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THE FAMILY THAT PLAYS TOGETHER

Spirit

Proto-Prog


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Spirit The Family That Plays Together album cover
3.72 | 52 ratings | 3 reviews | 17% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 1968

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. I Got a Line on You (2:37)
2. It Shall Be (3:25)
3. Poor Richard (2:29)
4. Silky Sam (4:06)
5. Drunkard (2:38)
6. Darlin' If (3:38)
7. It's All the Same (4:40)
8. Jewish (2:48)
9. Dream Within a Dream (3:01)
10. She Smiles (2:30)
11. Aren't You Glad (5:31)
12. Fog* (2:24)
13. So Little to Say* (2:59)
14. Mellow Fellow* (3:48)
15. Now or Anywhere* (4:21)
16. Space Chile* (6:26)



Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

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

+ Marty Paich / strings and horns arrangements .

Releases information

1968 LP Epic 31461
1996 CD Epic/Legacy 65001 with bonus tracks noted with *

Thanks to akin for the addition
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  • Mr Skin Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, 1970

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SPIRIT
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SPIRIT
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SPIRIT
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SPIRIT The Family That Plays Together ratings distribution


3.72
(52 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(17%)
17%
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(44%)
44%
Good, but non-essential (37%)
37%
Collectors/fans only (2%)
2%
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)
0%

SPIRIT The Family That Plays Together reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk
4 stars Spirit's sophomore album is often cited as their second best in the group's original line-up, but I would not be the only one saying that is not so much the case. On the whole if singer Jay Ferguson is still the main writer, his share is definitely dwindling but nothing to be alarmed of. The album remains definitely psychedelic, as did all their first four albums. Spirit remains one of the better bands of the era and in the style.

As with the previous album, Spirit starts with a very strong and commercial track (which will become ultimately the second and biggest hit commercially speaking) the catchy California-penned I Got a Line On You. Hardly my fave track, it is followed by the excellent It Shall Be with a discreet and enchanting flute over a jazzy beat and horn section add to a very haunting series of verses bringing the album to a first peak. Poor Richard (the first one written by Ferguson), Drunkard (strings and a flute) and Silky Sam are short tracks presenting characters (much Like Barrett did in early Floyd) and the latter holds some interesting mid-section counter-times (insteazd of the usual solo) before reverting to its charming ditty feeling. Nothing really all that enthralling overall but all have their charms because of the permanent psych and jazz influences. Only Darlin' If is below par. California comes back with two brilliant tracks, the good All The Same and the funny Jewish, but again nothing that a demanding proghead will really be enthused by. Likewise, Dream and She Smiles are just average tracks that are neither excellent nor bad. The album closes on the astounding the Ferguson-penned Aren't You Glad (the only successful one from him on this album): easily the better track (great horns and wild solo) with It Shall Be, it cannot rise to meet the peaks of the debut album.

Bonus track-wise, there are a whopping five non-album tracks (three which came from a film-soundtrack from French filmmaker Jacques Demy's Model Shop), three of them from John Locke. Had these tracks been inserted into the album, they might have easily bettered it. The delightfully atmospheric Fog, the string-arranged So Little To Say, the virtuosish Mellow Fellow, the exciting Now Or Anywhere and the superb Space Child all bring something that was missing to the album: more instrumental interplay.

TFTPT is a slightly over-rated album that holds a few gems, but not enough to warrant a place in the major Oeuvre museum. Don't get me wrong; the album is still very worthy of discovery if you want to discover the roots of prog, of which Spirit played its role in. Not exactly blessed with a fascinating artwork either, the album does not manage to reach the fourth star classic rating without the bonus tracks.

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Review by ClemofNazareth
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars Spirit’s second studio album would be any even more mixed-bag than their debut, with sounds ranging from jazz to folk, plus some ethnic world sounds and plenty of bluesy rock. While their next two albums would be more cohesive, with the decidedly jazz feel of ‘Clear’ and the more psychedelic ‘Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus’, ‘The Family That Plays Together’ is really all over the place musically.

The opening track is a Randy California tune, and would prove to be the band’s biggest and most recognizable single, “I Got a Line on You”. The driving beat, matched by catchy guitar riffs and lively piano made this an instant classic, but probably served to put more pressure on the band later to produce follow-on hits.

The flute and piano intro to “It Shall Be” combine with Ray Ferguson’s vocals to yield a hazy hippy sound that is quite dated today, but was no doubt a popular concert staple back when it was released. The horns introduced here would reappear throughout the album, and add a nice dimension to their sound.

“Poor Richard” is one of a few character-sketch works on the album. California lays down some seductive sustained and wailing guitar work here, more psychedelic than most of his other works on the album, including a closing sustain that is impossibly long and may actual be one of those enhanced by the theremin he sometimes attached to the neck of his guitar (and which Jimmy Page would lift for his own use a few years later).

Another character sketch is laid out on “Silky Sam”, the story of a man who apparently put on a game face in public but was dealing with serious personal anguish. Not sure if it was intentional, but this sort of described California’s own state of mental affairs that would surface shortly after this album was released.

Jazz icon Marty Paich adds the string arrangements on “Drunkard”, which combined with flute and mellow horns gives this an altogether a kind of sanguine mood that belies the lyrics. This track signals a series of diversions that would characterize the rest of the album. For example, “Darlin’ If” actually comes off as a folksy ballad, while “Its All the Same” sounds like the guitar-driven blues dirges that made the Winters brothers famous in the early seventies. Ed Cassidy’s drum solo is actually difficult to classify, buried between the blues riffs but leaning toward jazz at the same time. “Jewish” is the most unusual work the band would put together, Hebrew lyrics and erratic rhythms that would fit well onto a world music sampler were it not for California’s distinctive west- coast guitar. This one also meanders into free-form territory for a while, particularly the piano and drums. I’ve no idea what the point of this song was, but once again the band surprises if nothing else.

The backing vocals on “Dream Within a Dream” are pure Haight-Asbury with their muddled psychedelic, ‘summer of love’ feel and idealistic lyrics. This is another song that was probably made to be played in concert.

California cranks up another ballad with “She Smiles”, a partially acoustic number with rather sad lyrics but a peacefully resigned mood to it.

The original album closes with “Aren’t You Glad”, stylistically similar to the previous track but with a soaring and intense guitar solo in the middle that gives way to a spacey jam session towards the end.

This album was completely remixed in 1996 or thereabouts, and from what I’ve read there are some significant differences to the original vinyl. I have the CD version so it would be interesting to get a hold of the 1969 album and do some comparisons some day. The reissue also has five additional tracks, some from the band’s 1991 compilation album and the others previously unreleased. Of these, “Fog” is an interesting but brief instrumental; “So Little to Say” has some good guitar and bass work but is otherwise unremarkable; “Mellow Fellow” is as close to free-form jazz as anything else they would do; and “Now or Anywhere” is brooding and sounds as if it was recorded apart from any of the other tracks on the CD. The finale is “Space Chile”, a spacey jazz number that I believe was a John Locke instrumental. An interesting and unusual end to an eclectic and unusual album.

Spirit are generally regarded as a highly underrated band of the proto-prog period, and this is generally considered one of their better works. In some respects it is a bit more consistent than their debut, as that album has at least two tracks that border on being filler. That said, the importance and influence of that first album must be appreciated in a historical context and it should be considered essential. This one should be as well, as far as I’m concerned, so four stars it is and I hope you enjoy the album. Speaking of that album, it’s of course no longer available, but if you are really interested in comparing it to the remixed 1996 release, I believe that Sun-Dazed Records has released a replica of the 1968 version on vinyl, and that can be found at specialty shops or on the web.

peace

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Review by jammun
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Spirit's The Family That Plays Together is a lackluster follow-up to their first. That being said, these guys knew how to write a sure- fire top-40 hit single (the opening track, I Got A Line On You), But following that opening shot, we get an onslaught of slow- to medium-tempo songs, with It Shall Be, Poor Richard, and Aren't You Glad rising above the comparative mediocrity of the rest.

Now, there is a lot of interesting instrumentation here, and the expermentation of the first album continues. But I find the songwriting weak for the most part: a careful listening suggests that much of this is mere sketches of songs, with orchestration laid on top. The band is still searching for its sound, but this is nonetheless a reasonably good listen for anyone interested in late-60's West Coast psychedelia.

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