Listening to….Spirit

Always liked this band for their mixture of jazzy inflections and full-on blues/rock guitar -particularly in the period up to 1970. They could be surprisingly delicate at times and though they’re usually thought of as a 60’s band, they were still producing interesting records right up to the end of the 1970’s. After that, I’m afraid that guitarist Randy California’s attempts to channel Jimi Hendrix took over and Spirit became what used to be called a ‘power trio’ with all the attendant problems and lack of light & shade that you tend to get when you go to the archetypal guitar/bass/drums format. I saw Randy California (he’d temporarily dropped the ‘Spirit’ name at this stage) when he & his band supported the Ian Gillan Band on a UK tour in the early 80’s. For half an hour they just transported the Manchester Apollo to another time and place with an extraordinary blast of psychedelic blues that in no way seemed like a relic of times past. This recording is from 1974 – an FM broadcast from a club in Denver called Ebbet’s Field and finds the band dealing with what sounds like a bunch of hecklers straight out of Cheech & Chong (think Pedro & Man) and playing a mixture of old stuff, covers and previews of some of the ‘Spirit of ’76’ songs that wouldn’t see the light of day for another couple of years. The segue (excuse lack of acute accent) of ‘America the Beautiful’ into Dylan’s ‘The Times they are a-changin” is still an inspired touch and this whole broadcast has more high points than I’d expected…..

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