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Music gives soul to universe, wings to mind, flight to imagination, charm to sadness, and life to everything.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies - The American Metaphysical Circus (1969 us, sensational experimental psych space rock, 2004 reissue)

This album has a huge reputation to live up to, so I go into this review expecting something truly special, and from the start there is already the huge sense of experimentation that I was expecting. It is clearly very ahead of it’s time, it sounds fresh even by todays standards. In Kalyani there is already some very interesting effects being put to good use and it makes for a very intense, refreshing listen. The end of the track and the transition into the next track is beautifully crafted and creates a very intense feeling.

You Can’t Ever Come Down introduces some well played guitars and some brilliant vocal looping. There is an obvious psychedelic feel that is good enough to even define the genre, however it does it in a way that is so far above that of the normal psychedelic bands that it sets itself very much apart. All the first three songs act as parts of one larger piece “The Sub-Sylvanian Lithanies” it feels like a very concious attempt to create something so different, so fresh and it does just that. It is very obvious already why this album is held in such high regard. The unusual effects and instruments create an incredibly eclectic mix that simply drives the album forwards and makes in incredibly interesting.

Right now I am wishing as must everyone else that has ever heard this album not under the influence that I had some acid or a big fat joint to truly appreciate everything as it was meant to be appreciated, then again I doubt I’d be able to review it as well. As moonsong ends you are thrust into American Bedmusic and Patriot’s Lullabye, which is a lushly arranged piece with some beautifully delivered vocals featuring some brilliantly executed effects. The whole feel is very sobering, it brings you back down to earth, and true to it’s name relaxes you as any lullaby should.

The album then slowly progresses towards Nighmare Train which features some very confidently arrogan vocals and more unusual instrumentals and a lovely little rhythm. If Lullaby puts you sleep, this track will very aptly give you nightmares, the album has been perfectly crafted to reflect the outward concepts. You can feel this albums effect on progressive rock which at the time was blundering its way into mainstream, this album would certainly have helped that along.

There is a incredible feel of direction in this album, you are most certainly left feeling that everyone knows their part and exactly how it’s going to turn out. Whether this can be credited to brilliant production, planning, musicianship or all of the above is unknown. The album feels very genuine yet also mechanical and this juxtaposition makes it an increidbly interesting listen. Invisible Man feels very much like a standard jazz song that has had many added layers added above the guitars and rhtyhm section, including the vocals.

American Bedmusic ends with an old-time ragtime tune Mist 4th of July with all effects, including the record scratching effect that makes it feel very genuine. This brings us into part three of the album, Gospel Music for Abraham Ruddell Byrd III. The instrumental Gospel Music very nicely breaks up the album and presents itself as a very well played, if quite outwardly standard seeming jazz song. The whimsical feel of this song will refresh the listener and adds a further direction to the album before Part IV.

The Southwestern Geriatrics Arts and Crafts Festival stats with the Sing-Along Song, which is a perfect and even more whimsical departure from the rest of the album. With a very upbeat melody and an actual sing-along at the start of the song it sets the scene for a very alternatively psychedelic part of the album. Instead of relying on the standard psychedelic feel of the era it sets the scene by creating something that feels very old yet incredibly refreshing and ahead of its time for the type of album that it is.

The fact that it encompasses early 50’s style music as part of the Geriatric concept feels very natural and it shows a form of reverse experimentation that is quite uncommon even today. The Elephant at The Door often feels like standard psychedelia but turns on a penny, there are some lovely uses of silence and time here that make me feel right at home. The extended instrumental jams here can sometimes lose direction but surprisingly it works to it’s favour when it is eventually brough back in line.

The whole album feels a lot shorter than it actually is, it controls time perfectly and runs through in a way that makes you want to listen to it again once it finishes. Leisure World contains narration separated by a soft folk song, and ends with what sounds like something either in intense joy or the death throes of an animal. The album ends with the melodic reprise of the sing-along song.

The album as a whole plays like a masterpiece and very much deserves the hype surrounding it, the use of effects and unusual instrumentals works very well as a whole.

1. Kalyani - 3:51
2. You Can’t Ever Come Down - 3:01
3. Moonsong: Pelog - 3:46
4. Patriot’s Lullabye - 2:49
5. Nightmare Train - 3:19
6. Invisible Man - 3:33
7. Mister 4th of July (Lisa Kindred) - 1:47
8. Gospel Music - 4:29
9. The Sing-Along Song - 4:04
10.The Elephant at the Door - 5:13
11.Leisure World - 2:35
12.The Sing-Along Song - Reprise - 0:47
Written and Arranged By Joseph Byrd except where indicated

* Pot - Piano, Conductor, Harpsichord
* Ed Sheftel - Trumpet, Flugelhorn
* Christie Thompson - Vocals
* Ernest "Ernie" Anderson - Voices
* Fred Selden - Clarinet, Saxophones, Flute
* Ted Greene - Guitar
* Joseph Hunter Byrd - Organ, Producer, Vocals, Keyboards, Conductor, Synthesizer
* Larry Kass - Tabla
* Michael Whitney - Guitar (Classical)
* Chuck Bennett - Bass Trombone
* Victoria Bond - Vocals
* Ray Cappocchi - Tuba, Tenor Trombone
* Dana Chalberg - Flute, Piccolo
* John Clauder - Percussion, Drums
* Susan de Lange - Vocals, Electronic Voices
* Meyer Hirsch - Flute, Saxophones
* Don Kerian - Trumpet, Cornet
* Gregg Kovner - Drums, Percussion
* Tom Scott - Clarinet, Saxophones, Flute
* Harvey Newmark - Bass (uncredited on album)
* Harihar Rao - Percussion (uncredited on album)

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