Please Note: ALL 3 of the Original Spirit ODE releases WERE issued on CASSETTE Tape with the ODE Cassette prefix number of Z16-. I HAD them and can attest to the fact they DID exist (but were ONLY issued in very small quantites... in late 1969, when Columbia/Epic (who distributed ODE) issued their first Cassette Tape releases)
Hands down, Spirit is probably the most underrated, if not misunderstood bands to come out of the Psychedelic Era, thought they were one of the first, right there, to take you on an ethereal adventure, foreshadowing what was to come by from the likes of Pink Floyd and later, by Spacemen 3. The album is timeless, as fresh today as when it was laid down. This was an album to be reckoned with during those mythical times, standing toe to toe with Country Joe's Electric Music For The Mind & Body, and definitely can not be avoided today. There were certainly many groups who rose out of the Hippie, Psychedelic and Counter Culture movements of the 1960’s, yet there were but a handful of bands who were part of the that movement, groups who’s music served as the core, essence and heartbeat of the times. Most of these groups where overlooked by the more popular and more radio friendly, but names like Quicksilver Messenger Service, Moby Grape, Big Brother & The Holding Company and of course Spirit, will be forever linked with these times, because their music lived within those short moments, and will continue to haunt the heads of those of us who were part of those smokey mind-bending exotic nights.
If you talk to the members of Spiritualized, Mojave 3 and others of the Slow Drive and Neo-Psychedelic genre of today, Spirit will be one of the bands sighted as being the most influential to them. These folks lived in the underground, heard only on very late night radio, mixing jazz and rock, stretching their songs out to create musical statements while experimenting with their sounds and instruments. Led Zeppelin nodded to Spirit by playing shows which featured extended medleys of Spirit’s songs, and even went so far as to take Spirit on the road with them. While Jimmy Page’s use of the theremin is directly attributed to hearing Randy California’s use of one that was connected to his guitar amplifier. And though it is little known by fans, it is widely known in the musical circles that Jimmy Page lifted the descending guitar on his song "Stairway To Heaven," from the Spirit song "Taurus."
Then there's the track "Mechanical World," which has been ranked at number 34 of the best psychedelic songs of all time, a five minutes opus where California delivers astonishing guitar solos, creating dramatic effects with his heavy sustained guitar solos. Add to that, the haunting vocals of Jay Ferguson, sounding as if his vocals have been channeled from the great beyond, where this song in and of itself opened a door that would never close. All of the songs on this album are nothing short of masterful, especially when the eleven minute "Elija" filters in, co-laced with jazz and rock, bringing to mind what The Butterfield Blues Band did on their song "East-West," and the early direction King Crimson would take ... but to go on, mentioning other atmospheric numbers such as "Topanga Windows" or "The Great Canyon Fire In General" would be fruitless, when what you need to do his hear this hazed out masterpiece for yourself.
The music is experimental, ranging from rock to jazz, and all wrapped in the warm blanket of psychedelia. The vocals flow as easily as the instrumentation, taking you out and bringing you back both effortlessly and comfortably. For the time, the record was expertly mixed and produced, there were no corners cut, what you want to hear is what you hear, there is no straining, no adjustments ... just kick back and let it all wash over you as smoothly as a breath of fresh air. I've been humming "Gramophone Man" for nearly my entire life. And I will never forget the ad Ed Cassidy ran in the back of Rolling Stone Magazine forever ... “Have drums will travel, contact ...” Then I remember picking up Rolling Stone one month and the ad wasn’t there, it seemed like a page in history had been turned. This is an essential album if ever there was one, and it would prove impossible to trace any musical timeline without the inclusion of Spirit, and in particular, this body of work.
*** The Fun Facts: Guitarist Randy California played with a then unknown Jimi Hendrix while in New York, with a band known as Jimmy James and the Blue Flames.
The band was originally known as Spirits of Rebellious, after the book by Kahlil Gibran, but was quickly shortened.
Born in 1923, drummer Ed Cassidy he was about twenty years older than the rest of the group. His earlier career was primarily in jazz and included stints with Cannonball Adderley, Gerry Mulligan, Roland Kirk, Thelonious Monk, and Lee Konitz. He was a founding member of Rising Sons with Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder.
As of June 2016, the court case revolving around whether or not Led Zeppelin lifted the opening chords of "Stairway To Heaven" from Spirit has been put to rest, with Zeppelin being exonerated on all counts. Sadly I wasn't part of the case, because had I been, I would have certainly said that I was there then, that I knew Zeppelin's music, that I knew Spirit's music, and that while the two played together, it was Zeppelin's sound that changed.