Spirit’s Third Album, Clear – Another Useless Sundazed Heavy Vinyl LP

More Spirit

More Clear

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame and another Sundazed record debunked. 

Although it’s been many years since I last played it, I’m fairly confidant that the Sundazed only hints at the real sound of the best copies. Most Sundazed records would end up in our Hall of Shame if we ever bothered to audition them.

Being in the “record business,” such as it is, I’ve played my share and more of awful sounding Heavy Vinyl.

Even back in the (embarrassing) days when we were selling them we carried only about one out of ten that were in print. A big portion of the nine we didn’t stock were just awful as I recall.

(Some of the commentary below has been borrowed from other Spirit listings by the way.)

If you like Surrealistic Pillow and Revolver/Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles and early Doors albums, and you don’t know the album well, you are really in for a treat. This album is a classic of its day that still holds up forty plus years later.

Twenty Years’ Worth

We’ve been doing our best to acquire original Spirit albums for close to twenty years. We managed to find about six pretty clean yellow label Ode copies for our shootout over that period. One good copy a year is the most we can expect to find at this late stage of the game; these ’60s pressings are becoming scarcer every day. People loved the record and they played it to death. Who can blame them?

SERIOUS Condition Issues

Practically no sides of the six original pressings we played for this shootout ended up being Mint Minus Minus; most were slightly noisier than that some or most of the time, so we are calling most of them Mint Minus Minus to EX++. For those of you who insist that your vinyl be reasonably quiet, none of these copies will make the grade. They are not scratched — we rarely try to sell scratched records unless they are exceptionally rare or valuable, not the case here — they, like most original Ode LPs from the ’60s, are just pressed on noisy vinyl.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Dark Eyed Woman
Apple Orchard
So Little Time to Fly
Ground Hog
Cold Wind
Policeman’s Ball

Side Two

Ice
Give a Life Take a Life
I’m Truckin’
Clear
Caught New Dope in Town

AMG Review

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.

Excerpts from Wikipedia on Spirit

The group’s first album, Spirit, was released in 1968. “Mechanical World” was released as a single (it lists the playing time merely as “very long”). The album was a substantial underground hit, reaching #31 and staying on the charts for over eight months. The album displayed jazz influences, as well as using elaborate string arrangements (not found on their subsequent recordings) and is the most overtly psychedelic of their albums.

They capitalized on the success of their first album with another single, “I Got A Line On You”. Released in November 1968, a month before their second album, The Family That Plays Together, it became their biggest hit single, reaching #25 on the charts (#28 in Canada). The album matched its success, reaching #22. They also went on tour that year with support band Led Zeppelin, who were heavily influenced by Spirit—Led Zeppelin played an extended medley during their early 1969 shows that featured “Fresh Garbage” among other songs, Jimmy Page’s use of a theremin has been attributed to his seeing Randy California use one which he had mounted to his amplifier, and it is now widely accepted that Page lifted the descending guitar figure from Spirit’s instrumental “Taurus” for Led Zeppelin’s signature tune “Stairway To Heaven”.

After the release of Clear, California was called upon again to give the group a hit single. With the group producing the record on their own, they recorded a song California had written called “1984”. With a title that echoed the George Orwell book of the same name, it was one of California’s finest, and it boasted an excellent production job (and was one of the most ferocious things that Spirit would ever record). And it looked at first like it would be the group’s biggest hit yet. Soon after being released, it raced up the charts to #69.

In retrospect, no one is sure why the single had such a brief chart life, but there are several possibilities. It is no secret that Lou Adler’s alliance with Epic Records was uneasy at best, and at the time that the single was released, Adler’s distribution deal with Epic came to an end. He had been eager to move distribution of the label to A&M Records, which he did as soon as the deal with Epic ended, which might have killed the commercial availability of the single (though Adler ended up giving Spirit’s contract to Epic in the process). It has also been said that there was a tip sheet distributed to radio stations outlining the song’s supposed political and social views, and opining that it might not be appropriate for air play. The song would finally see general release on The Best of Spirit in 1973.

In 1970, Spirit started working on what is widely considered to be their best LP, Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus. On the recommendation of Neil Young the band chose David Briggs as the producer. It was a prolific time for the group’s writers and the album was finally released in late 1970. Especially memorable was Randy California’s poignant “Nature’s Way”, which was written in an afternoon when the group was playing at the Fillmore West in San Francisco.

Epic released an early mix of “Animal Zoo” as a single, but this only made it to #97 on the charts. Like The Who’s Tommy and Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon, Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus is critically regarded as a landmark of art rock, with a tapestry of literary themes about the fragility of life and the complexity of the human experience, illustrated by recurring lyric “life has just begun”, and continued the group’s pioneering exploration of environmental issues in their lyrics (cf. “Fresh Garbage”). The album is also notable for its inventive production and the use of a modular Moog synthesizer.