Spirit – The Stereo Rocks

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

We love this album around here, and on a White Hot copy like this the sound is amazing! Presence and clarity up top, weight and punch down low, and plenty of Tubey Magic in the middle — this copy gives you everything you need! If you’re a fan of guitar-driven psychedelic rock, this album is right up there with the best of the genre.

This copy, especially the As Good As It Gets side two, gives you the wall to wall width and layered studio depth like you will not believe, the kind of space you hear on engineering classics like Dark Side of the Moon and A Space in Time.  

Fired Up

Want a glimpse into the kind of energy the band was generating in the studio? Drop the needle on Fresh Garbage, the opening track, and you will hear this band come alive in a way you probably never imagined you’d ever hear them. It’s positively startling how immediate and lively the sound is here.

This is the band at their best, fired up and ready to show the world that The Doors are not the only SoCal rock band who have innovative ideas about rock music and the performing chops to pull them off, not to mention the studio wizards who managed to get their Sgt. Pepper-cum-jazzy electric piano conceptions down on tape with State-of-the-Art ’60s Rock sound quality. (It just now occurred to me that Mechanical World is Spirit’s takeoff on A Day in the Life. Play it and see if you don’t agree.)

The Doors Vs. Spirit

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 (not to take anything away from The Doors mind you). 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.

Twenty Years’ Worth

We’ve been doing our best to acquire original Spirit albums for at least the last twenty years. We managed to find about ten pretty clean yellow label Ode copies for our shootout in that period, and two of those turned out to be too noisy to play. One amazing 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?

Strings and Horns

The venerable jazz arranger Marty Paich was brought in to lend his talents to the project, something I never knew until I glanced at the liner notes during the shootout. No wonder the arrangements, especially the string arrangements, are so innovative and interesting. I can think of no Psych record outside of The Beatles’ with better strings.


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.