If Earth Opera's self-titled debut album reflected the eclectic, ambitious pop styles of the Flower Power, Sgt. Pepper era of 1967, the group's follow-up, The Great American Eagle Tragedy, took into consideration the changed musical climate of 1968, when arrangements became more stripped down and hard rocking, with country-rock beginning to make inroads. The departure of bandmember Bill Stevenson, along with his harpsichord and vibraphone, may have hastened the group's transition to a simpler sound, too. But from the first note, the second album was very different from the first. Earth Opera sounded like it had been made by a studio band that had never played out, but the country-rock opener of The Great American Eagle Tragedy, "Home to You," paced by the pedal steel guitar of guest Bill Keith, was a road song in subject matter and feel, played by a band that sounded like it had spent some time before paying customers. "Mad Lydia's Waltz," the second track, sounded more like the group that had made Earth Opera, but the sound was still more rooted in stringed instruments and steady beats than it had been before, and following the throwaway written by the drummer came a real rocker, "Sanctuary From the Law." But the album's big number, the ten-and-a-half-minute title song, brought the earlier and later parts of Earth Opera together, combining a driving rock chorus, complete with screaming electric guitar solo, with slow, contemplative verse sections in which singer/songwriter Peter Rowan wove a transparent allegory about a royal court in crisis that was really about the state of the U.S. in the late '60s, particularly the quagmire of the Vietnam War. The track attracted the attention of free-form FM radio, and the album made the charts for several weeks. But Earth Opera folded soon after.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann