s electrified drums seemed to be the USofA’s secret weapon, and what stylistically set the band apart from their contemporaries.  Aside from the two songs that feature them, they are sorely missed from this reimagining of a sophomore album. 

Regardless, I hope you enjoy the album (that admittedly simply originated as a little experiment of my own), and make your Fourth of July an American metaphysical circus!




Sources used:
Joe Byrd & The Field Hippies - The American Metaphysical Circus (1996 One Way Records CD Remaster)
The Unites States of America - The United States of America (2004 Sundazed CD Remaster)
 
 
flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR, Audacity & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included


38 comments:

  1. Wow - a blast from the past. My mate Andy bought "The United States of America" album way back in 1960something and I fell in love with it. Hugely underrated album from a band that was way ahead of its time. Thanks for the article - great read.

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  2. Now this is an unexpected treat! A hypothetical follow up to my favorite album!

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  3. I bought both the USA and Joe Byrd albums back in the '60s. The former is one of the seminal albums of that decade. I recently made a list of my favorite albums from the '60s and the first 3 to come to mind were USA, Rotary Connection and Autosalvage.

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  4. Real talk, I'd love to see your take on a second Monks album

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    1. Haha that one is a bit more difficult, there isn't much to choose from. You'd essentially just slap together all the remaining tracks that weren't on Black Monk Time... pair the Hamburg Recordings with the two post-Black monk Time singles. That's only about nine songs though. You'd have to use Pretty Suzanne and Hushie Pushie from the demo sessions to fill it out.

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    2. I mean, we can do a 10 track album easily


      Plus there is this version of Pretty Suzanne

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3JypWGw_NM

      With a running time almost equal to black monk time

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    3. Wow! Never heard that version of Pretty Suzanne before! Way better than the demo version!

      Well, in that case maybe I should do a second Monks album...

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  6. Really looking forward to listening to this.Bought the album back in the day based on the cover-not alot of info out there pre internet. Thanks your work is always intersting and appreciated !

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  7. This recreation motivates me to find their first and only album that I have buried somewhere. As always I love your efforts.

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  8. Holy good grief, Batman!! What a great idea! Didn't see this one coming at all.

    I own the first USA album on vinyl and Joe Byrd and the Hippies on LP too. Can't wait to hear this... THANKS!

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  9. A nice idea, this one! I admire your choice of artists in creating this new project. And (unlike many others) I always enjoyed the backing track that Byrd orchestrated for Phil Ochs' on his song, 'Crucifixion' appearing on 'Pleasures of the Harbor.' As an aside, I also agree with s32x (see above) in that 'Autosalvage' too, were also one one more underrated groups of the 1960s (although he didn't exactly say that!).

    Thanks for sharing this!

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  10. Enjoy your reconstructions, but are they really RE-constructions, og RE-imagined, when they never existed in the first place? Sematics, semantics...

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    1. Not sure if you're just taking the piss or shooting the shit here, but generally, I do try to *reconstruct* famous lost albums (Lifehouse, SMiLE, Get back, etc). Thus, these reconstructions generally should have some sort of historical basis or factual grounding to them (for example, we know there was a Lifehouse, but it became Who's Next). Generally speaking, that is the goal of this blog, and more specificly, to be a bit picky about what I choose to reconstruct so this blog isn't simply a glorified mix tape (which, well, I guess it kinda is, huh?)

      With that said, I *sometimes* go out on a limb and put together something that really didn't exist in the first place, or at least has no real factual basis (as in, the artist did not, at one time, intend it to exist, unlike Lifehouse or whathaveyou). Those I would call a "re-imagination". I seriously try to limit these, for reasons stated above. If I do one, I generally try to make it special.

      In this case, the first USofA album is one of my all-time favorites. I think most, if not all, fans think "Man, I wish they had done a second record..." And then they discover the Field Hippies album, and often think "This is great! I kinda wish it was more like the USofA album..." So as an experiment, I patched in the USofA's version of "You Can Never Come Down" into the Field Hippies album, just to see what would happen. I thought it worked, and so naturally I thought, "how far can I push this?"

      Eventually it ended up as what I presented here, and I almost didn't even post it (because, as stated, it was not an album that had any factual basis). I wasn't even sure if this was a good idea to do, let alone if the results even sounded good or not. I had to give a test edit to a trusted friend and band mate for his opinion, if this was even worth hearing. He said he thought it was good, so it's here.

      In short, yes, there is a specific distinction between "Reconstructions" and "re-imaginings" on this blog. And I wouldn't expect many of these "re-imaginings" unless they are somewhat unique or worthwhile.

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    2. The "re-imaginings" are just as valid, enjoyable and appreciated as the "reconstructions." Don't limit yourself, we love 'em. And thanks as always for all the thought, effort and quality you put into your projects. This is a great, great blog!

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  11. This is a rare treat! Thank you.

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  12. The solution I'd found for downloading from Zippyshare in the UK is no longer working. I was using a Free-Proxy server but now it just takes me to https://mega.nz/ and a blank page. Anyone know why this could be? Frustrating, as I'd love to hear this album.

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  13. Ah yes - turns out it was being blocked by Sky and I just had to add it the list of allowed sites. Hopefully no problems from now on. Glad you found an alternate site to host these albums on.

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  14. Thank you for this and for your other "albums that never were," I look forward to giving this a listen!

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  15. Thank you *very* much for this, and for all the other excellent sets that you have provided over the years. All of this is great stuff, and in some cases has given me cause to completely change my opinions of some recordings and even artists as a whole. You are doing a wonderful thing. Genuinely stimulating, and always listenable, sometimes great music that sounds amazingly different in your new contexts.

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  16. Hi. I have just come across your website, and I want to say that I love what you do. You make some excellent albums that never were. I do have a slight issue though. Would you be able to update the link to your Adult/Child Beach Boys album? I absolutely adore your mix of it, and I have been unable to download it.

    If you could help, I would appreciate it, and be willing to send you some you my alternate George Harrison album mix.

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  17. I too, have just come across your website and I must say your work with the Mars Volta album Frances the Mute is simply amazing. I have listened to your cut of the album 3xs already and my ears thank you! no more loudless. Are you planning on doing the other albums? even the debut? cheers.

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  18. Would you do Return to Pepperland by Paul McCartney or Four More Respected Gentlemen by the Kinks? I think these could be cool albums.

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    1. Already working on 4RG. Not a priority though.

      I won't be doing Return to Pepperland because I loathe that era of Mecca. But also there is a completely different Mecca album I am working on and have been for some time.

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  19. Take requests? How about Remake of Gene Clark's "Roadmaster"? IMO the best psychedelic country rock album ever, with the best possible lineup of musicians. Due to several recent Clark releases I've collected enough tracks for a double album, including a side with the Burrito Bros.

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  20. Full Circle Song
    In a Misty Morning (Hinshaw mix)
    Rough and Rocky
    I really don't want to know
    I remember the Railroad

    She Don't Care About Time (Hinshaw)
    Shooting Star
    Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms
    Don't this Road Look Rough and Rocky
    Bars Have Made A Prisoner Out of Me.
    She Don't Care About Time (2nd ghost ver.)

    American Dreamer
    Outlaw Song
    She's the Kind of Girl (solo acoustic)
    Here Tonight (solo acoustic)
    Please Mr. Freud
    Jimmy Christ
    Where My Love Lies Asleep
    Because of You

    Here Tonight (Burrito ver.)
    Tried So Hard (Burrito ver., Chris Hillman lead vocals)
    She Darked the Sun (Burrito ver.)
    Train Leaves Here This Morning (Burrito ver.)
    Roadmaster.

    If anyone tries this, it works better if you don't use the Byrd versions-save those for your reunion album in '73 Cheers!


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  21. One more thing, I played fast and loose with this collection, but it could be pared down to a killer single disc.

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  22. Could you do Cigarettes and Valentines by Green Day, or Omega 3000 by the Network?

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  23. u think u could do a single disc 45-50 minute version of Oasis's Be Here Now using the b-sides as replacements for the dud songs?

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    1. 1) I have already done just that. it's called the Be Here Now (Concise Version) by soniclovenoize. I cut the entire album down to 60:53, using a vinyl rip of the album as a source.
      2) There are no duds on Be Here Now

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    2. Could you reupload it? Couldn't find it anywhere on internet anymore. Wasn't even aware of it until now, I thought all your stuff was on this blog.

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  24. In Celebration of 50th Anniversary: the Alternate Abbey Road.

    Come Together (single ver.)
    Something ("Minus One" bootleg)
    Come and Get It (Anthology 3)
    Octopus Garden (Abbey Rd 50th Anniversary Ed.)
    Old Brown Shoe ("Hey Jude" LP)
    The Ballad of John and Yoko ( "Hey Jude" LP)
    Here Comes The Sun (Take 9) (50th Anniversary Ed.
    Because ("Backtrack Part 3" Bootleg)
    The Long One (50th Anniversary Ed.)

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  25. Actually, the Anthology 3 version of "Because" works better, but best is what works best for you.

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  26. I downloaded this as; I have the first album. I bought it when I was only 13 or 14 years old. I have to say that at first , it really was a perplexing album to listen to. But, I found myself drawn back to it again and again. I didn't know they had more so this is appreciated.
    I have downloaded quite a few of your albums and I really enjoy what you do. You are blessing a lot of people. I still love your version of the Pete Townshend "Lifehouse Chronicles" or however you want to title it. You put it into a very listenable perspective.
    But getting back to USA, most of my friends couldn't handle it , so I usually listened to it alone. I am glad to find out I am not alone in liking it. Thanks again for this!

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  27. Thank you so much. Love the USA album, weird quirks and all, and I'm the only person I know who does. That's ok. I didn't know about any of the follow-up matterial.

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