Spirit – The Best of Spirit (1973): On Second Thought

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Formed in 1967, Spirit not only fit right into the widely diversified musical climate of the day but added its own unique slant to the party.

Made up of vocalist Jay Ferguson, guitarist Randy California, bassist Mark Andes, keyboardist John Locke and drummer Ed Cassidy, the Los Angeles band flashed a wealth of talent. Stunning chops brimming with power and progress directed Spirit’s brave and bold songs scripted of interesting and intelligent lyrics.

Plucking tracks from the band’s first four albums, The Best of Spirit was released when the group was still a going concern. Personnel changes had gone down, but this album features the work of the original members. Although the revamped band continued to produce worthy wares, The Best of Spirit definitely captures Spirit at the apex of its creativity.

Due to its experimental pursuits, genre-defying bent, and socially and political prose, Spirit aimed to entice the counterculture set rather than AM radio listeners. However, the band did garner a Top 25 hit single early in 1969 with “I Got A Line On You,” a quick and catchy slice of hard rocking fizz that duly appears on the album.

Sounding like the Who on psychedelics, “Uncle Jack” roars and radiates with glassy-eyed harmonies, dizzy tempos and robust instrumentation, and then there’s the moody and murky “Fresh Garbage” that weds jazz figures to enigmatic art rock provisions.

Dramatic, menacing, and obviously influenced by George Orwell’s classic novel, “1984” shares its scary thoughts on Big Brother to a loud and driving beat, where the ecology-minded “Nature’s Way” crackles and sparkles to a crisp folk-oriented finish. Drummer Ed Cassidy, who was Randy California’s stepfather — and clearly the eldest rock musician on the scene, being in his 40s at the time — is paid homage on “Mr. Skin,” which refers to his bald head.

Fired by waves of whipping rhythms, a velocity of penetrating licks, and stacks of skyscraper choruses, the strapping song emphasizes Spirit’s forte for singing and playing heavy rock with color and credence. The romping and rolling “Animal Zoo” and the zippy pulse of “Morning Will Come” further bares the band’s prowess for unleashing muscular and intoxicating jams.

Spirit may have been risk takers, but there’s no denying the band had an ear for melody. Each song on The Best of Spirit (Epic Records) is instantly infectious, as the group skillfully balanced edge with just enough approachability to hold the audience’s attention. Not the most complete collection available, but a well-chosen recap, The Best of Spirit imparts the kind of music and commentary that lives on.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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