lördag 8 april 2017

Spirit - Original Album Classics (5 Mini LP Box) (EU Edition)

175:- (5 Spirit Albums as Mini Lp CD's has the correct front & back cover + bonustracks. Japan have not released any Spirit albums so enjoy these album instead. Highly Recommended)

Sony UK's Original Albums Classics series is a terrific idea: take five remastered albums from a certain period in an artist's catalog and pop them in a slipcase for budget price. That said, what usually happens is that they take two or three classic albums from that period, and assemble the box set with other, lesser-quality albums from roughly the same era. 

In other words, the recordings don't follow the chronology -- it's an inventory-clearing scheme. In the case of the legendary American band Spirit, however, the five albums collected here are not only presented in the sequence they were released, they are the group’s five best. Period. Spirit's genre-smashing music provided real -- and attributed -- inspiration for bands such as Traffic, Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and even Led Zeppelin. (The introduction to the song "Taurus" from Spirit's self-titled debut is directly referenced in "Stairway to Heaven.") 

Spirit's early recordings (and revolving door membership) featured a seamless weave of psychedelic and hard rock, folk, jazz, blues, and classical musics. These recordings -- Spirit (1968), The Family That Plays Together (1969), Clear (1969), Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970), and Feedback (1972), produced hit singles and memorable album tracks including "Fresh Garbage,” “Uncle Jack,” “Mechanical World,” “Animal Zoo,” “Nature’s Way," "Dark Eyed Woman," and of course, "I've Got a Line on You." The five albums in this package are full of worthy surprises and forgotten treasures. In their early years, Spirit were deeply focused on creating albums. They weren't conceptual so much as very progressive in how they perceived the sequencing of tracks that flowed together to create unique and often startling listening experiences. For the price, this package is an absolute steal and is well worth investigating for anyone not already acquainted with Spirit's music.

Spirit - S/T US 1968
Spirit's debut unveiled a band that seemed determine to out-eclecticize everybody else on the California psychedelic scene, with its melange of rock, jazz, blues, folk-rock, and even a bit of classical and Indian music. Teenaged Randy California immediately established a signature sound with his humming, sustain-heavy tone; middle-aged drummer Ed Cassidy gave the group unusual versatility; and the songs tackled unusual lyrical themes, like "Fresh Garbage" and "Mechanical World." As is often the case in such hybrids, the sum fell somewhat short of the parts; they could play more styles than almost any other group, but couldn't play (or, more crucially, write) as well as the top acts in any given one of those styles. There's some interesting stuff here, nonetheless; "Uncle Jack" shows some solid psych-pop instincts, and it sounds like Led Zeppelin lifted the opening guitar lines of "Taurus" for their own much more famous "Stairway to Heaven."

Spirit - The Family That Plays Together US 1968
On this, the second Spirit album, the group put all of the elements together that made them the legendary (and underrated) band that they were. Jazz, rock & roll, and even classical elements combined to create one of the cleanest, most tasteful syntheses of its day. The group had also improved measurably from their fine debut album, especially in the area of vocals. The album's hit single, "I Got a Line on You," boasts especially strong harmonies as well as one of the greatest rock riffs of the period. The first side of this record is a wonderful and seamless suite, and taken in its entirety, one of the greatest sides on Los Angeles rock. The CD reissue also boasts some excellent bonus tracks. "So Little to Say" is one of Jay Ferguson's finest compositions ever, and the jazz-inspired instrumentals such as "Fog" and "Space Chile" showcase pianist John Locke as one of the most inspired and lyrical players in the rock idiom to date. All in all, a classic album and a true landmark.

Spirit - Clear Spirit US 1969
Although this album may not be seen as the definitive Spirit statement, it has several moments of brilliance that prove what a revolutionary band they were. Coming off of the success of The Family That Plays Together and "I Got a Line on You," the group entered the studio with Lou Adler once again in the producer's chair. Unfortunately, the group appeared to be beginning to fragment, and it shows on this uneven but ultimately fine album. "Dark Eyed Woman" opens the album with promise, and it is indeed one of Spirit's hardest-rocking studio performances. Randy California's inspired guitar solo is one of the finest performances of the period. The riff and general feel of the track (right down to the siren sound effects) were borrowed by Traffic on "Shoot Out at the Fantasy Factory." The record tends to go downhill from there (primarily due to some uninspired songwriting), but is not without its high points, like "Cold Wind" and the awesome closer "New Dope in Town."

The original Spirit lineup was the sleeper band of its era, maybe the top LA band from the '68-'72 span. Their first and fourth albums are acclaimed classics by just about everybody, but this disc has moments nearly as great. While the roots of jazz rock taken further by Steely Dan's "Bodhisatva" could be heard on their third album's "All the Same" this disc has three jazz explorations, with "Ice" and "Caught" being superb instrumental, improvisational tracks.

The Hendrix vibe of the earlier discs is just as evident in "Dark Eyed Woman," while "So Little Time to Fly" and "Ground Hog" show early signs of the evolving sound that struck so many on "Dr Sardonicus". The only stiff on this disc is "Give a Life, Take a Life", but the bonus tracks on this release more than make up for it, including both sides of the "1984" single. The disc contains the best non-single track on any Spirit disc, "New Dope in Town," and enough other superb music to make it a classic disc from a classic band, that sometimes doesn't quite get the respect it should.

Spirit - Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus US 1970
Although Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus has the reputation of being Spirit's most far-out album, it actually contains the most disciplined songwriting and playing of the original lineup, cutting back on some of the drifting and offering some of their more melodic tunes. The lilting "Nature's Way" was the most endearing FM standard on the album, which also included some of Spirit's best songs in "Animal Zoo" and "Mr. Skin." [The 1996 CD reissue has four bonus tracks, though these are on the nonessential side: mono versions of "Animal Zoo" and "Morning Will Come," the 1970 single "Red Light Roll On," and the previously unissued "Rougher Road."]

One of the BEST albums of all time. I know many people that have this opinion and the people I play it for even now appreciate it greatly. Many say it is alternative (well before the term was coined). Anyhow it was/is an environmental alarm with lots of psychedelic sound and great guitar work by one of the best.

Spirit - Feedback (Recorded US 1971)
Feedback is one of the strangest happenings in rock, more dramatic than Michael MacDonald taking over the Doobie Brothers, but more successful artistically than it was financially, and a chapter of the group that is sadly forgotten. The original band was produced by Lou Adler and built around guitar prodigy Randy California, and a bit of history is in order to understand this hybrid project. David Briggs, producer of Kathi MacDonald, Alice Cooper's Easy Action, and Neil Young, helped the band forge their classic Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus and was retained for this follow-up. 

William Ruhlmann's liner notes to Spirit's Time Circle Epic/Legacy release notes that Randy California resigned from the group at this point. Mark Andes and Jay Ferguson formed Jo Jo Gunne with Curly Smith, and Smith's friends, the Staehely Brothers, joined Cassidy and company. What Ed Cassidy and keyboard player John Locke created with producer David Briggs was a phenomenal reinvention of Spirit, which worked, sometimes better than the original group. Bassist/vocalist Al Staehely wrote the music, with guitar chores and backing vocals by his brother J. Christian Staehely. "Witch," the final track on the disc, is typical of this new Spirit sound, a fusion of pop/jazz/rock with a dab of country. It would have been a perfect blend for Randy California to step back into, though his ego might have been the stumbling block here. In concert, this version of Spirit was serious and precise, playing with a cool efficiency. 

David Briggs was the perfect guy to oversee this project, allowing the musicians their space and developing a true counterpart to The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, considered by many to be the band's highpoint. The cover is in eerie aqua blue with the faces looking like spirits peering out of a distorted television. The gatefold contains a band photo and a smart evolutionary image for this eclectic and underrated West Coast band. Here's the clincher: musically, some of the best work on Feedback are the two instrumentals by keyboard player John Locke, "Puesta Del Scam" and "Trancas Fog-Out," fragments of the original "Spirit" performed by this new quartet. 

The stuff is brilliant, and that it was excised from Time Circle is a pity. It was this writer who put Epic/Legacy in touch with Randy California in the development of 1991's Time Circle compilation project, and certainly the elegant "Darkness," the third John Locke title, deserved to be included on that double disc, and some representation of this remarkable work would have been appropriate rather than nine whopping cuts from The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus. Jo Jo Gunne guitarist Matthew Andes (brother of Spirit's Mark Andes) co-wrote "Mellow Morning" with Al Staehely, and it, along with "Right on Time" and "Ripe and Ready," all display the Spirit vibe, even hinting at some Jo Jo Gunne, as strange as that may seem. The Cassidy/Locke/Staehely/Staehely combo added enough jazz to Spirit to temper the all out assault that was Jo Jo Gunne, and therein lies the difference. 

This is not David Bowie's ex-drummer and bassist forming the Spiders From Mars; keep in mind that Ed Cassidy was not only the band's insignia with his Yul Brynner look, he was this group's spiritual leader. As Randy California's step-dad, it's a shame he didn't get more firm with the boy and demand they all be "the family that plays together." Had the Staehely brothers and John Locke stayed on board for Cassidy and Randy California's next project, the erratic Potatoland disc may have mutated into something totally brilliant. The best of Al Staehely, John Locke, and Randy California would have been truly something. Feedback is a solid performance and remarkable album which deserves its place in the Spirit catalog, and not the status of bastard son. It is a legitimate Spirit project and it is very, very good.

Originally released 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972
5-CD cardboard case bundle of the band's first 5 studio albums with bonus tracks.

* (Bonus Track)

Spirit (1968):
01. Fresh Garbage (3:11)
02. Uncle Jack (2:43)
03. Mechanical World (5:14)
04. Taurus (2:37)
05. Girl in Your Eye (3:15)
06. Straight Arrow (2:51)
07. Topanga Windows (3:36)
08. Gramophone Man (3:49)
09. Water Woman (2:11)
10. Great Canyon Fire in General (2:46)
11. Elijah (10:49)
12. Veruska* (2:51)
13. Free Spirit* (4:28)
14. If I Had A Woman* (3:12)
15. Elijah (alternate take)* (9:42) 

The Family that Plays Together (1968):
01. I Got a Line on You (2:37)
02. It Shall Be (3:25)
03. Poor Richard (2:29)
04. Silky Sam (4:06)
05. Drunkard (2:38)
06. Darlin' If (3:38)
07. It's All the Same (4:40)
08. Jewish (2:48)
09. Dream Within a Dream (3:01)
10. She Smiles (2:30)
11. Aren't You Glad (5:31)
12. Fog* (2:24)
13. So Little to Say* (2:59)
14. Mellow Fellow* (3:48)
15. Now or Anywhere* (4:21)
16. Space Chile* (6:26)

Clear (1969):
01. Dark Eyed Woman (3:07)
02. Apple Orchard (4:07)
03. So Little Time to Fly (2:49)
04. Ground Hog (3:04)
05. Cold Wind (3:24)
06. Policeman's Ball (2:21)
07. Ice (5:52)
08. Give a Life, Take a Life (3:23)
09. I'm Truckin' (2:25)
10. Clear (4:09)
11. Caught (3:10)
12. New Dope in Town (4:24)
13. 1984* (3:37)
14. Sweet Stella Baby* (2:55)
15. Fuller Brush Man* (3:19)
16. Coral* (3:05)

Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970):
01. Prelude - Nothin' to Hide (3:43)
02. Nature's Way (2:40)
03. Animal Zoo (3:10)
04. Love Has Found a Way (2:42)
05. Why Can't I Be Free (1:05)
06. Mr. Skin (4:01)
07. Space Child (3:25)
08. When I Touch You (5:37)
09. Street Worm (3:43)
10. Life Has Just Begun (3:29)
11. Morning Will Come (2:50)
12. Soldier (2:50)
13. Rougher Road* (3:17)
14. Animal Zoo* (3:10)
15. Morning Will Come* (2:50)
16. Red Light Roll On* (5:41)

Feedback (1972):
01. Chelsea Girls (3:29)
02. Cadillac Cowboys (3:38)
03. Puesta del Scam (2:01)
04. Ripe and Ready (3:53)
05. Darkness (4:47)
06. Earth Shaker (3:54)
07. Mellow Morning (2:22)
08. Right On Time (2:47)
09. Trancas Fog-Out (2:37)
10. Witch (5:21)