Top Artists – Spirit

Spirit – The Family That Plays Together

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  • The band’s sophomore release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • A very difficult album to find with good sound and audiophile quality surfaces
  • Both sides have presence, size and space we guarantee you have never heard on this album in all your born days
  • I Got A Line On You was the big hit and it really rocks on this copy
  • 4 1/2 stars: “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.”

This is a record I grew up with and like to think I know well. I’m a huge fan of the band. For audiophiles the first album and Clear are better recordings. This one has its problems, but so does Twelve Dreams and that album belongs in any rock collection worthy of the name.

The sound on the better copies isn’t unlike a good Jefferson Airplane record. It’s crazy psychedelic ’60s music with a LOT going on, and I’m guessing it was pretty hard to get the raw power of this band onto tape. (more…)

Spirit / The Family That Plays Together – The Hit Can Be Rough

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This is a review from our first shootout, 2013. I had been playing the album since 1968, but by 2013, a mere 45 years later, we had the cleaning technologies and the stereo system to finally get the album to sound right, to us anyway.

This is, again, what progress in audio in all about. As your stereo improves, some records should get better, some should get worse. It’s the nature of the beast for those of us who constantly make improvements to our playback and critically listen to records all day.

We get asked about this classic album a lot, but until recently we were not convinced that we’d ever be able to find a great sounding copy. We built up a huge stack of copies and finally took the plunge; I am pleased to report that even though you’ll never hear a copy of this album that screams “Demo Disc”, you can certainly find ones that communicate the music well if you clean and play enough of ’em.

This is a record I grew up with and like to think I know well. I’m a big fan of the band. I have almost never heard this record sound good at all, which is why you’ve never seen a Hot copy on the site. We’ve finally managed to find a few good copies — it wasn’t easy.

The sound isn’t too dissimilar from what you get on a good Jefferson Airplane record. It’s crazy psychedelic ’60s music with a LOT going on, and I’m guessing it was pretty hard to get the raw power of this band onto tape.

Side one rates A++ to A+++ and side two is close behind at A++. A copy with grades like these gives you bigger, fuller, more open sound as well as more energy and presence. Importantly, there’s more separation between the various instruments here, a feature that really allows you to make sense of the music and appreciate everything that’s going on. This copy is more open and transparent than the typical pressing by a mile.

The first track on side two is a step down from the rest sonically, I’m afraid. And there are times on the album where you can hear some grit and distortion, but trust us — that’s on the tape, and any steps taken after the fact to remove it would rob the instruments of their natural texture. We all enjoy rich, smooth sound, but it’s not worth losing musical information. This record may not sound perfect, but it sounded right to our ears, and most copies just plain don’t. (more…)

Spirit – Clear

  • 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. (more…)

Spirit / Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus – The Core Collection

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 A record that belongs in any serious Rock Music Collection.

  • A stunning copy of Spirit’s 1970 Trippy Masterpiece – Triple Plus (A+++) or very close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Huge, lively and dynamic – this legendary Psych album creates a wall to wall, three dimensional psychedelic world of its own
  • Nature’s Way, Animal Zoo and Mr. Skin all sound amazing on this copy – there’s really not a bad track to be found
  • “Spirit’s crowning moment and one of the era’s great underrated albums … enriched by meaty horn arrangements, imaginative vocal harmonies, and a structured approach to psychedelic studio trickery such as stereo panning and tapes run backward.”

The soundfield is huge and transparent, there’s real richness and body to the instruments, and there’s no edge at all to the vocals. Believe me, it’s the rare copy that has all of these qualities, the only one in our shootout as a matter of fact.

This and Spirit’s first album are absolute Rock Classics in my book, records that belong in any popular music lover’s collection.

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Spirit / Self-Titled on Sundazed Heavy Vinyl in Mono Reviewed

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

 

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Sonic Grade: D

Another Sundazed record reviewed and found wanting.

As usual, the Sundazed only hints at the real sound of the recording. We recommended it back at the day; it’s tonally correct, so for fifteen bucks you are getting your fifteen bucks worth and probably not a dime’s more. We just cannot take this kind of sound seriously these days. Once you’ve heard the real thing, this pressing just won’t do.

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. (more…)

Spirit / Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus – Which Labels Have the Best Sound?

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Spirit

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Don’t bother with the black label Epic reissues. In our experience they are consistently awful.

Yellow is the original label and orange the first reissue; both can be good.

The reviews reproduced below tell the story of the album far better than I can. If you like Pink Floyd, The Beatles (circa Revolver and Pepper), and the myriad other bands who took off in the direction of Psych Rock and Art Rock, you should find much to like here.

And if you don’t we give you your money back.


Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996

The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus was Spirit’s crowning moment and one of the era’s great underrated albums. Loosely conceptual, it housed songs that were Spirit’s prettiest (“Nature’s Way”), funkiest (“Mr. Skin”) and hippest (“Animal Zoo,” “Nothin’ to Hide”). Rather than dated, it still sounds fresh today. * * * * *

Jaime Gonzalo, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005

By 1970 southern California’s Spirit had recorded three innovative LPs, but their synthesis of rock, classical, and jazz had thus far awoken little interest. Powerful West Coast impresario Lou Adler, who had signed the band to his label Ode in 1968, abandoned them.

To top it all, a split had arisen in the camp, between Spirit’s main creative forces — guitar whiz Randy California (who had played with and learned from Jimi Hendrix when both were in the Blue Flames) and singer Jay Ferguson. California championed experiment; Ferguson was after straightforward commerciality.

Feelings could not have been worse when Spirit recorded Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus. Luckily, David Briggs, who worked with Neil Young, managed to harness all the animosity into Spirit’s masterwork. The album was enriched by meaty horn arrangements (“Morning Will Come”), imaginative vocal harmonies (“Nothin’ To Hide”), and a structured approach to psychedelic studio trickery such as stereo panning and tapes run backward.

The band experimented with the then new Moog on “Love Has Found A Way” and “Space Child” and unveiled perfect rock singles in “Mr. Skin” and the funky “Animal Zoo” — still light years ahead of their time. It also spawned a classic FM single, the acoustic treat “Nature’s Way.”

After a New Year’s Eve concert at Fillmore East that year, the band split; the album finally went platinum five years later, a belated reward for the superb job done by Briggs and Spirit’s original line-up. Oh, and “Dr. Sardonicus?” It is the nickname Spirit coined for the mixing desk at the studio.

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Spirit – The Stereo Rocks

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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.) (more…)

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. (more…)

Spirit / Self-Titled – A Psych Rock Masterpiece (The First of Two)

  • Incredible sound for this psychedelic masterpiece with both sides rating a Triple Plus (A+++)
  • Wall to wall, with layered studio depth like you will not believe, the kind of space you hear on an engineering classic like Dark Side of the Moon
  • The first Triple Triple Shootout Winning copy to hit the site in years, and one of the few that’s quiet enough to enjoy
  • 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic, but in our estimation it deserves at least five – it’s simply one of the All Time Greats from the era

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These Ode pressings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

This record is the very definition of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made that sound like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of this album, quite a few I would guess, but those of us with a good turntable could care less. (more…)