Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Spirit - The Family That Plays Together (1968)

Ας κλείσω το κεφάλαιο των Spirit στο blog με το δεύτερο Lp τους που κυκλοφόρησε το Νοέμβριο του 68. Στο Lp περιέχεται μάλλον η μεγαλύτερη επιτυχία τους σε single, το I Got a Line on You ωστόσο υπάρχουν άλλα κομμάτια το ήρεμο ύφος των οποίων μου αρέσουν ακόμα περισσότερο. Το Lp είναι ποιοτικότατο ενώ μεγάλο ενδιαφέρον νομίζω βρίσκεται επίσης στα bonus tracks που μπήκαν στην επανέκδοση. Εστιάζομαι κατά σειρά στα It Shall Be, Silky Sam, The Drunkard, She Smiles, Aren't You Glad, Fog, και Mellow Fellow.
Εντυπωσιάστηκα στα bonus tracks όταν άκουσα το Mellow Fellow (ο συχωρεμένος εδώ και 11 χρόνια Randy California ή Randy Craig Wolfe, παίζει πραγματικά πανέμορφη κιθάρα) ενώ μου άρεσε πάρα πολύ το ύφος στο Fog. Εκτιμώ ότι οι Spirit δεν ήταν ένα γκρουπ της σειράς. Για μένα ξεχωρίζουν διότι είχαν προσωπικό ήχο, γεγονός που εκτιμώ ιδιαίτερα για τα γκρουπ της εποχής.
Όσον αφορά τον Randy California η καριέρα του μάλλον θα ήταν διαφορετική αφού ο Jimi Hendrix τον ήθελε στους Jimi Hendrix Experience.. Ωστόσο η άρνηση των γονέων του να μεταβεί στην Αγγλία τον ώθησαν στην δημιουργία των Spirit μαζί με τον Ed Cassidy. Κάθε εμπόδιο σε καλό λένε…και μάλλον ήταν έτσι. Θα έλεγα ότι χρωστάμε πολλά στους γονείς του.
Δυστυχώς είχε τραγικό θάνατο. Πνίγηκε ο ίδιος στην προσπάθεια που έκανε να σώσει τον 12χρονο γιό του από πνιγμό στην Χαβάι.

MARK ANDES bs, vcls A
ED CASSIDY drms, perc A B
JAY FERGUSON keyb'ds, vcls A
JOHN LOCKE keyb'ds A B
AL STAEHELY bs, vcls B

ALBUMS:(up to 1973)
1(A) SPIRIT (Ode Zl 2 44003/Mono 44004/Stereo) 1968 31
2(A) THE FAMILY THAT PLAYS TOGETHER (Ode Zl 2 44014) Dec. 1968 22
3(A) CLEAR SPIRIT (Ode ZI 2 44016) 1969 55
4(A) TWELVE DREAMS OF DR SARDONICUS (Epic 30267) 1970 63
5(B) FEEDBACK (Epic KE 31175) 1972 63
7(A/B) THE BEST OF SPIRIT (Epic KE 32271) 1973 120
8(A) SPIRIT (dbl) (Epic KEG 31457) 1973 -
NB: (1)-(3) reissued circa 1970 on Epic. (2) reissued 1972 (Epic KE 31461). (8) is a reissue of (1) and (3). In the U.K. Nos (1)-(3) were issued by CBS. (1) - (4) reissued on CD by Sony in 1996 with bonus tracks. (2) reissued on Edsel (XED 162). (3) also reissued on Edsel (ED 268) 1988. Most of the remaining albums are also now available on CD. (6) solo album by Randy California.

45s:(up to 1973)
1 Mechanical World/Uncle Jack (Ode 257-108) 1968 123
2 I Got A Line On You/She Smiled (Ode 257-115) 1968 25
3 Dark Eyed Woman/New Dope In Town (Ode 257-122) 1969 118
4 1984/Sweet Stella Baby (Ode 257-128) 1970 69
5 Animal Zoo/Red Light Roll On (Epic 5-10648) 1970 97
6 Nature's Way/Mr. Skin (Epic 5-10701) 1970 111
7 Mr. Skin/Soldier (Epic 5-10701) 1970 92

Hearing Spirit's records now, it seems surprising that they did not achieve greater success back in the late sixties. Certainly they have stood the test of time well.
Evolving out of an earlier Los Angeles band, The Red Roosters, Spirit were formed in 1967. They were one of the first bands to successfully combine rock and jazz, undoubtedly due to the jazz roots of their personnel. Drummer Ed Cassidy had been a modern jazz player in the fifties with the likes of Gerry Mulligan, Cannonball Adderley and Thelonious Monk. He married in the late sixties a lady whose son was Randy California. Randy was playing in a high school band, The Red Roosters. Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes also played in this band, Eventually Ed Cassidy joined his stepson and the other ex-Red Roosters, with the addition of jazz-influenced keyboard player, John Locke, to form Spirits Rebellious in early 1967, the name taken from the book of the same name by Kahlil Gibran.
Between the time of The Red Roosters and the formation of Spirit, Randy California spent some time in New York as part of a band called The Blue Flames, whose leader was Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix of course, was to be spotted by ex-Animal Chas Chandler, who bought him to Britain and, as his manager, produced a string of hits. Meanwhile, Mark Andes had been playing in an earlier version of what would later become another fairly successful L.A. rock/blues group, Canned Heat.
Spirit got a residency at The Ash Grove Club in Los Angeles, during 1967, where Cassidy had earlier played with The Rising Sons. The same year they recorded a demo tape comprised of such tunes as Elijah, Hey Joe, Darlin' and others which they sent, without much success, to several record companies.
They were on the point of folding when Lou Adler signed them to his Ode Records label, which had a distribution deal with CBS. Their debut album contained a number of fine tracks which displayed their flair for combining jazz and rock. Fresh Garbage, Elijah and Gramophone Man consisted of vocal numbers sandwiching piano pieces, while their first single, Mechanical World issued in 1968, was particularly interesting, but too uncommercial to become a hit.
Their second LP The Family That Plays Together was released in December 1968 and did even better than their debut. One track, the more commercial rock number I Got A Line On You was issued as a single with She Smiled on the flip, and became a smash hit in the States. This marked a surge in their popularity, which progressed with each album they made. The album was also notable for three particularly melodic Jay Ferguson compositions, Silky Sam, The Drunkard and Dream Within A Dream.
Prior to the issue of their third LP Clear, they had worked on an abortive movie project "The Model Shoppe" with French film producer, Jacques Demy. Although the soundtrack album never materialised two tracks from the film, Ice and Clear were released on their third LP. A single Dark Eyed Woman was released from this album, but did not chart.
A further single 1984 was issued prior to their next album. This initially attracted considerable airplay but, shortly after its release, radio stations were urged not to play it as it was 'too politically orientated'. Consequently, it did not chart and has become one of their most collectable items, although the 'A' side is also featured on their Greatest Hits album.
Also around this time there was considerable friction between California and Ferguson about the direction of the band. The former favoured a loose improvisational format; the latter, a more commercial rock approach. Lou Adler also switched the Ode label from Columbia to A&M and, as part of the deal, gave Spirit to Epic. Despite all this, their fourth LP, The Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus, is generally considered their finest work. Far more commercial than their earlier albums, it contains a number of finely-structured rock songs like Nature's Way, Animal Zoo, Mr. Skin and Morning Will Come. Side two also contained some less structured but more ambitious numbers, such as When I Touch You and Life Has Just Begun, together with a jazzy instrumental, Space Child. However, the band split after the recording of this album, which was subsequently pieced together by producer David Briggs. The album did not sell at all at first, but gradually became more successful and went gold four years after the band had split. Ironically, had it sold better, the band might have stayed together longer.
A series of singles issued from the album - Animal Zoo, Nature's Way and Mr. Skin - all flopped. The first of these singles has become extremely collectable, as few were pressed and the flip has never appeared on any of their albums.
Andes and Ferguson went on to form Jo Jo Gunne, while California convalesced after a riding accident. The remaining members, Locke and Cassidy, continued, adding twins Al and Christian Staehely (The Staehely Brothers). The line-up produced the disappointing Feedback after which the two original members left. The band was later revived more successfully by Cassidy and California in 1974, and has subsequently produced a string of successful albums, which are less relevant to this book.
Returning to 1972, for a while though - California back in L.A., having recovered from his riding accident, formed a new band and released a Hendrix style album called Kapt. Kopter and The (Fabulous) Twirlybirds. This group included Larry Knight (bs) and Tim McGovern (drms) when they played live. However, Noel Redding played on the album under the pseudonym Clit McTorius and Ed Cassidy also played on a couple of cuts. This outfit also recorded an extremely rare non-LP 45, Walkin' The Dog/Live For The Day (Epic 5-10927), which was only issued as a promo for radio stations. They also recorded the Potatoland album, which was not released until 1981 by Rhino (RNSP 303). Epic refused to release it at the time.
Tragically Randy California drowned on January 2nd 1997 after he and his son were hit by a freak wave in Hawaii.
The band's music has aged well and is well worth listening to. Ed Cassidy who is now in his mid-seventies still plays Merrell Fankhauser in the Fankhauser-Cassidy band. They have a new album Further On Up the Road (Akarma AK 099/2) (Dble LP & Dble CD) 2001.
(Vernon Joynson/Randy Sparks)

"I Got a Line on You"
"It Shall Be"
"Poor Richard"
"Silky Sam"
"Darlin' If"
"It's All the Same"
"Dream within a Dream"
"She Smiles"
"Aren't You Glad"
"So Little To Say"

1 comment:

24HourDejaVu said...

Tremendous band!!
They rank in the top 5 of all bands for me
visit me at 24hr posted Tent Of Miracles by Spirit
Spirit should Be in the rock Hall of Fame