- Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound from beginning to end for Spirit’s classic third album
- These Hot Stampers give you the Tubey Magical sound that’s missing from the CD and the Sundazed vinyl
- Dark Eyed Woman was the big hit from this one, and it rocks with the kind of all-out psychedelic energy the band was known for
- 4 Stars: “Several moments of brilliance that prove what a revolutionary band they were.”
This is yet another example of the band ready to show the world that The Doors are not the only SoCal rockers with innovative ideas about rock music, not to mention the performing chops to pull off their conceptions.
Tubey Magic Is Key
This original Ode pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What outstanding sides on Clear have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1969
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What to Listen For (WTLF)
Less grit – smoother and sweeter sound, something that is not easy to come by on any Spirit album.
A bigger presentation – more size, more space, more room for all the instruments and voices to occupy. The bigger the speakers you use to play this record the better.
More bass and tighter bass.
Present, breathy vocals. A veiled midrange is the rule, not the exception.
Good top end extension to reproduce the harmonics of the instruments and details of the recording including the studio ambience.
Last but not least, balance. All the elements from top to bottom should be heard in harmony with each other. Take our word for it, assuming you haven’t played a pile of these yourself, balance is not that easy to find. Our best copies will have it though, of that there is no doubt.
Spirit Vs. The Doors
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.
Although it’s been many years since I last played it, I would bet that the Sundazed only hints at the real sound of the recording. Most of their records would end up in our Hall of Shame if we ever bothered to put them there.
I can tell you that, being in the business, I had to play 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. Of course, the final judge is you, dear customer. If you find our Hot Stampers don’t live up to the hype, we give you your money back, plain and simple. We think that says it all.
Dark Eyed Woman
So Little Time to Fly
Give a Life Take a Life
Caught New Dope in Town
… [I]t 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.