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  • American Metaphysical Circus
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American Metaphysical Circus

23 customer reviews

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Audio CD, April 9, 1996
$90.00 $29.95

1. Kalyani
2. You Can't Ever Come Down
3. Moonsong: Pelog
4. Four Dreams for a Departing President: Patriot's Lullabye
5. Four Dreams for a Departing President: Nightmare Train
6. Four Dreams for a Departing President: Invisible Man
7. Four Dreams for a Departing President: Mister 4th of July
8. Gospel Music
9. The Sing-Along Song
10. The Elephant at the Door
11. Leisure World
12. The Sing-Along Song (Reprise)

Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 9, 1996)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: One Way Records
  • ASIN: B000002R51
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #411,285 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 29, 2002
Format: Audio CD
This incredibly creative concept album from the psychedelic 60's deserves to be more widely known. I'm glad I snapped up the CD when it was briefly reissued a few years ago (Sorry, I don't know where to find it today. But keep asking for it!) I had worn my original vinyl out some time ago.
Although it's clearly a "concept album", I wonder just what the concept was ?
Never mind. The music covers a very wide musical spectrum.

Joe Byrd, the band leader and composer was classically trained (he is now a professor of music history) and it shows on this album, even through the hard rock songs.
"The Sub-Sylvian Litanies" is haunting music in an alien tongue on an ancient phrygian scale. What more do you need to know ?
"You Can't Ever Come Down" is a bad acid trip set to heavy electric rock music (think "White Rabbit").
"All of the doors lead you further inside. Thousands of eyes and there's no place to hide..."
"Moonsong: Pelog" is a very pretty tune with highly suggestive lyrics, anticipating Sheena Easton's "Sugar Walls" by more than a decade. But the singer's voice sounds so angelic it's hard to believe she could be saying such things !
"Patriot's Lullabye" is my personal favorite. A beautiful choral piece that leads you into an aural NeverNeverland... until some of the lyrics sink in and you realize the song is actually ABOUT lulling citizens into a political deep sleep using soothing patriotic themes and melodies. ( Could this have any relevance today ? No, I don't mean to imply anything by that. Honest.)
"The Sing-Along Song" is a catchy little theme repeated in a variety of old-folk styles, including the legendary Lawrence Welk "a-one-a-and-a-two-a" bubbly sound. It's wickedly funny.
This album is not for everybody.
Read more ›
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 20, 1999
Format: Audio CD
After his first album with a band called "United States of America," Joe Byrd released this, his masterpiece, in 1969. Even without the aid of mind-expanding drugs it is obvious that metaphysics is central to the overall theme of this great concept album.
The first section, "The Sub-Sylvian Litanies," is an attempt to turn reality inside-out. Literally meaning "beneath the forest," its three odes get right to the core of our very existence. It employs themes built upon the fourth degree of the octal scale, a Greek mode called phrygian.
The middle section, "Four Songs for a Departing President," are a slap in the face to former president Lyndon Johnson. It is a condemnation of both his "Great Society" movement and his perpetuation of the Vietnam War. "Gospel Music" is a tribute to Byrd's brother, Ruddell, who was imprisoned at Leavinworth for evading the draft.
Finally, the third section deals with aging under the sub-heading "The Southwestern Geriatrics Arts & Crafts Festival." Often morose and overly nostalgic, it nevertheless presents a clear view of the way our elders are shuffled off to nursing homes to await death.
The song writing and arrangements are superb, the use of synthesizers is tasteful and the theme is awesome. You have to get out of the box to receive the full experience this album has to offer.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Sterno on September 24, 2008
Format: Audio CD
This album did a great deal to change my brain when I was in high school in the early '70s. Concurrent with ingesting a multitude of substances that shall remain unmentioned, this album saw many, many spins on my and my friends' turntables. It was always a significant experience. There is literally EVERYTHING on this record. Vaudeville, jazz, electronic, psychedelic powerhouses, acid rock, spoken word, and much more. Joe Byrd was an unrecognized genius who put out two incredible, ahead-of-their-time records (The United States of America being the other). Sometimes our minds were expanded. Other times our minds were blown. But our minds always received an EXPERIENCE listening to this fine, unique, well-produced and well-composed music. There is nothing else like it. Nothing!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Blizard on December 27, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Joe Byrd disolved the United States of America only to return to the studio in 1969 with a diverse group of musicians (obliquely named "The Field Hippies") and produce The American Metaphysical Circus. Essentially it is an extension of his prior work minus the stellar vocals of Dorothy Moskowitz and the inherent tensions that structured the dynamic of the USofA. Without these factors, The American Metaphysical Circus is often pale in comparison. Still present are the biting political lyrics and the study of American music as well as other musical forms. Often overboard on his willingness to meld traditional pieces of Americana into his political and musical vision, this album is, nonetheless a very worthy addition to the collection of anyone interested in an authentic pursuit of music or, specifically, the work / world of Joe Byrd.

The songs that stand out are
"Kalyani" for its other-worldlyness and layers;
"You Can't Ever Come Down" for being a weak reproduction of the same song on TUSofA.
"Nightmare Train" and "Invisible Man" for being well-crafted.
"The Elephant at the Door" for being the strongest piece on the album -- certainly this is the sole track that stands up to the work on TUSofA. The guitar-work is absolutely remarkable!
"Leisure World" -- a bit of a one-liner that is biting in its ridicule of the social structure within which we encapsulate the elderly.

For those who respect and are intrigued by Joe's authentic search and the energy and intelligence that he brought to psychedelic music, by all means, purchase this cd. Ultimately, it is more of an intellectual foray into American music and politics and less of a happening; however, the stronger tracks are compelling and will draw you into their arabesque choreography and layers. I am convinced that Joe truly understood and wanted to explore the complexity and contradiction that is America.
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