Spirit – The Mono Rocks

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame, not for the best Hot Stamper stereo copies, but for this amazing MONO. 

This killer pressing from 2010 has almost EVERYTHING you want from this ’60s Psych Pop Masterpiece — the energy, presence and sheer rock and roll POWER made a mockery of every stereo copy we played.

Want a glimpse into the kind of energy the band was generating in the studio? Drop the needle on Fresh Garbage, the opening track of this amazing mono pressing, and you will hear this band come alive in a way you never imagined you’d ever hear them.

It’s positively startling how immediate and powerful the sound is here.

That said, from an audiophile point of view, mono does involve a sacrifice — the huge three-dimensional soundstage of the best stereo copies is nowhere to be found here. From a musical or performance point of view this mono cannot be beat; it shows the band at their best, fired up and ready to show the world that The Doors are not the only So Cal rock band who have innovative ideas about rock music and the performing chops to pull off their conceptions, not to mention the studio wizards backing them to get it all down on tape.

If I had to choose between The Doors’ first album and Spirit’s, say for a nice drive up the coast with the top down, no contest, Spirit would get the nod. I had the album on 8 Track back in high school and played it to death. Doing this shootout, hearing the album sound so good after so many years, was nothing less than a THRILL. (I went right up to Amazon and bought a CD for the car. Might just take a drive up the coast.)

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. I cannot recommend any current album on the site more highly.

Sides One and Two

There is a bit of grit on the vocals as is often the case with mono records we’ve played in the past.

On side two the vocals get a bit hard in the loudest parts; at moderate levels the effect would not be noticeable, but we like to play our rock records loud here at Better Records, and the second track has a bit of a problem in the midrange at high volume.

Wikipedia’s Entry for Spirit

Spirit’s self-titled debut album is one whose multifarious experimentalism owes a lot to the contemporary successes of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. It marked the humble beginnings and grand aspirations of its eponymous authors. While the mindset required to produce Spirit was ubiquitous, the endeavour itself was far from clichéd. The eclecticism of Randy California’s writing coupled Barrett’s psychotropism with Morrison’s West Coast bohemianism; and although the result proved somewhat inaccessible to the masses, it made the project ripe for underground FM airtime.

Click on the Sprit tab above to read more about the band.


This is the band’s Masterpiece as well as a Desert Island Disc for yours truly.

What qualifies a record to be a Masterpiece needs no explanation. We will make every effort to limit the list to one entry per artist or group, although some exceptions have already occurred to me, so that rule will no doubt be broken from time to time. As Ralph Waldo Emerson so memorably wrote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”

For a record to come to my Desert Island Disc, such a record: 1) must have at some time during my fifty years as a music lover and audio enthusiast been played enthusiastically, fanatically even, causing me to feel what Leonard Bernstein called “the joy of music”; 2) my sixty year old self must currently respect the album, and; 3) I must think I will want to listen to the music fairly often and well into the future (not knowing how long I may be stranded there).

How many records meet the Desert Island Disc criteria? Certainly many more than you can see when you click on the link, but new titles will be added as time permits.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Fresh Garbage
Uncle Jack
Mechanical World
Taurus
Girl in Your Eye
Straight Arrow

Side Two

Topanga Windows
Gramophone Man
Water Woman
Great Canyon Fire in General
Elijah

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review!

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.”

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[weasel words] 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.

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.”

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.