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SPIRIT

Spirit

Proto-Prog


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Spirit Spirit album cover
3.53 | 96 ratings | 7 reviews | 24% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1968

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Fresh Garbage (3:11)
2. Uncle Jack (2:43)
3. Mechanical World (5:14)
4. Taurus (2:37)
5. Girl in Your Eye (3:15)
6. Straight Arrow (2:51)
7. Topanga Windows (3:36)
8. Gramophone Man (3:49)
9. Water Woman (2:11)
10. Great Canyon Fire in General (2:46)
11. Elijah (10:49)

Total Time 29:35

Bonus tracks on 1996 CD reissue:
12. Veruska (2:51)
13. Free Spirit (4:28)
14. If I Had A Woman (3:12)
15. Elijah (alternate take) (9:42)

Line-up / Musicians

- Jay Ferguson / lead vocals, percussion
- Randy California / guitars, backing vocals
- John Locke / keyboards
- Mark Andes / bass, backing vocals
- Ed Cassidy / drums, percussion

With:
- Marty Paich / string & horns arranger

Releases information

Artwork: Tom Wilkes with Guy Webster (photo)

LP Ode Records ‎- Z12 44004 (1968, US)
LP CBS - 31693 (1979, UK) Re-entitled "The First Album" or "The Best Of Spirit" & new cover art

CD Columbia ‎- 480965 2 (1989, UK)
CD Epic - EK 64965 (1996, US) With 4 previously unissued bonus tracks

Thanks to PROGMAN for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry

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SPIRIT Spirit ratings distribution


3.53
(96 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(24%)
24%
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(45%)
45%
Good, but non-essential (26%)
26%
Collectors/fans only (5%)
5%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

SPIRIT Spirit reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
4 stars With this debut album, Spirit created a product of its time: an inventive psychedelic rock hovering between Syd Barrett-Floyd, early The Who, but also developed some highly original sounds of their own. Spirit was not just another garage rock band: they had two jazz players John Locke (sadly passed away this summer) and drummer Ed Cassidy (a journeyman much older than the rest of the members). This very drummer was the step father of teenage wonder Randy California which turned out to be a brilliant guitarist, being invited on many records and was a one-time pupil of Jimi Hendrix. The rest of the line-up comprises of bassist mark Andes (not to be confused with his brother Matt, both would have lengthy careers) and singer Jay Ferguson whose voices was one of the best of the era and responsible for a lot of song-writing on this album.

After the opening Fresh Garbage (their first hit and an ecological ode well before the Green Spirit was out to save the planet) and the Floyd-like Uncle Jack, the albums really gets going with the amazing Mechanical World with its off-beat rhythm and superb ambiances. Followed by the instrumental Taurus (where Zep's Page took his Stairway To Heaven intro from), one realizes that Spirit has a lot more than most LA groups of their generation. While Iwas never a fan of young occidentals recording themselves while toying around with Indian sitars (Girl In Your Eyes), the album continues its path into Straight Arrow with its crazy jazz (almost free jazz) ending. After another semi-jazzy track Topanga Windows, the album seems to rest a bit on its laurels, with a bunch of rather unexceptional songs (with the exception of a jazzy mid-song solo section into Gramophone Man) until the closing almost 11-min monster Elijah with its repeated bass-piano riff and the continuous soloing from the band and its free-jazz mid-section which is reminiscent at times of Crimson's Moonchild. This track was always a popular live item.

The remastered version comes with a few bonus tracks, three of which are non-album while a different version (slightly shorter but better, IMHO) of the closing Elijah rounding them up. While all three shorter bonus tracks are rather different than the album (two from California and one from Locke), the probably would've added a bit of spice to the middle of the album by breaking the monotony. Veruska is almost a hard rocker, free Spirit is an involved jazz-rock avant-la-lettre improvisation and If I Had A Woman is a rough uncut diamond.

While this debut album is not really a superb album, there are many excellent moments that make it too close to the fourth star, not to be awarded it. Most young progheads might just be a bit taken aback by the dated sound and the fact that the album has not aged that well. Great sleeve though!!

Review by ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars Spirit was the band that caused me to realize that you really have to listen to a band’s entire discography before passing judgment on any of their individual albums. Or at least do some research to learn about the band’s history. Otherwise there’s a possibility you can miss out on a great band as a result of first hearing them on a bad album.

For Spirit, that album was ‘Feedback’. I picked it up in the seventies figuring it was just another blues-influenced, slightly psychedelic American band (which it was). But that album wasn’t really very impressive, just standard fare with nothing really to distinguish it, so I didn’t go out of my way to seek out anything else by the band. Some years I heard ‘Farther Along’ and thought it was quite a bit more creative and inspired than ‘Feedback’, so I looked for some other stuff and eventually picked up their first three albums.

What a difference! This debut sounds a bit dated overall, but it is just full of grooving sounds of the late sixties and makes a great addition to the collection of anyone who’s into interesting guitar rhythms, lively keyboards, and brightly arranged psychedelic sounds.

Guitarist Randy California was something like sixteen or seventeen when this was recorded, having been pulled into the band from his previous gigs with some L.A. band called the Red Roosters, and a summer touring with Jimi Hendrix on the East Coast before he hit it big. California’s guitar work isn’t particularly complex, but he definitely shows a great deal of creative range for someone so young. His stepfather and the band’s drummer was Ed Cassidy, a name that pops up all over the place if you’ve ever spent any time researching band bios of the seventies and eighties. The guy is in his eighties now, and apparently still performs. Keyboardist John Locke would go on to a stint with Nazareth, and there is a bit of the same kind of almost commercial-sounding, sometimes jazzy keyboard sounds on this album, particularly on the first four tracks and the closing song “Elijah”. Singer/keyboardist Jay Ferguson bears a strong resemblance to a sober Jim Morrison. He and bassist Mark Andes would leave to form Jo Jo Gunne a few years later, a band I was somewhat familiar with because their drummer came from a small town in my native Montana and was a minor celebrity as a result. All of these guys have had lengthy although somewhat obscure careers in music.

The opening track “Fresh Garbage” is a kind of early conservation themed tune, and the guitars and piano immediately catch your attention for their decisiveness and jazzy groove. This would not have been out-of-place in the early eighties with bands like R.E.M. and Let’s Active on the airwaves, but California’s psychedelic riffs serve to date this one in the late sixties. Same goes for “Uncle Jack”, but this is pure bluesy psych with only Cassidy’s drumming seeming to lean in a jazz direction.

“Mechanical World” has the most Doors-sounding vibe on the album, kind of brooding with minor keyboard chords and that mushroom-haze guitar/vocal combination that just kind of screams ‘Apocalypse Now’. The lazy ending is a bit of a disappointment, but this is yet another side of the band that makes this album an engaging experience.

I’m not sure what “Taurus” is all about, but the opening strands sound like the buildup to a Mamas and the Papas tune, but this turns out to be just a short moody instrumental.

The sitar on “Girl in Your Eye” is pure late-sixties. This is another mushroom-haze tune, but the electric piano blends in nicely and California compliments the sitar well.

You have to wonder if the band recorded these sequentially, and perhaps did a bit too much partaking on the previous track, because the next two songs are a little uninspired and suspiciously mellow. “Straight Arrow” also has a bit of sitar, and some of the same guitar sounds as ‘Girl’, but here the vocals sound closer to Buffalo Springfield than to Morrison. “Topanga Windows” is very similar, but adds a decent blues guitar bit in the middle that reminds me a bit of just about everything Mike Pinera did between 1968 and 1975. Good stuff, if not very original.

California adds some vocals on “Gramophone Man”, and this is another track that is very dated sounding and not particularly noteworthy except that once again the band veers off into a jazz funk for a while before getting back into focus. I like the guitar here but otherwise this one is lost to history.

“Water Woman” and “The Great Canyon Fire In General” are two short filler pieces, but these can be forgiven in light of the closing tune that follows. “Elijah” brings together all the sounds of the album into a single lengthy work, starting with some repetitive guitar/ keyboard before wandering off into some jazz drums with bass and guitar noodling. This is a free-form exercise that makes me laugh because it reminds me of the jazz ‘retrospective’ scene in Spinal Tap. But it helps to remember this was recorded in 1968, so that combined with the heavy jazz backgrounds of Locke and Cassidy make it not only excusable, but actually a rather enjoyable piece of mood music. All told, a decent ending to an enjoyable forty minutes or so of music.

I guess the CD re-release has some ‘bonus’ material on it, but I’ll take the original vinyl with it’s little pops and slightly-muffled treble – these fit the mood that a nearly forty year-old album should have anyway.

So I’m glad I had the chance to discover the more interesting side of Spirit than some of their seventies albums offered. This band is a true American original, and this album is a great piece of musical history. Highly recommended for fans of progressive music in general, and particularly both jazz and psychedelic fans, as well as those who just want to hear some works that do not fit the cookie-cutter mold of most blues-influenced rock bands of the late sixties. Four stars.

Rest in peace, Randy California and John Locke.

Review by jammun
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Spirit's self-titled first album is standard LA psychedelic rock, although the music is more jazz-tinged than perhaps was usual at the time, and the band certainly has its own sound defined here. And do not mistake Spirit for some lame, tripped-out 60's band. This is an accomplished crew.

They start off with three strong songs: Fresh Garbage, Uncle Jack, and Mechanical World, the latter having a great Randy California guitar solo. The fourth song, Taurus, is of course famous as the source of Led Zep's Stairway to Heaven. The remainder of the album shows a marked drop in song quality, some of which is dated (the electric sitar on Girl in Your Eye) or simply reflective of the times (the paranoia of Straight Arrow). The final song, Elijah, is a jazzy jam that gives the band a chance to show off their talents, but it is not particularly compelling -- it's obviously meant to be heard in a live setting.

So while not a classic, Spirit is a promising start for one of the better bands of the era. The remastered CD has great liner notes by Randy, as well as a handful of bonus tracks which neither add to nor detract from the album.

Review by Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars I first heard the band Spirit through their acclaimed opus, THE TWELVE DREAMS OF DR. SARDONICUS, and it is still a jaw-dropping psych-pop album with trace influences of jazz and classical ideas. That album sounded very carefully constructed with great hooks, a serviceable yet tasty sense of variety and great replay value. SPIRIT, the album, is more aligned with jazz-pop with heavy psychedelic influences (of the times).

The big difference between this album and DR. SARDONICUS is the writing. DR. SARDONICUS was more evenly split between guitarist Randy California and singer Jay Ferguson (for the most part; keyboard player John Locke got some of his stuff through), and the quality of the output shows. Here on SPIRIT, the writing is almost entirely Ferguson's. While I'll get to the goodies in a bit, many of the songs like ''Topanga Windows'' and ''Uncle Jack'' sound rather unsure of themselves and amass to nothing.

The opener, ''Fresh Garbage'' is a treat with a memorable piano/bass hook, simple yet effective lyrics (particularly to those with a green agenda), a crisp, smooth vocal delivery and even a divergence into swinging jazz in the middle third of the tune. The tune ''Gramophone Man'' (a complete band effort) is similar, but with a tongue-and-cheek stab at radio-inclined music executives and more of a groove in the verses. Randy California's only solo contribution, ''Taurus'' is an okay guitar instrumental that's cute for five minutes because it sounds like the opening to one ''Stairway to Heaven''.

Other than the sinister mood of ''Mechanical World'', the rest of the album is a dud. Even the lengthy ''Elijah'' can't do anything to put SPIRIT on the upswing. In fact, it's the reason my rating is harsh because despite the jazzy melody, the tune pointlessly muddles into the ''everyone-gets-their-turn-to-solo'' snorefest that gets tiring fast.

If you love Spirit or West Coast '60s psych pop, get SPIRIT. Don't be too disappointed if you find this as mundane as I do.

Review by HolyMoly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Retired Admin
4 stars Right at the outset, Spirit was a band that had a lot going for it. With their first album in 1968, they were active at a time when rock music was turning into an art form -- a medium for mixing and matching styles and influences, and seeing how interesting you could make it. The members of Spirit were seemingly united in their desire to take advantage of this new musical renaissance. The band hailed from Topanga Canyon near LA, neighbors of Neil Young and right in the middle of a frothy brew of local talent. Spirit also had chops galore - the Hendrix protege' Randy California was a commanding presence on guitar even at the age of 16, and John Locke (electric piano) and Ed Cassidy (drums) both had extensive jazz experience. The band even had the looks -- not exactly handsome, but striking, and the right look at the right time. Take a look at the back cover of this LP and tell me those guys weren't hip.

And yet, this debut album was just a bit too quirky, too unclassifiable, to really invade the public consciousness like it could have. Is it psychedelic rock? Blues? Jazz? What are those orchestral arrangements doing in there? Why are they singing about garbage cans and some Robin Hood character? All valid questions for the young audience at the time. Were Spirit too eclectic for their own good? Perhaps if they'd been a little easier to pin down, they might be as well known today as, say, Buffalo Springfield; and yet, they remain a relatively obscure band.

This debut album is sneaky. It never really shows you all of its cards. These songs often have surprisingly high-energy instrumental sections inserted in the middle of otherwise downbeat pop songs ("Fresh Garbage", "Straight Arrow", "Gramophone Man", "Topanga Windows"). They strongly suggest mainstream pop with their Marty Paich-arranged string parts, and yet everything else about the song screams "underground!" There's a 10-minute jazz instrumental closing the album ("Elijah"). To put it succinctly, the strange collision of styles on an essentially low-key, mellow album makes for a fascinating experience for listeners curious to hear how many different styles can all co-exist. Less sympathetic listeners would probably dismiss it as "unfocused", but I don't ever get the impression that the band wasn't sure what they were doing.

Not Spirit's absolute best album, but a pivotal first step, and pretty much set the tone for their next few albums. Jay Ferguson's lead vocals (he also writes most of the songs; future bandleader Randy California had not come into his own as a songwriter yet, notwithstanding the lovely instrumental "Taurus") are pretty tentative compared to his beautiful work on future albums, but his songcraft is already first-rate and eclectic as heck.

I like to think there is a parallel universe wherein Spirit are a household name like Hendrix. They really do seem to define the times they existed in, even as they continually throw curveballs on this puzzling but highly accomplished and successful debut album.

Review by aapatsos
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal and Heavy Prog Teams
2 stars In Good Spirit

This debut certainly has a 'feel good' spirit about it. Almost simultaneously with the start of the legal battle against Led Zeppelin (for apparently ripping off Spirit's "Taurus" to create "Stairway to Heaven") some 40+ years from Zep's "IV" release, I was presented with the first five albums of this band as a treat. And let me say the 'spirits' in this release can go high (but also low)...

To the untrained late 60's listener (such as myself), this may sound as a fusion of Brit psych pop in the vein of the more cheerful aspects of The Beatles and The Moody Blues (e.g. "Uncle Jack") with an intermittent injection of jazzier elements and the 'looseness' of some The Doors compositions - see for example the intriguing jazzy middle sections of "Fresh-Garbage" and "Gramophone Man". It appears to me that the album tilts more towards psych-pop than psychedelic rock and builds more on accessibility rather than mature song-writing. There are exceptions to this with the highlight "Mechanical World", a dark, slow, captivating composition with serious progressive leanings, a memorable solo and epic use of background keyboards. "Taurus", which follows, is a nice atmospheric interlude with a melody ahead of its time (as it has been proven to be!!).

The long "Elijah" is potentially the most innovative piece, which reminded me of The Doors in its main theme. Unfortunately, the jazzy improvisations derail the whole composition and the numerous returns to the main theme don't do much to save it. The rest of the album flows in a rather pleasant/ok mood but somehow 'directionless', with naive, albeit catchy at times, melodies.

Potentially ahead of its time, but seldom convincing for its potent, Spirit's debut may be a pleasant listening experience for the late 60's fans but somehow fails to maintain consistency and make a mark in my books. 2.5 stars.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars Rising out of the ashes of a prior band called The Rising Sons centered around The Ash Grove venue in mid-1960s Los Angeles, a new band emerged from many bands that frequented that same establishment. The members included percussionist Ed Cassidy, lead vocalist Jay Ferguson, bassist Mark Andes and guitarist Rnady California. The like minded musical misfits started a folk rock band called Red Roosters where they managed to score the odd high school dances and small venues around L.A. but after taking a hiatus and a cross-country trip to New York City Randy California had the chance to briefly play with Jimi Hendrix in Jimmy James and the Blue Flames but ultimately was denied moving with the band to London by his parents due to his tender young age of 15. Slightly dismayed he had to head back to California to reform his prior band and with the addition of keyboardist John Locke, he and the other Red Roosters team opted to change their name to Spirits Rebellious and that's when the true magic started to gel.

Joining in on the "Summer Of Love" hippie scene after a trip to Griffith Park, the members of the band rented an entire house in Topanga Canyon and lived together with significant others, children, pets and pretty much everything else. This is the time where the inspiration for SPIRIT's eponymously titled debut album came from. After truncating their name to simply SPIRIT, the band started to make waves by having an utterly unique sound that took the disparate styles of 60s folk and psychedelic rock and married them with the more progressive jazz-fusion styles that were emerging. The band hit upon the right sound and found success with their debut which hit #31 on the Billboard chart and found a significant amount of FM radio play as well. Likewise they were successful on the touring circuit because of not only their unique sound but their oddball appearance due to drummer Ed Cassidy's skinhead look which set him apart from the long-haired hippie scene of the era.

While SPIRIT's debut is probably better known 50 years later as the album that Jimmy Page stole the beginning riffs of "Stairway To Heavena," the irony is that in their humble beginnings, Led Zeppelin actually opened up for SPIRIT and it has been determined that Page also was inspired in many other ways as well including using the theremin mounted to his amplifier as well as some of the progressive out-of-the-box ideas that SPIRIT deftly utilized. Unfortunately despite the similarities of "Stairway To Heaven's" opening arpeggiated riff with that of SPIRIT's "Taurus," a copyright infringement suit was unsuccessful in a legal sense but in retrospect has gained SPIRIT some sort of publicity albeit in a roundabout way which is better than nothing i suppose. The court of public opinion seems to have sided the other way around however it has also been claimed that the riff originated in 1659 in a classical composition called "Sonata di Chittara, e Violino, con il duo Basso Continuo" by Italian composer Giovanni Battista Granata.

Listening to SPIRIT's debut album and thinking of them touring with Zeppelin seems like an odd match. While Zeppelin rocked the house with ballsy bluesy bravado, SPIRIT is much more subdued with an earthy folk and even psychedelic rock feel that gentle flows with a more sophisticated jazz-rock compositional approach sort of like a proto-style of Steely Dan if you will. While the tracks are diverse, they pretty much follow a strange yet pleasant path down a mellow folk tinged vocal style where Ferguson does his best Byrds impersonation while Locke on keyboards and Cassidy provide a more jazzified rhythmic groove. California's guitar straddles somewhere in between folky blues and jazz. While most tracks side on the folk rock aspects, the final near eleven minute track displays some of the most progressive oriented rock of 1968 with the closer "Elijah" which unleashes the full on jazz-fusion and time signature freak outs. This track has been a staple in live settings where the band would take turns improvising solos. There are parts in this one that make me think Golden Earring developed "Radar Love" from this one as well.

SPIRIT was an amazing band that didn't really get their just dessert. While achieving minor success during their heyday, it seems that they were more successful in inspiring other artists than actually achieving greatness themselves. Their debut was really ahead of its time and despite the critics lauding words of praise, they failed to attract the masses in droves to their musical cause. SPIRIT delivers a subtle but powerful sort of sound. It never really rocks the house but rather wriggles around a strange jazzy lounge lizard labyrinth of chord progressions with idiosyncratic intricacies and therefore isn't one of those albums that is instantly catchy but rather demands a little time to let it sink in unless the listener is well-steeped in progressive rock and jazz-fusion constructs. Personally i find SPIRIT to be an unsung hero of the 60s as i hear all kinds of juicy tidbits that seem to have inspired future artists in the 70s who took them to the next level. While SPIRIT's future releases would get more adventurous, the debut is a nice gentle mix of a classic 60s feel with subtle complexities. A very nice mix indeed.

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