Archive for the ‘ Classic Rock ’ Category

Donovan “Open Road”

Open Road was Donovan’s first album of the 1970’s.  Here he was backed by a sympathetic group of the same name (Open Road) and this change made all the difference.  Gone are the psychedelic trappings of previous years and in their place are a collection of sharp Celtic influenced folk-rock tracks.

The lyrics and backing band are straight forward and direct, giving this album a back to the basics feel (there are no sitars, horns, harpsichords or elaborate studio productions) – so in the case of Open Road, less is more.  While there are no huge hits in the order of “Mellow Yellow” or “Sunshine Superman”, Open Road rates as one of Donovan’s most consistently enjoyable sets.  To these ears tracks such as “Curry Land,” “Celtic Rock,” “Roots of Oak,” and “People Used To” are some of the most powerful music of Donovan’s career.  “People Used To” features gutsy slide guitar while “Roots of Oak,” “Curry Land,” and “Celtic Rock” are outstanding compositions that could hold their own with any authentic, critically praised UK folk-rock act of the time or place.  These mesmerizing tracks are a unique mixture of traditional Irish folk, hard rock, roots music and the dying embers of psychedelia.

The album’s most popular song and minor hit, “Riki Tiki Tavi,” is a jaunty studio jam with politically charged lyrics and a playful vibe.  Other winners are the punchy pop-rock opener “Changes”, sensitive folk-rock numbers “New Year’s Resolution” and “Season of Farewell” and the whimsical throwback “Joe Bean’s Theme.”  Donovan would never record anything like Open Road again.  Not only is this one of Donovan’s most mature records but it’s also one of his best – surely an underrated LP that deserves recognition.

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“People Used To”

:) Original | 1970 | Dawn | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2000 | Repertoire | buy ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Slade “Play It Loud”

No one can blame you if you dismiss Slade’s Play It Loud out of hand. After all, Slade was the original hair metal band, launching a thousand ill-begotten covers, their originals just as bombastic, screeching and spelling-challenged. Yet, the Slade catalogue is full of buried treasures; nearly every one of the band’s 70s albums contains at least one song worth the price of admission, from “Gudbye to Jane” to “How Does It Feel,” and in the case of Play It Loud, an entire album’s worth of great songs.

Released in 1970, Play It Loud is the band’s second proper album, and the first released under the name Slade; one previous album had been released under the name Ambrose Slade, yet another as the N’ Betweens. While the two previous albums had relied heavily upon covers and songs by outside writers, Play It Loud was composed almost completely by drummer Don Powell, bassist Jim Lea, and singer Noddy Holder. It’s Slade before they were all crazee, before the platform boots and shiny spacesuits, more early Deep Purple than Gary Glitter.

The name Play It Loud may be a sad predictor of the type of albums the band would release later on, but it’s apt nonetheless. You can’t help but want to play this one loud; on an iPod or tinny computer speakers, it’s impossible to appreciate the wallop Slade packs.  It’s rough, garage-y and artless – like a collection of the best songs culled from Slade’s later albums and B-sides.

The best tracks on the album are those written by some combination of Powell, Lea and Holder. The rollicking opener “Raven,” the Black Sabbath-esque “See Us Here” and solid rockers “I Remember” and “One Way Hotel” are Slade with more grit than glitz, but the unexpected tenderness of “Dapple Rose” and the bluesy “Pouk Hill” show surprising range and depth. A standout is the album closer “Sweet Box,” which rolls as much as rocks, showing Slade’s nascent talent for a great groove.

A few covers pop up, too, such as the almost-psychedelic version of  Mann-Weil’s “The Shape of Things to Come,” and Neil Innes’ “Angelina,” a boozy bar-room blues.

Both “The Shape of Things to Come” and band original “Know Who You Are” were released as singles, with “The Shape of Things to Come” getting the Top of the Pops treatment. Neither single went anywhere; despite being aligned with producer/manager/ex-Animal Chas Chandler, Slade seemed destined for obscurity. However, a string of singles – including “Get Down,” “Look Wot You Done,” and “Coz I Love You” – that combined the band’s hard-rocking sound with glammy, slick production and hideously bad grammar soon shot the band to stardom. Not surprisingly, from 1971 on, the band would become primarily a singles outfit, with most later albums built around a single already on the charts, and the straight-ahead, correctly-spelled rock of Play It Loud relegated to b-sides and album tracks. More’s the pity.

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“Sweet Box”

:) Original | 1970 | Polydor | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2006 | Salvo | 2fer | buy ]

Rick Nelson & the Stone Canyon Band “Rick Sings Nelson”

Rick Sings Nelson, Rick Nelson’s first studio album with the pioneering Stone Canyon Band, really does deserve the reputation of “stone-cold classic”. Expanding tenfold upon the razor-sharp music and harmonies of the Stone Canyon’s debut record, In Concert, Rick Sings Nelson was actually the singer’s first album of wholly original material (hence the title). It’s unbelievable that it took him this long start laying his songs on the public like this, because they’re pretty great, and certainly miles above lots of the crud he had been running through for the preceding decade or so of his career.

One of the principal strengths of Rick Sings Nelson is that, though brimming with Southern California pop, it never strays too far from earthier roots. Former Buckaroo Tom Brumley proves to be one of the band’s strongest assets in this regard, always anchoring the music in Bakersfield country whether he’s laying down weeping leads on “Anytime” or conjuring up rolling rhythm figures on “Sweet Mary”. The layered interplay between him and Stone Canyon guitarist Allen Kemp really reaches some soaring highs here, and though they were never really given all that much room to stretch out and jam in the studio Brumley has been quoted as saying that his years spent in the Stone Canyon Band were the most enjoyable of his career.

If there’s any clunker on Rick Sings Nelson it’s in “Mister Dolphin,” which illustrates Nelson’s penchant for writing the occasional awful song. Any cut opening with the line “I just talked to a dolphin the other day” is going to be a little hard to take, and when said dolphin tells Rick sagely to “open up your mind” and love everyone, well…let’s just say that if he had really been dead set on including a cosmic dolphin song here he may have been better served cutting Fred Neil’s folk-rock standard “Searching For the Dolphins” and leaving things at that (or hell, throw us a studio recording of one of those beauties off In Concert like “Easy To Be Free” and keep the album title intact).

All things considered though, Rick Sings Nelson remains a landmark collection in the history of country rock, and even though it failed to offer up any hit single it’s loaded down with memorable songs. The record has been reissued by Beat Goes On Records alongside it’s follow-up, Rudy the Fifth, which is best known for its pair of Dylan covers, but which also includes many other Nelson-penned jewels.

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“Sweet Mary”

:) Original | 1970 | Decca | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2002 | BGO |2fer | buy here ]

Blue Mountain Eagle (self-titled)

Blue Mountain Eagle is a band with a tediously convoluted history. Though originally construed by former Buffalo Springfield drummer Dewey Martin as the New Buffalo Springfield, they went through a long series of lineup changes during their brief existence, the end result of which was Martin’s rather ironic expulsion. A pretty-much-inevitable lawsuit taken out against the band by Stephen Stills and Neil Young effectively barred them from performing under their rather awkward, hand-me-down moniker, so the group took on the name of a newspaper one of the guys had picked up while on tour.

What may have seemed like setbacks at the time, however, were for the best, as Blue Mountain Eagle deserved to be remembered as more than just a shadow of the Springfield. By the time of their debut record, the band boasted a strong line of musicians which included, oddly enough, the brothers of both Jim Price (horn-man with Delaney & Bonnie, the Stones, et al) and Bobby Fuller (who fought the law and lost). It seems to me that these cats couldn’t help but be overshadowed, whether through the ghosts of musical history or their own blood kin.

Taken as it is, the band’s 1970 self-titled debut comes on like a breath of fresh mountain air, boasting traces of influence from the old Springfield but a sound all unto its own. The band’s vocal harmonies and tight songwriting mesh beautifully with their heavy Pacific Coast sound. Many of the tunes here feature lengthy instrumental passages showcasing Bob Jones’ scorching electric guitar work, though no one song surpasses the five minute mark. Early Traffic shades the laid-back “Troubles” (that acoustic guitar opener sound familiar to anyone else or am I hearing things?) while a Moby Grape influence is all over “Feel Like A Bandit” and “No Regrets.” The choogling rhythm section, brash vocals and soaring guitar interplay are chock-full of the kind of drive that normally marked a band as future FM favorites. Despite Blue Mountain Eagle’s album selling moderately well, however, it just wasn’t enough to keep a band like this in the game for long. This proved to be their sole recording besides one obscure single, an early take on Stephen Stills’ “Marianne.”

Blue Mountain Eagle is currently out-of-print, but relatively recent reissues on both CD and LP are still easy to track down. There’s a lot to dig into here, and if you’re into west coast psychedelia I’d really recommend checking this group out. After the Eagle’s dissolution, members would go on to join such groups as Medicine Ball and even Arthur Lee’s reconstituted Love.

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“Troubles”

:) Original | 1970 | ATCO | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]
Don’t buy the Fallout bootleg

Rockin’ Horse “Yes It Is”

Jimmy Campbell was perhaps the most talented “unknown” musician to come out of the early 60s Liverpool scene.  One of his earliest bands, the Kirkbys, played Beatles’ influenced beat music and folkrock, releasing a few respectable singles in the mid 60s.  When psychedelia became the trend, Campbell put together the 23rd Turnoff, who released just one single, the excellent “Michaelangelo.”  In the middle of Campbell’s solo career (he released 3 albums) he took some time off and with the help of ex-Merseybeat Billy Kinsley put together Rockin’ Horse.  Most of the tracks on Yes It Is were written by Campbell with Kinsley contributing just 3 tunes.

Yes It is, released in 1970, is a mixture of power pop and Band influenced rural rock.  The Band influenced ditties are the weakest numbers (there’s just three) on the album with the notable exception of a very good rural track titled “Son, Son.”  The remainder of Yes It Is is first class power pop and probably the most powerful music of Campbell’s career.  Tracks such as “Biggest Gossip In Town” and “Oh Carol, I’m So Sad” hark back to Campbell’s early British Invasion roots.   These two gems characterize a unique album that has a  ragged, ramshackle feel – very intriguing.  Others songs like “Delicate Situation”, “Don’t You Ever Think I Cry”, “I’m Trying To Forget You” and the title track recall late period Beatles – think Abbey Road or Let It Be.

So with the exception of two duds, this is an excellent set of early 70s rock n roll by one of rock’s forgotten (albeit eccentric) talents.  Other notables:  the whimsical but tuneful “You’re Spending All My Money” and the rocking “Stayed Out Late Last Night.”  Rev-Ola reissued Yes It Is in 2004 with plenty of worthy extras.

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“Stayed Out Late Last Night”

:D Reissue | 2004 | Revola | get it here ]
:) Original | 1970 | Philips | search ebay ]

Roger Morris “First Album”

Roger Morris’ First Album, released by Emi/Regal Zonophone in 1972, stakes a claim as one of the most American sounding British-folk albums of the seventies. Along with the painfully obscure solo album by Ernie Graham, First Album is one of a handful of rustic singer-songwriter lps of the era that landed unjustly under the radar. Owing much to the back-to-the-roots sound and vibe of The Band, Bobby Charles, and Hungry Chuck, and falling somewhere in between the British folk of the late 60s, the British country-rock of the early 70s, and the pub rock renaissance that would follow several years later, this album features contributions from a host of talented British musicians, including: the popular De Lisle Harper; Glen Campbell of Juicy Lucy and The Misunderstood; Family’s John Weider; Rod Coombes of Strawbs and later, Stealer’s Wheel; Chris Mercer; Terry Stannard of Kokomo; and Bruce Rowlands of the Greaseband. Obviously, the playing on this album is top notch. Furthermore, Morris comes across as a surprisingly accomplished songwriter.

On album opener “Taken for Granted” Morris mourns the loss of past loves to the tune of a folky country-rock number that calls to mind the early work of Help Yourself, as well as Ian Matthews. “Golightly’s Almanac” has a funky Bearsville ragtime feel, complete with a Tuba holding down the low end and a catchy horn part, sounding very similar to The Band’s “Rag Mama Rag” or Hungry Chuck’s “Hats Off America.” Morris’ vocals, which can sometimes be hit or miss, really excel on “Showdown”, one of the standout tracks of the set.  “Northern Star” features some tasty pedal steel and fiddle riffing courtesy of talented multi-instrumentalist John Weider, while “Livin’ On Memories” sounds similar to “Orange Juice Blues” off of The Basement Tapes, with Morris taking a cue from Richard Manuel’s vocal phrasing.

Morris’ account of one man’s experience in the years after the Civil War ,“All My Riches,” is his equivalent to The Band’s epic “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Morris’ tune, while not a total failure, never comes close to reaching the heights of The Band’s legendary song. If there’s any complaint to be made about First Album, it would be that Morris’ influences are worn right on his sleeves. However, this was in fact his first album, so you’ve gotta give the guy a break for letting his influences show a little bit.

Needless to say, First Album is essential listening for fans of the rustic Americana The Band perfected on their first three records, as well as fans of Silver Pistol era Brinsley Schwarz, early McGuiness Flint and Help Yourself, and Matthews Southern Comfort. Simply one of the best obscure British folk/Americana flavored singer-songwriter lps of the era, this one is worth tracking down. Although this, his first lp, was virtually ignored upon its initial release, Roger would later find his audience when he went on to achieve international recognition as the guitarist in The Psychedelic Furs. In 2009 Bella Terra Presents released a tastefully remastered limited edition cd reissue featuring four previously unreleased bonus tracks that were recorded just a year after First Album, as well the original album artwork and a lyric sheet insert. That same year Lilith Records released a version pressed on 180 gram vinyl. Take your pick!

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“Showdown”

:) Original | 1972 | Regal Zonophone | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2009 | Riverman | get it here ]

Billy Nicholls “Would You Believe”

For a man who’s enjoyed a solid five-decade membership of the British rock establishment, Billy Nicholls must be one of its least-known figures. From being engaged as a staff songwriter to Andrew Loog Oldham’s upstart Immediate Records at the tender age of eighteen, to composer of “I Can’t Stop Loving You (Though I Try)”, the royalties from the multiple cover versions of which should assure his pension, to MD of the Who’s and Pete Townshend’s concert activities for the last thirty-odd years, Nicholls has enjoyed a fruitful but surprisingly low-profile relationship with the industry, only recently achieving acclaim as the author of one of psychedelia’s great “lost” gems.

The history of Would You Believe is as engaging a tale as that of Nicholls himself. When Oldham fell out with the Stones in 1967 he redirected all his resources into making the youthful Nicholls a star of the psychedelic pop scene. The results were the single “Would You Believe”, which hit the racks in January 1968, and the like-titled album that followed in short order. The single has been described as “the most over-produced record of the sixties”, and with reason; a modest psych-pop love song, it’s swathed in overblown orchestration including baroque strings, harpsichord, banjo (!), tuba (!!), and demented answer-back vocals from Steve Marriott. A trifle late for the high tide of UK psych, it failed to trouble the charts. Unfazed, Oldham and Nicholls pressed on with the album, Nicholls providing a steady stream of similarly well-crafted ditties and a bevy of top-rated London sessionmen providing the backings, thankfully with somewhat more subtlety than on the prototype cut. The album was ready for pressing just as the revelation of Oldham’s reckless financial overstretch brought about Immediate’s overnight demise, and only about a hundred copies ever made it to wax, most of which somehow surfaced in Sweden. The album became one of the mythical lost albums of the sixties, and original copies now fetch over a grand in GBP.

The record itself was heralded then, and is still often described today, as the English answer to Pet Sounds, with Nicholls’s songwriting being compared to Brian Wilson’s. This is blatant hype, and the writing certainly doesn’t get close, but the album is still the epitome of sixties Britsike, a bunch of fine acid-pop songs rendered with glorious harmonies and superb lysergic arrangements that wouldn’t have disgraced George Martin. Put it this way, if you like Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake or A Teenage Opera or even The Who Sell Out you’ll enjoy this. The sound and the production are sometimes closer to the Stones’ “We Love You” / Satanic Majesties output, unsurprising since it was recorded in the same studio with many of the same sessioneers, including the incomparable Nicky Hopkins on assorted keys, though this is – the title track apart – a far more taut and less self-indulgent collection than the Glimmer Twins’ psychedelic endeavours. Sundry Small Faces hung around, with Marriott contributing huge fuzz-psych guitar to “Girl From New York”. Indeed there’s plenty of sonic variety, from the tight structure and Townshend-style telegraph guitar of “London Social Degree” (go figure the acronym there, folks), through the lush Byrdsy 12-string-driven “(Cut And) Come Again” which garnered a cover from Del Shannon,  to the full-on acid rock treatments of “Being Happy” and “It Brings me Down” with its trippy false ending.

After the failure of Would You Believe Nicholls took a back seat from stardom and began a belated apprenticeship in the music industry, initially working on low-profile projects with Ronnie Lane and old acquaintance Townshend whilst gaining an understanding of all its facets that would stand him in good stead for the next forty years. He released nothing new under his own name until 1974’s Love Songs, a solid soft-rock venture that deserves a review of its own here, and may well get one. Meanwhile Would You Believe is readily available as a CD reissue, or you can get seven of its eleven songs – plus three outtakes from the album’s sessions, which are every bit as good as those eventually used – on Nicholls’s fine career retrospective Forever’s No Time At All.

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“London Social Degree”

:) Original | 1968 | Immediate | search ebay ]
:D Anthology | 2005 | Castle | buy here ]

Ry Cooder “Chicken Skin Music”

Not exactly a “lost” album, though hardly a classic – on first release in 1976 it struggled to position 177 on the Billboard album chart – Chicken Skin Music can now be seen as an early landmark in Ry Cooder’s lifelong odyssey to reinterpret and re-popularise the various roots musics of North and Central America. His first four solo releases had concentrated on the traditional musical styles of the United States’s poor blacks and whites: blues, country, rural folk and gospel. With this collection he widened his sweep to include cultures on the margins of American society, and in doing so produced one of the earliest forays by a “rock” musician, and the first of many by Cooder himself, into what we now call World Music. It’s now widely regarded as his finest work in a distinguished oeuvre.

Leonardo “Flaco” Jiménez is a virtuoso Tejano accordionist, playing a South Texas style that sprang from German polka and Mexican mariachi roots; since coming to wider prominence with Cooder, he’s enjoyed a long and successful career with Doug Sahm’s Texas Tornadoes. Cooder had played with him shortly before and asked him to contribute to his next recording. Jiménez accordingly graced several tracks on the album with his quicksilver button accordion motifs, giving a lively Tex-Mex topping to Cooder’s revolutionary revivals of the Nashville hit “He’ll Have To Go”, refashioned in a glorious baion rhythm with the accordion harmonised by alto sax in pure Mariachi fashion;  of Lieber and Stoller’s evergreen “Stand By Me”, rendered as a sombre spiritual; and of the hoary old Leadbelly chestnut “Goodnight Irene” in which the accordion fronts a traditional string band in a loping waltz. Cooder contributed to the Hispanic flavour with his newly-incorporated bajo sexto and tiple, as well as his usual electric and slide guitars.

The late Charles “Gabby” Pahinui was a master of Hawaiian lapsteel guitar, and Leland “Atta” Isaacs a virtuoso of the indigenous slack-key guitar style in which the instrument is tuned to one of a variety of open chords but is fretted fingerstyle rather than with a slide. Both were longtime heroes of traditional music in their home islands, and the lynchpins of the revival of Hawaiian roots music in the early 1970s. Cooder flew to Honolulu specifically to record with them: the sessions produced a relaxed Hawaiian rendition of Hank Snow’s old hit “Yellow Roses” and an effortless Western Swing instrumental version of Gus Kuhn’s venerable “Chloe”. Taking his cue from his hosts, Cooder added additional slack-key on the former, and on the latter he harmonised Pahinui’s C6 lapsteel with another, plus overlaying some toothsome mandolin work. Cooder would return the favour by playing on several Pahinui/Isaacs albums.

On the remaining tracks Cooder emulates his distinguished collaborators, adding slack-key guitar to a lilting rendition of the ancient spiritual “Always Lift Him Up” and a modest Cajun accordion – under Jiménez’s tutelage – to a sympathetic reading of Leadbelly’s anti-racist polemic “Bourgeois Blues”. He provides continuity with his earlier recordings by including rocking versions of the old minstrel songs “I Got Mine” and “Smack Dab In The Middle” performed in his accustomed style with faultless electric and slide guitar accompaniment. The presence of various buddies from the LA session Mafia – notably Chris Etheridge (bs), Jim Keltner (drs), George Bohannon (horns) – and his long-standing soulful backing vocal trio of Bobby King, Terry Evans and Herman Johnson ensure quality results throughout.

In more recent years Cooder’s campaign on behalf of the roots musics of America has finally achieved substantive commercial penetration with those of Cuba (Buena Vista Social Club) and Latino California (Chávez Ravine), whilst his urge to collaborate with musicians from more distant cultures has seen him work with Hindustani classical veena player H.M. Bhatt (A Meeting By The River) and the late and greatly lamented Mali multi-instrumental maestro Ali Farka Touré (Talking Timbuktu). They’re all excellent works. At 64 he shows no sign of slowing down and it’s impossible to second-guess what his next project will be. Whatever, you know it’ll be worth a listen.

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“Chloe”

:) Original | 1976 | Reprise | search ebay ]
;) MP3 Album | download here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Ron Elliott “The Candlestickmaker”

Now here’s a record that, for all practical purposes, should not be this obscure. In fact, I’m often taken aback at how many Beau Brummels fans aren’t even aware that Ron Elliott, said group’s guitarist and songwriter, ever cut a record on his own. Fortunately, however, Collector’s Choice saw fit to remind the world a few years back and reissued 1970’s The Candlestickmaker, which would prove to be Elliott’s one and only record.

The music here is beautiful. Mining a deep spiritual vein that was only hinted at in the last two Beau Brummels records (on 1968’s Triangle, in particular) Elliott’s vivid word craft and west coast roots are bolstered by the musicianship of such luminaries as Chris Ethridge, Bud Shank, Ry Cooder, and Mark McClure. Elliott’s voice is a marked contrast to Sal Valentino’s tremulous purr, boasting a rich depth that calls to mind that crown prince of Americana, John Stewart. Interestingly enough, this entire record makes me think of the dense, rocky wildernesses of the Pacific northwest. Maybe this has something to do with how the overall sound of the band is rather sparse, while managing to invoke a richly woven sound. Even the orchestral arrangements of Bob Thompson convey an organic and understated character.

When a record only holds five songs, it seems ridiculous to pick highlights, but “All Time Green” and the gently flowing train song “Deep River Runs Blue” really are absolutely beautiful. Mark McClure’s sharp, spidery guitar lines on the former, while Ry Cooder’s distinctive slide work on the latter blends majestically with either Elliott or McClure’s burbling wah guitar. Meanwhile, Bud Shank’s flute marks the mellow jazz folk of “Lazy Day,” and Leon Russell’s subtle brass arrangements drive “To the City, To the Sea.” Each of these little touches make the songs both memorable and distinctive.

The magnum opus here, however, is clearly the fifteen minute long title track. As Elliott suggests in Richie Unterberger’s liner notes, the song “has a healing quality to it.” The lyrics build on what seems to me to be a driving theme throughout The Candlestickmaker: man’s struggle to break through the cold iron landscape of modern capitalist society and rediscover a free, wild America. Arguably a common theme in the early 1970s United States, but rarely one so eloquently presented. The music never once falters: Ethridge’s bass runs warm and melodic, while McClure’s guitar craft truly sparkles as it trails around Elliott’s words. Indeed, McClure proves himself to be one of the greatest revelations, and his grace on his instrument draws me towards exploring his own work further.

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“All Time Green”

:D Reissue | 2003 | Collector’s Choice | buy here ]
:) Original | 1970 | Warner Bros | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Spirit “Spirit of ’76”

With the exception of their first four albums,  Spirit released some of their best music in the mid 70s.  Spirit of ’76 (released in 1975 by MCA) is a brilliant double album that saw Ed Cassidy and Randy California “officially” reunite for the first time since the legendary 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus.  This disc was also the first band release to feature Randy California in complete creative control of the group’s sound.  Prior to the album, California had suffered a nervous breakdown, an event that led him to relocate to Hawaii.  In Hawaii, California lived on the beaches, miserable and destitute until he was taken in by a Christian family.  The guitarist wrote most of the material for Spirit of ’76 while being employed as a gardener in Hawaii.  When California recovered, he phoned Ed Cassidy (the drummer) and when the two met up, the Spirit name was once again resurrected.

Gone are the jazzy, intricate textures of the group’s early albums.  This version of Spirit favored a classic rock sound with plenty of distortion and phased guitars, vocal effects and a dreamy, stoned production – a strong Hendrix influence abounds. As with many double albums, there’s some indulgent moments sprinkled throughout the two discs.  The brief “Tampa Jam/Jack Bond” theme appears 5 times throughout the album.   Also,  some listeners may be surprised by the 5 or 6 covers that appear on the LP.  The original Spirit albums solely relied on original material.  To me, the covers sound excellent.  “Happy” (The Rolling Stones) is reckless and hard rocking, “Hey Joe” is suitably spacey and faithful to Hendrix’s version, “America The Beautiful/The Times They Are A Changing” is inspiring while “Walking The Dog” is a powerful rendition that features lots of great guitar work.

The California originals are truly exceptional.  “Sunrise,” “Veruska,” and “Victim Of Society” rock hard and fierce, featuring plenty of fuzz guitar, distortion and pounding drums.  Some of the album’s tracks such as the trippy “Urantia” are influenced by California’s interest in the religious teachings of the Urantia Book/Urantia Foundation (a religious organization).  Other great moments include acoustic, reflective numbers “What Do I Have?” and “My Road” and a few lighthearted cuts such as “Lady Of The Lakes” and the country-psych gem, “Joker On The Run.”

Not many great classic rock albums were being issued in 1975/1976.  At this point, all the heavy hitters (example – at this juncture The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks and solo Beatles were releasing weak, uninteresting LPs) were peddling slick, corporate dreck to the public.  Taken in this context, Spirit of ’76 is one of the better classic rock releases from 1975 that actually does possess real artistic integrity; a hidden gem from 1975.

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“My Road”

:D Reissue | 2004 | BGO | buy here ]
:) Original | 1975 | Mercury | search ebay ]