Music

Spirit: The Best of Spirit [re-release with bonus tracks]

Adam Williams

Spirit

The Best of Spirit [re-release with bonus tracks]

Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2003-04-15
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

During its brief career, the band Spirit represented a perplexing amalgam of musical tastes. Part jazz, part rock, part god knows what, Spirit was hailed by some as America's version of Pink Floyd. Unfortunately for the group, nothing close to Dark Side of the Moon can be found on its resume. In actuality, Spirit's sound defies definitive classification. At times Spirit's work is reminiscent of the expertly crafted explorations of King Crimson and the Moody Blues. At others, a pop rock sensibility dominates, much in the vein of Three Dog Night. Depending on the listener's tastes, Spirit can be considered brilliant, or merely inconsequential.

Led by stepfather and son Ed Cassidy and Randy California, Spirit harnessed the musical pedigrees of its members and branched out into numerous directions. The re-release of 1973's Best of album highlights the diversity of the band's music by coupling the 11 original tracks with five bonus entries. Three decades after its initial pressing, the album demonstrates the complexity of Spirit's sound while providing no further clarity as to the band's position in rock music's pantheon of greatness.

At the very least, the sixteen songs illustrate Spirit's ability to incorporate a wide spectrum of influence into its art. From the jazz infused "Fresh Garbage" and "Dark Eyed Woman" to the Cream-like "I'm Truckin'", virtually every track is identifiable with more prevalent band's offerings from the late '60s, early '70s period. Evidence of Spirit's skill to genre bounce? Or simply its inability to establish a signature sound? Both queries are open to debate.

The most striking element of Best of is the frustrating broadness of the songs. Compare the trippy Creation-esque psychedelia of "Uncle Jack" to the funkiness of "Mr. Skin". Then listen to the James Taylor flavored intro for "Nothin' to Hide" and gauge it against the stirring somberness of "Taurus".

Not confounded enough? Focus on "Mechanical World" and attempt to decipher which it is closer to, Blood Sweat and Tears' "Spinning Wheel" or Jim Morrison searching for a whiskey bar. Then concentrate on the soaring grandiosity of "1984" and try not to evoke images of Procol Harem.

Although Spirit is extraordinarily difficult to label, that fact should not take away from the group's finest efforts. "Nature's Way" is a beautiful mix of acoustic and electric guitars, while "I've Got a Line on You" is a genuine FM radio staple. The latter was Spirit's biggest commercial hit, and again hints at Spirit's contemporaries; think Argent and BTO.

Ironically, the varied nature of Spirit's music will garner equally varied opinions as to the band's legacy. Fans will appreciate the chance to revisit Best of and assuredly fawn over the additional tracks, reveling in California's underrated talents as a guitarist. Skeptics will greet the re-release with a shrug, believing Spirit to be nothing more than a group of directionless, albeit creative, doodlers.

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between both sentiments. Obviously gifted as a musical unit, Spirit is certainly representative of the experimental time it existed in, as the group's penchant for sonic ambiguity can be perceived as both blessing and curse. Comparing the band to Pink Floyd may be overly optimistic, but the Best of album does give an accurate portrait of the group's eclectic stylings.

Never considered one of rock music's elite, Spirit is more of an acquired taste. For those with a discerning musical palate however, Best of may be surprisingly satisfying.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Chary’s 15 minutes may be a little too pop to be post-punk, a little too post-punk to be pop, but the satisfaction gained therein cuts deeper and more succinctly than many of 2017’s full-lengths.

The word “chary" may be a substitute for “cautious", but Courtship Ritual's new EP of the same title is anything but. The one-two sass attack of “Down Low" and “Blunt as Naive" makes this much clear from the start. This pair of songs serves as the perfect, attention-getting opener for Chary's nuanced five-song ride.

Keep reading... Show less
7

With The Perfect Nothing Catalog, composer Conrad Winslow explores attention and arrangement with assistance from the Cadillac Moon Ensemble and Aaron Roche.

The album cover, in a way, tells you everything. It's simple: a cardboard box with two pieces of tape: one from the box's original packing, the other haphazardly slapped on. They imply two separate states–ordering and reordering, original state and redefined context. The Perfect Nothing Catalog, the debut recording from Alaska-born, Brooklyn-based composer Conrad Winslow, invokes this very idea of objects and ideas placed, shuffled, and replaced, provoking questions of how arrangement shapes meaning.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image