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Spirit Clear album cover
3.84 | 71 ratings | 6 reviews | 14% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1969

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Dark Eyed Woman (3:07)
2. Apple Orchard (4:07)
3. So Little Time To Fly (2:49)
4. Ground Hog (3:04)
5. Cold Wind (3:24)
6. Policeman's Ball (2:21)
7. Ice (5:52)
8. Give A Life, Take A Life (3:23)
9. I'm Truckin' (2:25)
10. Clear (4:09)
11. Caught (3:10)
12. New Dope In Town (4:24)

Total time 42:15

Bonus tracks on 1996 CD reissue:
13. 1984 (Single A-side) (3:37)
14. Sweet Stella Baby (Single B-side) (2:55)
15. Fuller Brush Man (3:19)
16. Coral (3:05)

Total time: 55:40

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

Releases information

Artwork: Tom Wilkes with Guy Webster (photo)

LP Ode Records ‎- Z12 44016 (1969, US)

CD Edsel Records ‎- ED CD 268 (1988, UK)
CD Epic - EK 65002 (1996, US) New mix by Vic Anesini with 4 bonus tracks
CD Repertoire - RES2340 (2008, Germany) digipack edition with the same bonus tracks

Thanks to akin for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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SPIRIT Clear ratings distribution

(71 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(14%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(54%)
Good, but non-essential (27%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

SPIRIT Clear reviews

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

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars 4.5 stars really!!!

After the deceiving second album, the group rebounded with a bright third album (the aptly named Clear), which is a much more even affair than its predecessors. With the same line-up, the groups is also working more as a unit in the conception of the songwriting: Jay Ferguson still writes some (wonderful) tracks on his own (three in this case), but the majority are either collaborations or penned by other members (three for John Locke, and I believe this is the success of this album.

Starting with the energetic Dark-Eyed Woman with its great bass line, and the great collectively-penned Apple Orchard, one understands that while Spirit is still a 60's band, they've got everything to become a 70's classic (in terms of songwriting) but still have a much advanced philosophy as well: after the denouncing Fresh Garbage and the future Nature's Way, John Locke wrote this great track So Little Time To Fly about man distancing himself from nature. Ferguson answers with the brilliant and exuberant Groundhog, the calm Cold Wind and the offbeat Policeman's Ball, denouncing the Police's excesses in 68 events.

John Locke is not to be done without as the superbly brilliant instrumental Ice and the dischordant Caught improv, both bringing us his dreamy jazzy landscapes and his importance in the group's overall eclectism, while he shows that he can write pop tunes too with the perky I'm Truckin'. The album ends in great fashion with the smooth title track (reminding us of Ice and Taurus on the debut album, but also used in a different version on Model Shop's soundtrack) and the excellent New Dope In Town (wonder what they talking about here? ;-) with again plenty of space for instrumental interplay, and might just be the best track of the album.

Again, the remastered version comes with plenty of superb bonus tracks, which are indispensable for Spirit fans. Their huge hit 1984 (which sounds at least five years ahead of its time in terms of musical production and songwriting >> almost Roxy Music) is the first one in line, with the perky rocker Sweet Stella Baby following. Fuller Brush Man is yet another great facet of Ferguson's pop moods while Coral is a progressive jazz improv written by the two jazzheads Locke and drummer Ed Cassidy, which gives another great dimension and perfect added value to the original album. And then comes a little bonus of Holywood-like film-trailer presenting the album. Indeed, Clear is their best album (outside of 12 Dreams, naturally) and a real fine psych/proto prog album. One of the best in the genre really.

Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars Spirit were busy as heck in the last couple years of the sixties, this being their third album in about a two year period. They had apparently been touring quite a bit, so I would imagine this was a bit rushed in the studio, but you sure wouldn’t know it by listening. The overall feel is tight, pretty polished for those days, and energetic. A solid third album from the band.

I was too young to remember these guys when their early albums were first released, but I swear I remember “Dark Eyed Woman” from early in my childhood. Who knows, maybe I had a hippy babysitter who was into them, not sure. But this is a great opening track with energetic piano, slightly syncopated drumming, and Randy California ever more intense on guitar. This is well-constructed and almost catchy, and probably intended as a single.

The joint effort of “Apple Orchard’ results in a sound that can’t really be compared to other bands of that day (or since). California’s guitar work is mainly minor chords and a bit more complex than much of what he had done to this point. I don’t know enough about drums to completely understand what Ed Cassidy is doing, but the erratic changes give this a sense of tension that really accentuates the guitar. This is a really interesting composition that stands as one of more intriguing Spirit works from the early albums.

The band is using a lot more multi-vocal arrangements on this album, and this is really noticeable on songs like “So Little Time to Fly”. California and bassist Mark Andes are tight here, unlike on the two earlier albums where they sometimes seemed to be improvising a bit more. This is very measured in contrast, and probably was intended as a commercial attempt.

“Ground Hog” has a blues feel to it, but California shows a bit of funk which is highlighted by the prominent bass line of Andes. This sort of reminds me of some of the early Dr. Hook albums, but with a more complex arrangement.

“Cold Wind” on the other hand is mellow and introspective. The opening piano strands and wispy vocals sound just like the opening chords of the Bill Withers standard “Lean on Me”, but the tune quickly branches out into a trippy, peaceful number.

Spirit had a bit of a reputation for politically-charged and topical lyrics, and on “Policeman’s Ball” they take a few shots at oppressive law enforcement actions that were pretty prevalent in the late sixties. This is a quirky piece with lots of choppy organ, and the vocals are a bit hollow and dated sounding. This one doesn’t translate well to today, but is a nice period number.

John Locke offers up three tracks on the album, including the spacious and inspired instrumental “Ice”. This is the longest work on the album and one of the only times the flute that was so prominent in their previous album is noticeable. The early part of the arrangement is brooding and mournful, and as the song builds it takes on a decidedly jazzy feel with strident piano and guitar. If this were released in the eighties it would probably have been considered on the rugged side of ambient. A very mature sound for the band that would be more fully explored on ‘Sardonicus’.

“Give a Life, Take a Life” sends a peace-and-love message dominated by layered vocals from Ferguson, California, and Andes, with Locke keeping time on piano, and more flute to give it a moody feel. California manages a few mildly energetic guitar riffs, but this is mostly a harmonic vocal track.

The second commercially-minded track is “I’m Truckin’”, kind of a Bad Company type tune with maybe a little bit of Head East thrown in for flavor. Okay, this predates those bands, but you get the idea.

The title track is another mellow instrumental Locke composition, again kind of ambient but showing a mature side to the band’s musical abilities.

The band can’t seem to stay away from free-form jazz, and on “Caught” they simply let themselves go and deliver a lush but slightly discordant work that is heavy on piano and bass, and rather light on guitar. Locke and Cassidy are clearly in charge here, with California just kind of jumping in here and there for effect.

The closing “New Dope in Town” is full of tempo changes, and typical of the band’s penchant for shifting from rock to blues to an almost folk sound, all within the same song. This could have easily been turned into an extended jam session, and toward the end it sounds like maybe it originally was and got edited down to something that would fit on vinyl. An energetic ending to a solid album.

Like most of the other reissued Spirit albums, the CD version includes some bonus tracks. The first of these is the notorious anti-establishment “1984” with a very tight guitar and gorgeous keyboards behind Ferguson’s controlled but angry vocals. Andes’ bass line is tense, and Cassidy manages to keep a steady beat for an overall rocking number that stands the test of time extremely well. This recording would not have been out-of-place on the airwaves ten or even twenty years after it was recorded.

“Sweet Stella Baby” is all about California as he rocks on guitar. This is another commercially-minded work but well-played. I think “Fuller Brush Man” was previously unreleased, or at least I don’t remember ever hearing it before listening to this CD version. Ferguson’s vocals are almost falsetto and kind of odd, not sure what this one was all about.

And finally “Coral” closes the album with another jazz tune, with what I’m pretty sure is some horn accompaniment, lots of piano, and various percussion. Nothing super- special, but again a typical Spirit work.

I don’t know what the little radio commercial or whatever it is at the end is supposed to be about, but if it is a radio commercial it’s pretty bland, so it must have been from the very early days.

Another very solid offering from the original lineup. They would have another, their most famous, with “12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus” shortly after this before fracturing, then reemerging with a distinctly different lineup and sans California, Andes, and Ferguson. I don’t see any reason to rate this one any lower than their first two albums, but it doesn’t quite rise to the level of masterpiece, so it’s another four star effort in my book.


Review by greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Clear is not a bad album, but it not very good too. Let's say it is just betweeen ordinary and good. Most of the tracks are quite gross and sound a bit amateurish, especially on side 1. The visceral rock/hard rock dimension is the main influence. The psychedelic dimension is also present but not too much. The big problem is the bad guitar sound: I am just allergic to a bland electric guitar sound like here. The guitar solos are very unexpressive: they sound like a pure jam exhibition. With better crafted guitar sound, the album rating would increase at least by a half star. The drums are OK, and the bass has a rather smooth sound despite it is not very elaborated. The keyboards are a pretty subdued and they often sound colorless and flat. The lead vocals could be worse, but remain ordinary. The compositions have a deja vu dimension, since they offer nothing new or original. "Policeman's Ball" is more funny, expressive and colorful than the previous tracks. I give 3 stars for the side 1.

The side 2 is definitely better: there are fortunately some better tracks: the band seems to have significantly reduced the irritating electric guitar parts. The mellow "Give A Life Take A Life" and "Clear" are two really interesting tracks, the latter containing some sentimental orchestral arrangements with an very slow rhythm. I give 3.5 stars for the side 2.

Review by jammun
4 stars Clear Spirit is an improvement over Spirit's previous effort. These guys still knew how to write a sure-fire top-40 hit single, which would again be the opening track -- Dark Eyed Woman -- with a screaming Randy California guitar solo. From there we go on a trip into what is by now familiar Sprit territory. For the most part, this consists of good enough music but there is no clear direction. However, on this album the songwriting is more consistent, and a few of the songs are mini-masterpieces (Ice, Clear). The bonus tracks include Coral and 1984, a first-rate, menacing rocker that is one of Spirit's finest songs.

Latest members reviews

4 stars With Clear, Spirit kept moving forward in the right direction. The feel of the album is much different than on The Family That Plays Together. It is more mature and foreshadows what they would do on their masterpiece, Dr. Sardonicus. Ice is one of their most jazz-influenced songs with a brillian ... (read more)

Report this review (#199243) | Posted by johan15 | Thursday, January 15, 2009 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I've perused several of the reviews here before writing this one...just a few words. First, all four of the first four Spirit albums are classics and absolutely so. One of the other reviewers described the first 3 albums as unfocused...I would disagree. Spirit was one of the first groups that wa ... (read more)

Report this review (#157072) | Posted by ProggaWogga | Saturday, December 29, 2007 | Review Permanlink

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