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Earth Opera

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Album Review

The stylistic explorations pursued by the Beatles in 1966-1967, and the commercial success the group continued to enjoy, inspired other popular musicians to be similarly ambitious and persuaded record companies to take chances on more daring music. Earth Opera is a good example. The Boston-based group's self-titled debut LP featured a heady mixture of pop, rock, folk, jazz, and classical elements in involved arrangements played on such unusual instruments as mandocello and harpsichord. Less a rock band than a highly eclectic chamber orchestra, Earth Opera played in an arty style that suited singer/songwriter/guitarist Peter Rowan's songs, with their complicated structures and highly poetic lyrics. Rowan sang those lyrics, which dealt here and there with anti-war and more generalized sentiments of social dissatisfaction, in a distanced, somewhat artificial tone of voice, using an accent that sounded vaguely British, even when he was mentioning the Red Sox. But he was rarely so specific, more often concerning himself with "the stage inside my mind" or "the picket fenceposts of your mind," internal landscapes in which wordplay and allusions substituted for specific meaning. It was a psychedelic language matched by the music, which hurried and slowed, making room for sudden solos and unexpected juxtapositions of instruments. The result ultimately may have been too ornate and inaccessible for a pop recording, even in 1968, but Earth Opera was very much of its time.

Biography

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s

For a time in the mid- to late '60s, it seemed as though Boston might become the East Coast's answer to San Francisco — it never happened, but if it had, Earth Opera had as good a shot as any of being the East Coast answer to the Grateful Dead. Spawned out of the early- to mid-'60s folk boom, Earth Opera's core was comprised of Peter Rowan, a former bluegrass player (and Bill Monroe alumnus) whose proficiency on guitar and mandolin was soon matched by his songwriting; and David Grisman, a mandolin...
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Earth Opera, Earth Opera
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