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Spirit :: Spirit & :: The Family That Plays Together

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Title - 'Spirit - Hybrid SACD'
Artist - Spirit

For those not in the know, even after all these years, Spirit was an American rock band founded in 1967 and based in Los Angeles, California.

Their most commercially successful single in the United States was "I Got a Line on You", but they were also known for their albums; including their self-titled debut album, The Family That Plays Together, Clear, and Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus.

That aforementioned self-titled debut, Spirit is a classic album from an under-appreciated rock band. Their original line-up only lasted four albums, with one full reunion album where they re-recording their classic hits, for the most part, but man did these guys know how to make music.

Now released as a SACD Hybrid Numbered and Limited Edition CD, Spirit's debut album largely consists of original material written by Jay Ferguson along with guitarist Randy California, Bassist Mark Andes and keyboardist John Locke contributed additional material throughout the recording though.

For my money, California was an inspired guitar player and is still sadly missed to this very day. The album only made it to #31 on the charts, mainly because of all the FM radio airplay at the time, but should have gone a lot, lot higher.

Regardless of only reaching #31, Spirit's 1968 debut album spent more than six months nestled away on the Billboard Album Charts - and deservedly so. Just listening to a couple of the opening songs and it was very obvious that the band could play more styles than almost any other group.

On the album they unveiled a cornucopia of rock, jazz, blues, folk-rock, and even a bit of classical and Indian music. The music was experimental, that's for darn sure, but it was also a porthole into a late '60s, early '70s prog world that would soon become anything but underground.

The lead vocals of Jay Fergusson, let alone all of their backing vocals, flow as easily as their instrumentals which means that Spirit struck a careful balance between disciplined studio work, jazz improvisation, and, of course, driving rock and roll. Aside from all the aforementioned guys, two other stand outs include both Ed Cassidy's precision drumming and the sumptuous string arrangements from Marty Paich.

Also included here on this SACD remaster by Steve Hoffman are four (4) Bonus Tracks in the form of 'Veruska', 'Free Spirit', 'If I Had A Woman' and 'Elijah (Alternate Take)'.

1. 'Fresh-Garbage'
2. 'Uncle Jack'
3. 'Mechanical World'
4. 'Taurus'
5. 'Girl In Your Eye'
6. 'Straight Arrow'
7. 'Topanga Windows'
8. 'Gramophone Man'
9. 'Water Woman'
10. 'The Great Grand Canyon Fire in General'
11. 'Elijah'

Bonus Tracks:
12. 'Veruska'
13. 'Free Spirit'
14. 'If I Had A Woman'
15. 'Elijah (Alternate Take)' 

Title - 'The Family That Plays Together - Hybrid SACD'
Artist - Spirit

Spirit's debut album has now been followed onto SACD by their sophomore album, The Family That Plays Together.

Indeed, The Family That Plays Together was the second of four albums released by the original Spirit line-up back in December 1968. More than its predecessor, Spirit, their self-titled and surreal debut, The Family That Plays Together displays the band's ability to play beyond the genre of psychedelic rock.

Also incorporating the elements of Jazz, rock & roll, and even classical vines too, these all combined to create one of the cleanest, most tasteful syntheses of its day. The album's hit single, and the first song on the album 'I Got a Line on You,' boasts not only strong, still-known-today harmonies, but one of the greatest rock riffs of the period.

Tracks such as 'It Shall Be' and 'Silky Sam' both demonstrate the ease with which the ensemble can incorporate jazz into their idiosyncratic form of rock, while 'Jewish' and 'Aren't You Glad' show the band's competence in exploiting both world music and jam rock.

One of my own personal favorites has always been 'Poor Richard,' but both 'Jewish,' and 'All The Same' also feature double track lead breaks by guitarist Randy California.

Indeed, the album's title was inspired by the stepson-stepfather relationship between guitarist Randy California and percussionist Ed Cassidy and alludes to the slogan "The family that prays together stays together".

In truth, virtually every song is an interesting study in music without barriers, from rock to bluesy jazz to classical motifs. The songs flow in a fascinating manner into one another and produce a smooth, mellow, slightly melancholy feeling.

The background horns and strings are tasty. California's droning minor scale licks are great to dream to without falling asleep. I don't indulge in the old wacky weed anymore, but whenever I listen to this I feel like I've just had a big hit of something really good and it takes time for me to emerge back into the "real" world.

This Numbered, Limited Edition SACD has 5 bonus tracks that, unlike most bonus stuff, are actually worth listening to and fit into the overall feel of the CD. Three are instrumentals: 'Fog' is a short pretty thing, 'Mellow Fellow' and 'Space Chile' give the band a chance to jam a bit. Indeed, both have some nice solo drumming by Cassidy, which, when played live, was obviously always a pleasure for the other musicians.

Finally, some trivia for the album: the album cover was shot at the Sunset Highland Motel, located at 6830 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California, just across from Hollywood High School.

'Jewish' is performed with Hebrew lyrics that are taken from the traditional song "Hine Ma Tov", based on King David's Psalm 133.

1. 'I Got A Line on You'
2. 'It Shall Be'
3. 'Poor Richard'
4. 'Silky Sam'
5. 'Drunkard'
6. 'Darlin' If'
7. 'It's All The Same'
8. 'Jewish'
9. 'Dream Within A Dream'
10. 'She Smiles'
11. 'Aren't You Glad'

Bonus Tracks:
12. 'Fog'
13. 'So Little To Say'
14. 'Mellow Fellow'
15. 'Now Or Anywhere'
16. 'Space Chile'

Oh, for those not in the new technology, a Super Audio CD (SACD) is a read-only optical disc for audio storage, introduced in 1999. It was developed jointly by Sony and Philips Electronics, and intended to be the successor to their Compact disc format. Indeed, this SACD format can offer more channels (ie: surround sound), and a longer playing time than regular CDs.

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