Joe Byrd / Joe Byrd & the Field Hippies

The American Metaphysical Circus

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As a "conductor" and organ/electronic synthesizer player, Byrd is very much the leader of this circus. With a couple drummers, a half-dozen horn players (including a young Tom Scott), three female vocalists, and a half-dozen or so other musicians popping up over the course of the album, there are a lot more people involved in this project than there were in the (relatively) stable lineup of the United States of America. Despite the ambition of this LP, it ultimately serves to illustrate just how Byrd benefited from the unique synergy provided by the other members of the U.S.A. There are all kinds of adventurous electronics and eclectic ideas bouncing back and forth, but the songwriting is simply not as strong as that of Byrd's previous group. The best songs are the ones which most strongly recall the U.S.A. in their spacy melodicism ("Moonsong: Pelog") and driving psychedelic pulse ("You Can't Ever Come Down"). Unfortunately, the female singers on these tracks are no match for the U.S.A.'s Dorothy Moscowitz, although they seem to be aspiring to the same dreamy, icy quality. Byrd himself is quite a mediocre singer, as his attempts at taking the lead on straightforward rock material prove. Otherwise, there are some bad takeoffs on gospel and old-time music, haphazard primitive early synthesizer, and dated social commentary/satire. As ambitious in its scope as Byrd's first rock project, this album is not nearly as successful.

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