The album’s second side opens with the group singing part of the Latin mass that fades into a very Twilight Zone-esque tune named “Where Is Yesterday.” The album finishes with a collage that brings back snippets of all that you’ve heard before before fading out to the strains of some soft stringed instruments.
The highlight of the album (the band thought so, too) is a love ballad named “Love Song for the Dead Che.” Despite its title, it really isn’t a political song at all. It is the one track from the album that we feature here at Boomtown America.
The entire album has an ethereal, dream-like quality and tempos vary, from soft and romantic to some very hard-edged rock. Most of the songs feature Dorothy Moskowitz as lead vocalist with Byrd and violinist Gordon Marron singing lead on a few tunes.
The album was released in the spring of 1968 on Columbia Records. The label did launch an advertising campaign with the tagline: “There’s a United States of America That’s a Far Cry From Mom and Apple Pie.” (Truer words were never spoken.) Columbia also used the gimmick of enclosing some copies of the album in a plain brown wrapper. Although the LP’s actual cover was nothing shocking, the back cover contained the lyrics, some of which the label thought might be too much for smaller towns in America.
The album sold okay, but never broke into the Hot 100 and the band broke up soon after its release. It seems Byrd was a strident leftist who wanted the group to be more political, while all the other members all just wanted to be a rock band.
Over the years, the group’s only album has gained in stature incredibly. It has been re-issued multiple times and is still available on CD (with 10 bonus tracks and notes from Byrd and Moskowitz).
Richie Unterberger of Allmusic gave the album four and half stars out of five, referring to it as "one of the most exciting and experimental psychedelic albums of the late 1960s.”Music webzine Pitchfork Media gave the album a rating of 8.9 out of 10, claiming that "USA's self-titled album still stands above the work of most of their Monterey-era, psych-rock peers". The album is included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
Check it out, but be advised - it doesn’t sound like anything you’ve heard before.