It Shall Be: Ode & Epic Recordings 1968-1972
Import, Remastered, Box Set
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Audio CD, Box set, Import, March 16, 2018
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2018 five CD clamshell box set by the legendary American band Spirit. Formed in Los Angeles in 1967 from the remnants of The Red Roosters, Spirit was one of the great bands to emerge on the US West Coast in the psychedelic era. Featuring the talents of 16 year old guitarist Randy California (who had played guitar with Jimi Hendrix in New York the previous year), his step-father drummer Ed Cassidy along with Jay Ferguson (vocals, percussion), John Locke (keyboards) and Mark Andes (bass), Spirit signed to producer Lou Adler's newly established Ode Records label in late 1967. Their self-titled debut album appeared some months later and demonstrated the breadth and diversity of the band covering psychedelic, rock and jazz influences and featuring such legendary cuts as 'Fresh Garbage', 'Uncle Jack', 'Topanga Windows', 'Mechanical World', 'Elijah' and 'Taurus' (the subject of a court case decades later when it was alleged Led Zeppelin had taken the musical structure of the piece as a basis for 'Stairway to Heaven'). The band's follow-up album, The Family That Plays Together, spawned the hit single 'I've Got a Line on You' and was one of their finest works thanks to material such as It 'Shall Be', 'Aren't You Glad', 'Silky Sam' and 'Darlin' If'. Leading up to the recording of 1969's Clear album Spirit recorded the soundtrack to Jaques Demy's film The Model Shop. In 1970 Spirit recorded the classic The Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus for Epic Records, from which the single 'Animal Zoo' was taken and included excellent material such as 'Nature's Way', 'Mr Skin', 'Space Child', 'Morning Will Come' and 'Soldier'. Sadly, the original line- up of Spirit fell apart some months later leaving just Ed Cassidy and John Locke to assemble a new incarnation of Spirit for 1972's Feedback, which saw brothers Al and John Staehely join the band on bass and drums respectively. Spirit went on hiatus soon after, although California and Cassidy would continue to tour and record as Spirit on and off until California's untimely death in 1997.
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I was wondering when someone would get around to gathering these albums and putting them together with remastered sound along with some extra tracks and a nice booklet--and it's finally happened. A rock band with both psychedelic and jazz overtones, Spirit released some very fine singles and albums. Besides the five original albums there's singles, outtakes, alternates, and the complete mono version of the first album which has never been issued. Also here is the soundtrack album "The Model Shop".
At this late date there's probably some fans of late '60s/early'70s rock that aren't all that familiar with Spirit and their eclectic sound. Coming out of the L.A./West Coast scene, the band--Ed Cassidy-drums, Jay Ferguson-vocals, Mark Andes-bass, Randy California (real name Wolfe)-guitars, and John Locke-keyboards--released some great singles and some very good, interesting albums. Their sound encompassed rock, jazz, blues, and folk, sometimes mixed with a bit of period psychedelia. Their wide ranging sound was unique among other period L.A. bands but it also kept them from a broader fan base because they never concentrated on one sound. But the group's arranging and playing skills set them apart and the best of their albums are well worth hearing even now.
Disc 1 contains the stereo versions of the first album, "Spirit" (with great songs like "Fresh Garbage"), along with the second album, "The Family That Plays Together" (with the great "I Got A Line On You"), both from '68.
Disc 2 has the soundtrack to "The Model Shop" (interesting--decide for yourself), also from '68, and the album "Clear" (slightly uneven but still with some good songs like "Dark Eyed Woman"), from '69.
Disc 3 features "The Twelve Dreams Of Doctor Sardonicus" (with the still classic "Nature's Way"), from '70, plus the track "Rougher Road" from the "...Sardonicus" sessions, and the album "Feedback" (with a different sound than from previous albums because of personnel changes which is a low point to my ears) from '72.
Disc 4 has the mono mix of the first album which for fans of mono (like me) is a nice listening experience, different from the originally issued stereo version. There's four unissued tracks from the "Spirit" album sessions (a nice addition), plus four tracks from the "Time Circle" compilation mixes from '91.
Disc 5 has eight more tracks from "Time Circle", plus five tracks from "The Family That..." sessions (also nice to have). Both sides of the singles from the '70s are here as well--"1984"/"Sweet Stella Baby", and the mono single "Animal Zoo"/"Red Light Roll On". The track "Morning Will Come" from '70 is also here, which pretty much wraps up Spirit's music.
While only having a relatively limited success nevertheless with some great singles (taken from the albums, like "I Got A Line On You") Spirit never really achieved mass acceptance. During the late '60s/early '70s they were pretty much a cult band, but one that made some (still) great sounding music. Spirit is one of those bands, that when someone asks me about what music was like "back then", I tell them to listen to the first four albums and you'll get some idea of the free thinking approach bands had in those days. And while not every album included here is Spirit at their best, the best albums still sound good today.
Each disc slips into a cardboard sleeve, the 18 page booklet has a good essay on the band and their music, archive interviews with Cassidy and California, a complete track list, plus period photos and repros of album covers. Everything fits inside a clamshell box.