Monday, 16 April 2018

"Shook, Shimmy And Shake: The Complete Recordings 1966-1970" by WYNDER K. FROG (February 2018 RPM Records 3CD Box Set of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Dancing Frog..."

Including the album "Into The Fire" from 1970

Lincolnshire lad Michael Weaver hailed out of Bolton and his weirdly named band WYNDER K. FROG (with one 'g' mind you and never two) had a couple of albums of instrumental keyboard-driven groovers in 1966 and 1968 on Island Records in the UK and one belatedly on United Artists in the USA in 1970.

They also managed some straggler tracks in movies, stand-alone singles beloved of Mods and Club-Going Dancers alike and an ultra-rare unreleased second album (recorded 1968) that makes its way into the public domain for the first time ever via a Dub from a surviving-acetate (tracks 9 to 17 on Disc 3). For fans of his groovy 60ts Hammond-Organ sound (the lad is still with us and provides new liner notes for this release) - "Shook, Shimmy And Shake..." from RPM Records has gathered together the whole caboodle and presented the shimmering lot to us in this rather spiffing little 3CD Box Set.

At times sounding not unlike a glorified Booker T & The MG's covers band from South Ealing giving it some sugar-shaker on a Woolworths LP sporting a scantily-clad nubile to pull in male shoppers on a Saturday afternoon - it’s not all undiluted hippy-hippy-shake genius for sure. But the good stuff is great fun, Island Records 7" singles fans will love those catalogue-hole-filling tracks (great talcum powder shuffling B-sides like "Zooming", "Dancing Frog", "Shook, Shimmy And Shake" and "Baldy") and you have to say that the overall presentation here is top notch (as it is with all RPM stuff). And who doesn't love a cool Hammond Organ groove-tastic neck-jerker. Out of the fire and into the frying pan – time to Boogaloo folks and do the Harpsichord Shuffle...

UK released Friday, 23 February 2018 (2 March 2018 in the USA) - "Shook, Shimmy And Shake: The Complete Recordings 1966-1970" by WYNDER K. FROG on RPM Records RPMBX 540 (Barcode 5013929554009) is a 3CD Box Set containing three period albums (1966, 1968 and 1970) along with other Bonus Material and plays out as follows: 

Disc 1 "Sunshine Super Frog" (46:50 minutes):
1. Sunshine Superman [Side 1]
2. I Feel So Bad
3. Oh Mary
4. Blues For A Frog
5. Somebody Help Me
6. Mercy
7. Hold On, I'm Coming [Side 2]
8. Shook, Shimmy And Shake
9. Incense
10. Walking Into New Orleans
11. (Don't Fight It) Feel It
12. Dancin' Pain (alias Dancing Frog)
Tracks 1 to 12 are the debut album "Sunshine Super Frog" - released December 1966 in the UK on Island Records ILP-944 in Mono only (no US release).

13. Turn On Your Lovelight
14. Zooming - Tracks 13 and 14 are the A&B-sides of a non-album UK 7" single released July 1966 on Island WI-280
15. Green Door (Mono Version) - non-album A-side of a UK 7" single released February 1967 on Island WIP 6006 (Track 12 on the LP is the B-side)
16. I'm A Man - non-album A-side of a UK 7" single released June 1967 on Island WIP 6014 (Track 8 on the LP is the B-side)
17. Henry's Panter - originally released 1966 on a UK 7" Flexidisc on Lyntone LYN 1109 (credited to Wynder K. Frogg (And Henry) and has an Ed Stewart ‘Dog’s Life’ spoken intro)
18. Wade In The Water (BBC Radio Version) - originally broadcast 15 October 1966 on the BBC's "Saturday Club"

Disc 2 "Out Of The Frying Pan" (56:19 minutes):
1. Jumping Jack Flash [Side 1]
2. Gasoline Alley
3. Willie And The Hand Jive
4. Harpsichord Shuffle
5. Baby I Love You
6. This Here
7. Green Door [Side 2]
8. Bad Eye
9. Alexander's Ragtime Band
10. Tequila
11. The House That Jack Built
12. Hymn To Freedom
13. Hi-Heel Sneakers
Tracks 1 to 13 are their second studio album "Out Of The Frying Pan" - released December 1968 in the UK on Island Records ILPS 9082 in Stereo and April 1969 in the USA on United Artists UAS 6695.

14. Jumping Jack Flash (Mono Version)
15. Baldy - Tracks 14 and 15 are the non-album A&B-sides of an August 1968 UK 7" single released on Island WIP-6044
16. Dancing Frog (Stereo Version)
17. Blues For A Frog (Stereo Version) - Tracks 16 and 17 remixed from Mono into Stereo and released February 1969 on the UK Soundtrack LP to "The Touchables" on Stateside SSL 10271 (Stereo only)

Disc 3 "Into The Fire" (70:37 minutes):
1. Into The Fire [Side 1]
2. Howl In Wolf's Clothing
3. F In Blues
4. Cool Hand Stanley
5. Eddie's Tune
6. Why Am I Treated So Bad
7. Hot Salt Beef
8. Warm And Tender Love  
Tracks 1 to 8 are their third and last album "Into The Fire" - released April 1970 in the USA on United Artists UAS 6740 in Stereo. The album was to be called "Accrington Mushroom" and due for UK release November 1969 on Island ILP 9109 but was withdrawn (no test pressings have ever surfaced).

9. Happy Jack
10. We Can Work It Out
11. Funky Broadway
12. Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever
13. A Memory Of Bruce
14. The House That Jack Built
15. I'll Go Crazy
16. Tequila
17. Baldy
Tracks 9 to 17 are PREVIOUSLY UNISSUED - an unreleased second album recorded in 1968 and dubbed here from surviving acetate

To my knowledge and outside of a long deleted CD reissue by Edsel in 1995 for the second LP "Out Of The Frying Pan" – none of these Frog albums have made it officially onto CD before - so well done to compiler and true son of the Modfather JOHN REED for his bang up job at compiling what fans have been after for decades. Each singular card sleeve repro’s the three rare album covers and a tasty attention to detail had CD1 with the Red and White colour scheme of the Island Records label from late 1966, CD2 is the Pink variant of 1968 and the third has the United Artists Orange and Pink colours of 1970.

The 28-page chunky booklet has wonderfully detailed liner notes courtesy of NICK ROSSI that include valuable and first hand accounts by MICK WEAVER in new interviews. These are complimented by the usual plethora of trade adverts, that rare promo-photo of the six-piece band where Island misspell the name with two ‘g’s’ instead of one, repros of the those fab UK Island 7” singles, a Belgium single on Philips and a cool French EP sleeve where Weaver is flogged as a teen-idol singing Donavan’s "Sunshine Superman" alongside three other hits from the first album. The band also featured on two desirable Island Records label sampler LPs – "Green Door" on the 1967 compilation "British Blue-Eyed Soul" (ILPS 9066) and "Gasoline Alley" on the wonderful "You Can All Join In" from 1969 (IWPS 2 was yours for only 14/6d) – so they're both pictured. Traffic fans will love the Jimi Hendrix London Tour Date Poster on Page 23 where on the 18th of February 1969 you can see The Soft Machine and 'Mason, Capaldi, Wood & Frog' supporting the great man at The Royal Albert Hall (2/6d for a ticket!). This ill-fated four-piece moniker for Traffic (featuring Mick Weaver as the Frog and once muted to called Wooden Frog) didn't last of course past this public appearance. There are also photos of "The Touchables" soundtrack on Stateside and a US 45 promo on UA of WKF doing the Stones hit "Jumpin' Jack Flash". It is indeed a gas, gas, gas...

The Audio comes courtesy of SIMON MURPHY over at Another Planet and these notoriously crude recordings are full of beans even if the first album's Mono has all the subtlety of an overworked transistor radio. They're not audiophile but they are punchy and absolutely full of that 60ts shoutin' 'n' roarin' party-hard shing-a-ling. Being an Acetate I’m amazed at how good that unreleased LP sounds and the Stereo of the second LP is wonderful too. For sure his one-dimensional instrumental-after-instrumental set up on the LPs may grate some after a while – but I'm honestly loving how damn good much of this stuff is - music I honestly haven't listened to in decades and now feel I've been missing out on something fab and period-groovy.

Apart from Syd Dale's "Blues For A Frog" (itself a derivative of a James Brown groove), the Mick Weaver/Jimmy Miller penned "Dancing Frog" and the Fallon/Miller track "Incense" - the other nine are R&B covers and contemporary pop hits of the day - Donovan's "Sunshine Superman", a variant of Jackie Edward's "Somebody Help Me" (a hit for The Spencer Davis Group with Stevie Winwood), Owen Gray's fantastic "Shook, Shimmy And Shake", Fats Domino's "Walking To New Orleans", the Sam & Dave hit "Hold On, I'm Coming" penned by Isaac Hayes and David Porter and so on. The six Bonus Tracks on Disc 1 are actually that – the first four being killer Mod sides – Mono and Marvellous as they mumble through Jim Lowe’s "Green Door" (a number 1 hit for Shakin’ Stevens in 1981) – while the BBC’s Ed Stewart tries to sound cool as he sells some kind of dog product on "Henry's Panter".

Album number two does the same - the Stones "Jumpin' Jack Flash", Johnny Otis' "Willie And The Hand Jive", Tommy Tucker's "Hi-Heel Sneakers", The Champs "Tequila" and so on. But there are very cool self-penned tunes like Weaver's own "Gasoline Alley" where both he on the organ and Dick Heckstall-Smith of The Graham Bond Organisation on Saxophone play up a storm. It's funny also to hear "Willie And The Hand Jive" sound like The Benny Hill Show Theme song - but that's what happens track after track - groovy organ and a driving rhythm section making you want to strut your ancient stuff across some dancefloor somewhere making an unholy tit of yourself. Weaver's own "Harpsichord Shuffle" is pretty much a Ray Charles keyboard riff turned up a notch while Chris Mercer of The Keef Hartley Band gives it some cool Sax and Kokomo's Neil Hubbard gets Ike Turner funky on his guitar (what a belter). For sure "Alexander's Ragtime Band" is a Hammond groove too far but that’s immediately followed by a kick-ass take on "Tequila" that’s liable to make your mother shimmy those voluminous hips as she vacuums Dad’s cigarette ashes off the living room carpet.

But the real surprise here is the American-only album that died a death on its initial release. Weaver stumped up most of the instrumentals for the April 1970 LP "Into The Fire" which has a decidedly Funkier feel than the first two albums - like his band just discovered Sly & The Family Stone and Clarence Carter. Choppy guitars, sexy sax work and a backbeat that just won't quit infest the songs. Favourites include the Bluesy Harmonica of "Howl In Wolf's Clothing" - another fab workout - while "F In Blues" is a rare excursion into actual Blues - a slow late-night lounge-lizard lurch on the organ punctuated by great Sax blowing. I also dig his cover of The Staple Singers stunning "Why Am I Treated So Bad" - a tune that still has power even if there are no words to ram home the message of equality - his new Hammond Organ sounding loud and clear. For sure there is an audible drop in the sonic attack as we’re treated to The Who's "Happy Jack" and The Beatles' "We Can Work It Out" from the Acetate of the unreleased album - but it's not as bad as you would imagine. "Funky Broadway" feels more of an inspired choice than the obvious Who and Fabs choices.

For sure the band Wynder K. Frog and its main-man Mick Weaver are a footnote in Pop's history and few in 2018 will probably know their names or even care. But if you've any penchant for 60ts Groovers and that driving Hammond Organ Sound - then the little 3CD Box Set "Shook, Shimmy And Shake" is the fried hot potato that needs to be on your shopping list. Well done to RPM and all involved...

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

"H To He Who Am The Only One" by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR (May 2005 Virgin/Charisma 'Expanded Edition' CD - Peter Hammill and Kathy Bryan Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...The Emperor In His War-Room..."

Features the album "H To He Who Am The Only One" from 1970 (UK)

Named after the American Engineer Robert Van De Graaff's surname and his particle accelerator device for creating static electricity - Van Der Graaf Generator's second studio album for 1970 came hot on the heels of their January debut - "The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other". Released December 1970 by the newly formed Charisma Records - home of Audience, Rare Bird, Everyone, Merrill Moore, Atomic Rooster, (Keith Emerson's) The Nice and that other huge British Progressive Rock band Genesis – VDGG’s second platter expanded the experimental musical horizons laid down by their acclaimed debut.

Equal to its predecessor's quirky moniker - "H To He Who Am The Only One" is reckoned by Prog Rockers and VDGG fans alike to be up there as one of the Manchester boys wildest and best outings – a boundary pusher resplendent with mad Paul Whitehead artwork (a fave of the Genesis lads too). And this rather brill little 2005 CD Remaster (complete with two lengthy bonus cuts) bears that out. Here are the Houses with No Doors...

UK released 30 May 2005 - "H To He Who Am The Only One" by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR on Virgin/Charisma CASCDR 1027 (Barcode 724347488825) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Reissue and Remaster with Two Bonus Tracks that plays out as follows (71:29 minutes):

1. Killer [Side 1]
2. House With No Door
3. The Emperor In His War-Room Part 1. The Emperor Part 2. The Room
4. Lost Part 1. The Dance In Sand And Sea Part 2. The Dance In Frost [Side 2]
5. Pioneers Over C
Tracks 1 to 5 are their second studio album "H To He Who Am The Only One" - released January 1970 in the UK on Charisma Records CAS 1027 and March 1971 in the USA on Dunhill/ABC Records DS 50097.  Produced by JOHN ANTHONY - Track 1 was written by Peter Hammill, Hugh Banton and Stratton Smith, Tracks 2, 3 and 4 written by Peter Hammill with Track 5 written by Peter Hammill and David Jackson.

6. Squid 1/Squid 2/Octopus [15:24 minutes]
7. The Emperor In His War-Room (First Version) [8:50 minutes]

PETER HAMMILL - Lead Vocals, Acoustic Guitar and Piano on "House With No Door"
HUGH BANTON - Vocals, Hammond and Farfisa Organs, Piano, Oscillator and Bass on "House With No Door" and "Killer"
DAVID JACKSON - Vocals, Alto, Tenor and Baritone Saxophones and Flute
GUY EVANS - Drums, Tympani and Percussion

NIC POTTER (of The Misunderstood) - Bass on "Killer", "The Emperor In His War Room” and "Lost"
ROBERT FRIPP (of King Crimson) - Guitar on "The Emperor In His War-Room"

The 20-page booklet is a pleasingly thorough affair with new liner notes from MARK POWELL - soon to be head honcho at Esoteric Recordings over at Cherry Red UK - home to all things Avant Garde, Left Of Field and Proggy. There are period photos of the four-piece hairy men live, loitering in parks and outside French cafes, lyrics, the inner gatefold of the original release repro'd on the centre pages, trade adverts and their 9-album strong catalogue of Virgin/Charisma Remasters listed on the last page next to the extensive re-issue credits. It's all very tastefully done.

All four members of the band had a hand in Remastering consultation (including principal songwriter PETER HAMMILL) with the tape transfers done by KATHY BRYAN at Abbey Road Studios. I had this album on one of those early 'Pink Scroll' Label Charisma pressings with Audio that was always good but never great. Here the instruments have real power and even the two Bonus Cuts sound like they could have made the grade. Let's dance in the Static the music...

We're informed by the opener "Killer" that someone who lives at the bottom of the sea is lonely – a solitary predator made manifest by earnest men with saxophones and doom-laden churchy organs. The 8-minutes of Side 1's "Killer" is in fact more Atomic Rooster than VDGG in my books. Things become very melodic on "House With No Door". That hissy beginning is still there, but there's warmth and clarity in the bass now and the piano feels less muddled than it did on the LP. It's a dark song actually - a home with no roof that lets in the rain and cold at night - Hammill's hurting vocals at times sounding like a melancholic David Bowie circa "The Man Who Sold The World".

Things get deathly heavy with "The Emperor In His War-Room" - a tin-pot dictator cradling his gun in his chamber of ghosts (dig those cascading flutes and chunky organ stabs) - Robert Fripp's very King Crimson guitar notes sailing into "The Room" just when the piece needs some Prog uplift. Speaking of KC - the 11-minutes of "Lost" is probably the most Crimson-sounding piece on the album - ideas and had-all-my-chances lyrics falling over each other as instrument piles on instrument. Album No. 2 ends with nearly fourteen minutes of "Pioneers Over C" - VDGG stretching out everywhere and thinking intergalactic travel will be commonplace in 1983 and they have the Bass Lines. Sexy Saxophones and Fiery Keyboard sounds to prove it.

In truth VDGG were never nearly as commercial or frankly as good as Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett and Co over in Genesis – but there is a lot to like in this adventurous and challenging album.

"...One last brief whisper in our loved one's ears..." – Hammill sang on tone of the lovelier passages in "Pioneers Over C" - David Jackson's saxophone slipping in soft at first and then going solo mad after that. Mad after that – a bit like VDGG and their music really...

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

"Hocus Pocus Box: Complete Album Collection + Bonus CD" by FOCUS (July 2017 Red Bullet 13CD Box Set of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

his Review Along With 100s Of Others Is Available in my
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"...Yaddy Ya, Yaddy Ya, Yadda Ya... Bom! Bom!"

Featuring their debut album "Focus On Focus" aka "In And Out Of Focus" from 1970

Bit of a Dutch Prog Rock beast this. Tons of info to get through – so once more my hairy friends unto the yaddy-ya, yaddy-ya, yaddy-ya, bom, bom! And that’s just your Hocus Pocus my giddy young son...

UK released Friday, 14 July 2017 - "Hocus Pocus Box: Complete Album Collection + Bonus CD" by FOCUS on Red Bullet RB 66.307 (Barcode 8712944663075) is a 13CD Clamshell Box Set containing 12 albums (11 studio, one a double and one live album) and a Bonus Thirteenth CD called "Best Of Focus". 

CDs 1 to 8 and CD13 are Remasters done by IAN GILLESPIE at Tape One in London in 2001 (old Red Bullet reissues) – CDs 9 to 12 are later dates (1985 to 2012) and are the masters of the time. There is a mention in the liner notes of 'Peter Brussee Remasters' done at Q Point Studios in Holland - but it doesn’t specify what has been upgraded or why. As is - the box set plays out as follows:

CD1 - "In And Out Of Focus" from 1970 and 1971 (36:04 minutes):
1. Focus (Vocal) [Side 1]
2. Black Beauty
3. Sugar Island
4. Anonymus
5. House Of The King
6. Happy Nightmare (Mescaline) [Side 2]
7. Why Dream
8. Focus – Instrumental
The Dutch band's debut LP was originally released mid 1970 in Holland as "Focus Plays Focus" on Imperial Records 5C 054-24192 with a seven-track line-up (CD Tracks 1, 7, 6 and 4 made up Side 1 with Tracks 2, 3 and 8 making up Side 2). However, Polydor UK and USA decided to relaunch the debut as "In And Out Of Focus" in both countries with a rejiggered track line-up and the Dutch non-album single "House Of The King" tagged onto the end of Side 1 thereby making an 8-track LP. This variant initially had a gatefold 'dotted blue' sleeve (Polydor 2344 003 in the UK and Sire SAS 7404 in the USA) – but confusingly this was also replaced at some time in late 1971 with a single ‘picture of the band photo’ sleeve in the UK and the same 8-track line-up (same catalogue numbers too, the US artwork differed yet again). It is this late 1971 British variant that is used in this CD box set (artwork and track list as above). This is the 2001 Remaster done by Red Bullet.

CD2 - "Moving Waves" from 1971 and 1973 [aka "Focus II" in Europe] (41:40 minutes):
1. Hocus Pocus [Side 1] (Album Version at 6:42 minutes)
2. Le Clochard
3. Janis
4. Moving Waves
5. Focus II
6. Eruption [Side 2]
Tracks 1 to 6 are their second studio album "Moving Waves" - released October 1971 in the UK on Blue Horizon 2931 002 and January 1973 in the USA on Sire SAS 7401. It was re-launched on Polydor 2931 002 in the UK November 1972 and this version peaked on the UK charts at No. 2 (peaked at No. 6 in the US charts in January 1973). The CD remaster is 2001 by Red Bullet.

CD3 - "Focus III" from 1972, 2LP set (67:08 minutes – see NOTE):
1. Round Goes The Gossip [Side 1]
2. Love Remembered
3. Sylvia
4. Carnival Fugue
5. Focus III [Side 2]
6. Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!
7. Elspeth Of Nottingham
8. Anonymus II [see NOTE re Sides 3 and 4 and playing times]
Tracks 1 to 6, 8, 7 and Track 5 on CD1 (in that order) make up the original double-album "Focus III" [aka "Focus 3"] - released November 1972 in the UK on Polydor 2659 016 and April 1973 in the USA on Sire SAS 3901 (in different artwork). It peaked at No. 6 in the UK and No. 35 in the States.
NOTE: on the original double-album "Anonymus II" was broken into two parts "Anonymus II (Part 1)" and Anonymus II (Conclusion)" and in fact spread across Side 3 and 4 of the 2LP set - Part 1 on Side 3 and the Conclusion at the beginning of Side 4. Here the 19:28 and 7:30 parts have been combined into one song at 26:24 minutes. Also the last song on Side 4 was "House Of The King" (sequenced 'after' "Elspeth Of Nottingham" on the original double) - but as it is featured on "In And Out Of Focus" CD - it's not included here. The remaster here is 2001 by Red Bullet.

CD4 - "Focus At The Rainbow" (1973 Live Album) (42:34 minutes):
1. Focus III [Side 1]
2. Answers" Questions! Questions? Answers!
3. Focus II
4. Eruption (Excerpt) [Side 2]
5. Hocus Pocus
6. Sylvia
7. Hocus Pocus (Reprise)
Tracks 1 to 7 are the live LP "Focus At The Rainbow" - released October 1973 in the UK on Polydor 2442 118 and November 1973 in the USA on Sire SAs 7408. It peaked at No. 23 in the UK and No. 132 in the USA.

CD5 - "Hamburger Concerto" from 1974 (43:07 minutes):
1. Delitiae Musicae [Side 1]
2. Harem Scarem
3. La Cathedrale De Strasbourg
4. Birth
5. Hamburger Concerto [Side 2]
6. Early Birth
Tracks 1 to 6 are their fourth studio album "Hamburger Concerto" - released August 1974 in the UK on Polydor 2442 124 and in the USA on Atco Records SD 36-100 (same month). It peaked at No. 20 in the UK and No. 66 in the USA.

CD6 - "Mother Focus" from 1975 (37:14 minutes):
1. Mother Focus [Side 1]
2. I Need A Bothroom
3. Bennie Helder
4. Soft Vanilla
5. Hard Vanilla
6. Tropic Bird
7. Focus IV [Side 2]
8. Someone's Crying...What!
9. All Together...Oh That!
10. No Hang Ups
11. Father Bach
Tracks 1 to 11 are their fifth studio album "Mother Focus" - released October 1975 in the UK on Polydor 2302 036 and September 1975 in the USA on Atco Records SD 36-117. It didn't chart in the UK, peaked at No. 152 in the USA. 

CD7 - "Ship Of Memories" from 1977 [unused 1973 material] (40:03 minutes):
1. P's March [Side 1]
2. Can't Believe My Eyes
3. Focus V
4. Out Of Vesuvius
5. Glider [Side 2]
6. Red Sky At Night
7. Spoke The Lord Creator
8. Crackers
9. Ship Of Memories
10. Hocus Pocus (U.S. Single Version)
Tracks 1 to 10 are a compilation album of older material "Ship Of Memories" recorded in England and Holland (mostly 1973, some 1970) - released June 1977 in the USA on Sire Records SAS 7531 and September 1977 in the UK on Harvest Records SHSP 4068. It didn't chart in the UK and peaked at No. 163 in the USA. It was released 1976 in their native Holland hence the copyright date of 1976 on the labels.

CD8 - "Focus Con Proby" from 1978 (48:11 minutes):
1. Wingless [Side 1]
2. Orion
3. Night Flight
4. Eddy
5. Sneezing Bull
6. Brother [Side 2]
7. Tokyo Rose
8. Maximum
9. How Long
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Focus Con Proby" - released January 1978 in the UK on Harvest Records SHSP 11721 and February 1978 in the USA on Harvest ST-11721 (didn't chart in either country). Five of the nine tracks feature English Vocalist PJ PROBY (Tracks 1, 4, 6, 7 and 9) and the band has PHILIP CATHERINE as its principal guitarist instead of Jan Akkerman. The album was released first in the Netherlands in 1977.

CD9 - "Jan Akkerman and Thijs Van Leer - Focus" from 1985 (59:34 minutes):
1. Russian Roulette [Side 1]
2. King Kong
3. Le Tango
4. Indian Summer
5. Beethoven's Revenge (Bach-One-Turbo-Overdrive) [Side 2]
6. Ole Judy
7. Who's Calling
Tracks 1 to 7 are the album "Jan Akkerman & Thijs Van Leer - Focus" - released August 1985 in the UK on LP and CD on Vertigo 824 524-1 and -2

CD10 - "Focus 8" from 2002 (59:12 minutes):
1. Rock & Rio
2. Tamara's Move (Allegro-Adagio-Allegro)
3. Fretless Love
4. Hurkey Turkey
5. De Ti O De Mi
6. Focus 8
7. Sto Ces Raditi Ostatac Zivota?
8. Neurotika - Rehearsal Take
9. Brother
10. Blizu Tebe
11. Flower Shower
Tracks 1 to 11 are recorded with Thijs Van Leer and a Focus tribute band who become the 'new' Focus - it was released as a 500-only signed private pressed LP in Holland in 2002 and reissued on CD by Red Bullet in 2006 (Red Bullet 66.252)

CD11 - "Focus 9 – New Skin" from 2006 (79:54 minutes):
1. Black Beauty
2. Focus 7
3. Hurkey Turkey
4. Sylvia's Stepson - Ubatuba
5. Niel's Skin
6. Just Like Eddy
7. Aya-Yuppie-Hippie-Yee
8. Focus 9
9. Curtain Call
10. Ode To Venus
11. European Rap(sody)
12. Pim
13. It Takes 2 2 Tango
14. Brazil Love
Tracks 1 to 14 are the album "Focus 9 - New Skin" - released September 2006 in the Netherlands on CD on Red Bullet RB 66.253

CD12 - "Focus X" from 2012 (49:39 minutes):
1. Father Bacchus
2. Focus 10
3. Victoria
4. Amok In Kindergarten
5. All Hens On Deck
6. Birds Come Fly Over (Le Tango)
7. Hoeratio
8. Talk Of The Clown
9. Message Magique
10. Crossroads
Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "Focus X" - released November 2012 in the Netherlands on CD on 4Worlds Media EW0123CD

CD13 - "The Best Of Focus" from 2001 (76:31 minutes):
1. Hocus Pocus [6:42 minutes Full Album Version]
2. Anonymus
3. House Of The King
4. Focus - Instrumental
5. Janis
6. Focus II
7. Tommy
8. Sylvia
9. Focus III
10. Harem Scarem
11. Mother Focus
12. Focus IV
13. Bennie Helder
14. Glider
15. Red Sky At Night
16. Hocus Pocus (U.S. Single Version)
Tracks 1 to 16 are the CD compilation "The Best Of Focus" - originally released June 1993 in the UK as "Hocus Pocus - The Best Of" on EMI CDP 8281622 (Barcode 724382816225) and reissued 2001 in the Netherlands as "The Best Of Focus - Hocus Pocus" on Red Bullet RB 66.194 (Barcode   8712944661941).

Once you get into the clamshell box - you notice with some irritation that "Focus 3" (their most successful and pivotal album) is a single card sleeve and not a gatefold, "Anonymus" is in the wrong place and suddenly one-track instead of two parts and the "Houses Of The King" song at the end of Side 4 is missing entirely from the CD (see NOTE above). Sure it's on both "In And Out Of Focus" and "The Best of" discs - but it wouldn't have taken a lot to sort this out - and playing time is not an issue here. The card sleeves for "At The Rainbow" is a single when it could have been a fold-over like the original and "In And Out Of Focus" takes a similarly lazy route - using the single-sleeve band-shot photo artwork for the reissue instead of the gatefold 'blue dots' original (see my separate review for the Japanese SHM-CD reissue of this - use Barcode 4988002565375 to locate the issue).

The Remasters are mostly the Red Bullet variants done in 2001 by IAN GILLESPIE at Tape One Studios in London (CDs 1 to 8 and CD13) - but there is an extra mention of PETER BRUSSEE at Q Point Studios in Hilversum in Holland for 'Remasters' without explaining what has done to what. Having said that they do sound good and at times - like on "Moving Waves", "Focus III" and "Mother Focus" - they sound spectacular. The stuff after 1985 is all recorded professionally anyway - so no problems audio wise there. And although that 13th disc does seem a tad superfluous to requirements when you've got CD 1 to 12 - it's handy to have it as a play-alone. The 40-page booklet features detailed Liner Notes by T J LAMMERS giving a breakdown of all albums - line-ups, track-by-track annotation and so on - all nestled amidst photos of the LPs and CDs, period Tour posters and photos, trade adverts, press clippings and so on. All you would need to know is here.

I'll admit that 1975's "Mother Focus" - I lost interest and don't know much of the later material. But then Focus were always about the mighty "Moving Waves", "Focus III" and "Hamburger Concerto" - all fabulous Prog Rock albums. That's not to say that the debut or the live set are slouchers - they're not. It's also odd for to hear "Anonymus" as one 26:24 minute track and not reach for that "Conclusion" on Side 4! Something like "Elspeth Of Nottingham" is hissy with the lute and birdsong - but still beautiful. And the 14-minute "Answers? Questions!..." is fantastic Prog Rock with Funky licks thrown in. As is that cool Akkerman guitar break 9-minutes into "Hamburger Concerto" that lasts for nearly eight more minutes – all of it sounding suitably chunky and awesome (his solos on both tracks justify his Best Guitarist award in the 1974 Melody Maker over other axe-Gods such as Jeff Beck, Rory Gallagher and Jimmy Page).

The Chipping Norton studios material recorded by Blue Horizon's label boss and producer Mike Vernon for the "Hamburger Concerto" album was shelved at the time as it was deemed not good enough (40 minutes of it) only to resurface as "Ship Of Memories" on Harvest Records along with outtakes that stretched as far back as the first LP from 1970. But I'd say that the 6-track issued LP is one of the great forgotten 'instrumental music' albums of the mid-70ts - a record made under serious duress with Akkerman and Van Leer having to be recorded in separate rooms lest they actually talk to each other. The funky Rock of Hamburger Concerto's "Harem Scarem" is an obvious ape of "Hocus Pocus" but still works on its own terms - Akkerman and Van Leer playing off each other like gooduns - replacement drummer Colin Allen coming up with the song title. "La Cathedrale De Strasbourg" has nice counter-point vocals that play off against sweet piano chords. Thijs gets to go all clavinet mad on the seven-minute "Birth" (a Funky-Rock gem in my book) - but the LP belongs to another "Anonymus" side-long type monster - the twenty-minute six-part title track "Hamburger Concerto". All ELP in its scope, you get Classical influences, Baroque and slinky Funky Rock - guitarist Akkerman and keyboardist Thijs Van Leer sharing the writing credits on this showstopper. After the slightly odd Pop album "Mother Focus" - we get the equally odd but quite wonderful collaboration album with singer PJ Proby where the little blighter sings his guts out on songs like "Wingless" and "Brother". Of the later stuff - I'd truly surprised at how good "Focus 8" is - Thijs Van Leer working with a Focus covers band whom he liked and ended up employing as - well Focus! "Fretless Love" and "Focus 8" show that old magic. And on it goes...

For sure there is way more Focus here than any average punter needs and you can't help feeling that with a bit better thought and presentation - this could have been a solid 5-star release. For the moment - I'm digging re-visits to old friends and discovering that they made some ones I should acquaint myself with in the later years too.

Yaddy ya, yaddy ya, bom, bom! Both Tommy and Sylvia would approve... 

Saturday, 31 March 2018

"It Shall Be: The Ode & Epic Recordings 1968-1972" by SPIRIT (March 2018 Esoteric Recordings 5CD Box Set - Ben Wiseman Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

This Review Along With 100s Of Others Is Available in my
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"...Dream Within A Dream..."

Featuring the album "Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus" from 1970

Now here's something a bit tasty. Five studio albums in Stereo including their debut in Mono for the first time, a rare Mono Soundtrack from 1969 to Jacques Demy's film "Model Shop" that few remember (it starred Anouk Aimee and Gary Lockwood, was about Los Angeles and remained unreleased musically until Sundazed reissued it in early 2005), the original Stereo Mix of the second album, all the straggler outtakes and session pieces from the 1991 "Time Circle..." 2CD retrospective and the Bonus Cuts from the 1996 Bob Irwin/Vic Anesini Remasters of the albums, Single Sides and more (check out those eye-popping total playing times on CD1 and 2). 108-Tracks across 5CDs. It shall be indeed.

And I love that Randy California story of how he met Jimi Hendrix at the back of a Village Record Shop in New York when he was only 15 (Manny's Music on West 48th Street) just before the God of Guitar was about do his first gig. The two bonded on first eye contact and Randy played with Jimi for 3 months at $7 a night whereupon as legend would have it - it was Hendrix who famously renamed him Randy California as there was someone else in the band called Randy Texas (young Randy thereafter forever waving goodbye to his real surname of Wolfe). Hendrix was then discovered by the savvy Chas Chandler, brought to England to become a star - but Randy was too young to travel and had to stay in the USA to finish his schooling. The band Spirit is full of such stories – great music, great ideals but perhaps not the greatest of luck commercially. A dream within a dream - It certainly was.

There's a mountain of detail to wade through - so let's have at the five and seven dreams...

UK released Friday, 18 March 2018 - "It Shall Be: The Ode & Epic Recordings 1968-1972" by SPIRIT on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 52619 (Barcode 5013929471948) is a 5CD 108-Track Clamshell Box Set of New Remasters that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (79:44 minutes):
1. Fresh Garbage [Side 1]
2. Uncle jack
3. Mechanical World
4. Taurus
5. Girl In Your Eye
6.  Straight Arrow
7. Topanga Windows [Side 2]
8. Gramophone Man
9. Water Woman
10. The Great Canyon Fire in General
11. Elijah
Tracks 1 to 11 are their debut album "Spirit" in 'STEREO' - released January 1968 in the USA on Ode Records Z12 44004 and June 1968 in the UK on CBS Records S 63278. Produced by LOU ADLER - it peaked at No. 31 in the US LP charts (didn't chart UK). NOTE: the previously unreleased on CD 'MONO' mix of the album (Ode Records Z12 44003 and CBS Records 63278) is presented on CD4 for the first time - along with other outtakes from the 1967 sessions that appeared on Spirit compilations.

12. I Got A Line On You [Side 1]
13. It Shall Be
14. Poor Richard
15. Silky Sam
16. The Drunkard
17. Darlin' If
18. It's All The Same [Side 2]
19. Jewish
20. Dream Within A Dream
21. She Smiled
22. Aren't You Glad
Tracks 12 to 22 are their 2nd studio album "The Family That Plays Together" - released December 1968 in the USA on Ode Records Z12 44014 in Stereo (only) and June 1969 in the UK on CBS Records M 63523 in Mono and CBS Records S 63523 in Stereo - the ORIGINAL STEREO Mix is used here (outtakes from the album sessions appear on CD5). Produced by LOU ADLER - it peaked at No. 22 in the US LP charts (didn't chart UK).

Disc 2 (83:19 minutes):
1. The Moving Van
2. Mellow fellow
3. Now Or Anywhere
4. Fog
5. Green Gorilla
6. Model Shop I
7. Model Shop II
8. The Rehearsal Theme
9. Song For Lola
10. Eventide
11. Coral
12. Aren't You Glad
Tracks 1 to 12 were recorded in 1968 in-between the second and third album (in Mono) and used in the 1969 Jacques Remy film soundtrack to "Model Shop". The music including unreleased material (Tracks 2, 4 to 6 and 10 to 12) was finally issued February 2005 on Sundazed/Sony Music SC 6095 (Barcode 090771619723) as the 12-tracks presented above. 

13. Dark Eyed Woman [Side 1]
14. Apple Orchard
15. So Little Time To Fly
16. Ground Hog
17. Cold Wind
18. Policeman's Ball
19. Ice [Side 2]
20. Give A Life, Take A Life
21. I'm Truckin'
22. Clear
23. Caught
24. New Dope In Town
Tracks 13 to 24 are their 3rd studio album "Clear" - released July 1969 in the USA on Ode Records Z12 44016 in Stereo (only) and October 1969 in the UK on CBS Records S 63729 in Stereo. Produced by LOU ADDLER - it peaked at No. 55 in the US LP charts (didn't chart UK).

Disc 3 (77:30 minutes):
1. Prelude - Nothin' To Hide
2. Nature's Way
3. Animal Zoo
4. Love Has Found A Way
5. Why Can't I Be Free
6. Mr. Skin
7. Space Child [Side 2]
8. When I Touch You
9. Street Worm
10. Life Has Just Begun
11. Morning Will Come
12. Soldier
Tracks 1 to 12 are their 4th studio album "Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus" - released November 1970 in the USA on Epic E 30267 and February 1971 in the UK on Epic S EPC 64191. Produced by DAVID BRIGGS - the album peaked at No. 63 on the US LP charts (didn't chart UK).

13. Rougher Road - Previously Unreleased "Twelve Dreams..." session outtake that first appeared on the November 1996 CD reissue as a Bonus

14. Chelsea Girls [Side 1]
15. Cadillac
16. Puesta Del Scam
17. Ripe And Ready
18. Darkness
19. Earth Shaker [Side 2]
20. Mellow Morning
21. Right On Time
22. Trancas Fog-Out
23. Witch
Tracks 14 to 23 are their 5th studio album "Feedback" - released March 1972 in the USA on Epic Records KE 31175 (Gatefold Sleeve) and June 1972 in the UK on Epic Records EPC 64507. Produced by DAVID BRIGGS - it peaked at No. 63 in the US LP charts (didn't chart UK)

Disc 4 (76:01 minutes):
1. Fresh Garbage [Side 1]
2. Uncle jack
3. Mechanical World
4. Taurus
5. Girl In Your Eye
6.  Straight Arrow
7. Topanga Windows [Side 2]
8. Gramophone Man
9. Water Woman
10. The Great Canyon Fire in General
11. Elijah
Tracks 1 to 11 are their debut album "Spirit" in 'MONO' - released January 1968 in the USA on Ode Records Z12 44003 and June 1968 in the UK on CBS Records 63278. Produced by LOU ADLER - it peaked at No. 31 in the US LP charts (didn't chart UK). NOTE: the STEREO mix of the album is presented on CD1 - the mono mix here for the first time.

12. Veruska
13. Free Spirit
14. If I Had A Woman
15. Elijah (Alternate Take)
Tracks 12 to 15 were first released as Bonus Tracks in 1996 on the CD Remaster/Reissue of "Spirit" - Epic/Legacy 485175 2 (Barcode 5099748517524)

16. I Got A Line On You ("Time Circle" Mix)
17. It Shall Be ("Time Circle" Mix)
18. Poor Richard ("Time Circle" Mix)
19. Silky Sam ("Time Circle" Mix)
Tracks 16 to 19 first appeared on the 1991 2CD retrospective "Time Circle (1968-1972)" on Epic/Legacy 471268 2 (Barcode 5099747126826)

Disc 5 (70:19 minutes):
1. Scherozode ("Time Circle" Mix)
2. All The Same ("Time Circle" Mix)
3. A Dream With A Dream ("Time Circle" Mix)
4. Aren't You Glad ("Time Circle" Mix)
5. Eventide ("Time Circle" Mix)
6. Model Shop Theme ("Time Circle" Mix)
7. Green Gorilla ("Time Circle" Mix)
8. Rehearsal Theme ("Time Circle" Mix)
Tracks 1 to 8 from the 1991 "Time Circle (1968-1972)" 2CD Retrospective

9. Fog
10. So Little To Say
11. Mellow Fellow
12. Now Or Anywhere
13. Space Chile
Tracks 9 to 13 recorded for "The Family That Plays Together" Sessions in 1968 - released as Bonus Tracks on the 1996 reissue CD of that album on Ode/Epic/Legacy 485174 2 (Barcode 5099748517425)

14. Fuller Brush Man
15. Coral
Tracks 14 and 15 recorded for "Clear" Sessions in 1969 - released as 2 of the 4 Bonus Tracks on the 1996 reissue CD of that album on Ode/Epic/Legacy 484416 2 (Barcode 5099748441621)

16. 1984
17. Sweet Stella Baby
Tracks 16 and 17 were the A&B-sides of a non-album US 7"single released December 1969 on Ode Records ZS7 128. Also released 2 of the 4 Bonus Tracks on the 1996 reissue CD of that album on Ode/Epic/Legacy 484416 2 (Barcode 5099748441621)

18. Animal Zoo (Mono Single Version)
19. Red Light Roll On (Mono Single Version)
Tracks 18 and 19 are the A&B-sides of a non-album US 7" single released July 1970 on Epic Records 5-10648. Also released as two of the four Bonus Tracks on the 1996 reissue CD of "Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus" on Epic/Legacy 485173 2 (Barcode 5099748517326)

20. Morning Will Come (Alternate Mono Mix)
Track 20 released as one of the four Bonus Tracks on the 1996 reissue CD of "Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus" on Epic/Legacy 485173 2 (Barcode 5099748517326). NOTE: the fourth Bonus track from the "Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus" CD reissue was "Rougher Road" and is Track 13 on Disc 3.

SPIRIT was (all albums except "Feedback"):
JOHN LOCKE - Keyboards
MARK ANDES - Bass & Vocals
JAY FERGUSON - Vocals & Percussion
ED CASSIDY - Drums and Percussion

"Feedback" album only:
JOHN LOCKE - Keyboards
ED CASSIDY - Drums & Percussion
AL STAEHELY - Lead Vocals and Bass

While the 20-page booklet is pretty enough and has MALCOLM DOME liner notes - period photos and so forth (the "Model Shop" film poster, sleeve repros etc) - it actually feels rather slight somehow given that there's six albums worth of material here. The LPs are discussed but none of the extras - the five singular card sleeves might have served the set better if they used the five studio albums as artwork so we don't find ourselves missing the mighty "Twelve Dreams..." or "Feedback" in their Gatefold Sleeves. On the rear of each card there are band photos, the CDs are picture discs too and the booklet's last page uses the rear sleeve of the "Clear" LP as its artwork.

But that aside - I'm digging the new BEN WISEMAN Remasters - tapes licensed from Sony Products. I had the Vic Anesini/Bob Irwin versions from 1996 - two Audio Engineers I love - and I'd have to say that here even though the difference is slight - I'm noticing it in the bottom end. Those Marty Paich arranged strings on the instrumental "Taurus" on the debut are wonderful  (hello Jimmy - got an acoustic guitar opener sequence you need) and the ah-ha-ha opening of "Mr. Skin" on "Twelve Dreams..." as well as the fade-out echoed brass is as good as the Mobile Fidelity CD I had decades ago. I'd still prefer the Stereo Mix to the Mono when it comes to the treated Sitars on the debut's wicked and cool "The Girl In Your Eye". And the whole recorded shebang is here too. Let's get to the space children...

Famously "Fresh Garbage" from the wonderfully confident self-titled debut was on the early playlists of the newly formed Led Zeppelin while the Acoustic guitar notes in the instrumental "Taurus" bear an uncanny resemblance to the opening acoustic-guitar passage in "Stairway To Heaven". And given their Houses of the Unholy penchant for nicking other people's tunes on all of the first four albums - this similarity landed them in court in 2004 over copyright infringement (Zep won - much to Randy's decades-long chagrin). There's a wonderful rolling Byrds feel to "Straight Arrow" while Randy gets to stretch out Bloomfield-style on "Topanga Windows". Tracks like "Gramophone Man" and "Water Woman" would have enamoured them to Jefferson Airplane fans and you have to love those counterpoint vocals. Both "The Great Canyon" and "Elijah" show experimentation and how good a songwriter Jay Ferguson was - the latter being one of those cool so-60ts instrumentals that's part Rock, part Jazz-Fusion and very 'Spirit' in its eleven-minute's long 'we don't care if it isn't commercial' structure. Great audio too...

Sexily Hitsville and cool into the bargain - "I Got A Line" opened the second album and their singles account proper. Feeling like Spirit had suddenly arrived - Randy California's Motown-Rock-Soul song hit No. 25 in the States on Ode ZS7 115 (the album's "She Smiled" was the flipside – a pretty flowers-in-her-hair ballad over on Side 2). The record just gets better with "It Shall Be" a co-write between Randy and Keyboardist John Locke - one of my favourites of their early tracks (Marty Paich arranged the Horns but we still don't know whose playing the flute). Jay Ferguson's "Poor Richard" runs into his "Silky Sam" - a talkative nutter and a travelling salesman immortalised in each song. I love the string arrangements on "The Drunkard" (a drunk missing his daughter's message) while the Randy California penned "Darlin' If" has more to do with Buffalo Springfield than Spirit. Things go to grungy boogie with Randy and Ed Cassidy's "All The Same" while the weirdly wonderful "Jewish" is a Psalm put to Space Rock (dig those twinned guitars). But my fave-crave is "Dream Within A Dream" - a Jay Ferguson song – slipping off his mortal coil for trippy Californian Rock and enjoying the process of both. "The Family That Plays Together" ends with Ferguson's equally ambitious "Aren't You Glad" - five and half minutes of slow piano and guitar rock - the kind of tune that has an epic feel as those strings come floating in and Randy let’s rip on that 48th Street guitar.

The Mono Audio gives the short but hugely interesting instrumentals on "Model Body" a very focused urgency. "The Moving Van" and "Mellow Fellow" feel like Spirit have merged with The Doors and gone off on an early Santana experimental guitar trip - whilst the guitar chug of "Green Gorilla" (one of the few tunes with some singing) is way cooler than it had any right to be. The near six-minutes of "Song For Lola" is a blast - a mixture of echoed Bass lines, shimmering vibes, empty spaces and plaintive-gumshoe piano notes - like its Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd searching for a tune. Hell even the five and a half-minute demo of "Aren't You Glad" is truly excellent as a Bonus - tremendous guitar soloing over a slinky keyboard refrain. Many people rate 1969's rocking "Clear" as placement number two behind "Twelve Dreams..." (I think they’re equal) and on hearing tracks like the superb "Dark Eyed Woman" and the sexy "So Little Time To Fly" – both show how much the guitar prowess had come on. "Ground Hog" sounds amazing as it opens – those flicked Bass notes to the left and the layered vocals to the right. Ferguson could surprise with the tender and lonesome-lovers vibe to "Cold Wind" – the same with the hugely evocative instrumentals "Clear" followed by Locke’s piano-lounge-room-sexy "Caught" both feeling like something off of a particularly effective John Barry soundtrack. "Give A Life, Take A Life" is fantastic 60ts Rock-Pop – a rare co-write between Producer Lou Adler and Randy California.

For me "Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus" has always been their zenith. "Prelude - Nothin' To Hide" is a wickedly good opener showcasing the Bluesy slide guitar of Randy California arising out of an Acoustic beginning. Its 3:43 minutes is full of clever chords, vocal layering and that unexpected slide break (funky) - it's lyrics about being "married to the same bride" sounding racy without knowing why. The acoustic balladry of "Nature's Way" comes as a melodic calmer after all the preceding speaker-to-speaker riffage. "Nature's Way" is a short but gorgeous song and one I return to again and again. It's followed by the album's lead off single "Animal Zoo" - the 7" Mono Single Mix of which is a Bonus Track. You can hear why Epic picked it's upbeat rhythms as an album taster - that hooky beat, the Bass break and Keyboard interlude making it more musically interesting that most anything else on the scene at the time. And as they sing "...much too fat...and a little too long..." during the sound-effect fade out in their best Todd Rundgren mad hatter voices - it had a 'Spirit' sound.

"Love Has Found A Way" floats in with speeded up guitar sounds floating over clever melodic vocal lines - sort of Frank Zappa with a melody at its vibe core. The one-minute and acoustic "Why Can't I Be Free" feels like a beautiful plea for peace of mind as it swirls around in a haze of marijuana. But then we get Side 1's other masterpiece - the brill "Mr. Skin" - it's fantastic choppy beat benefitting from Brass Arrangements done by David Blumberg. Epic in Britain gave it a belated 7" single release in February 1973 with "Nature's Way" on the B-side (Epic S EPC 7082).

Side 2 opens with probably my fave instrumental by them – the trippy brilliance of “Space Child” – a piano floater with superb sound scapes and ideas. We then get wickedly good speaker-to-speaker guitar in the driving "When I Touch You" - a Jay Ferguson song that already has Jo Jo Gunne in it - the band he would form after Spirit with Mark Andes and his brother Matthew. "Street Worm" could easily be "Stand Up" or "Benefit" Jethro Tull - a very catchy Guitar/Piano duo back up Ferguson's wailing about 'not making any deal' with the man. Things go seriously melodic with the beautifully produced "Life Has Just Begun" - an acoustic builder where all their voices are featured to great effect (wonderful remaster). The album goes into its only Rock 'n' Roll boogie in the shape of "Morning Will Come" (lyrics from it title this review) cleverly offset by the faded-in Elton John-type piano of "Soldier" - a serious song giving huge power by the pipe organ Producer David Briggs recorded for the finisher. It rounds off an album that just grows and grows with each listen...

I had expected the Bonus Tracks to be throwaway - but if anything the Previously Unreleased Byrds-sounding "Rougher Road" is a bit of a gem. The single mix of "Animal Zoo" has a visceral punch in Mono - not so sure about the Alternate Mono Mix of "Morning Will Come" which I think loses its power compared to the finished Stereo LP cut. The 'tapes rolling - this is Take No. 1' dialogue at the beginning of the non-album B-side "Red Light Roll On" only adds to its excellence (shame there appears to be no Stereo variant of this wicked groover). The extras elsewhere are all good too.

Ok you could argue that the weak "Feedback" album lets the side down (four stars for that alone) and others have moaned about the card sleeve presentation (I think they are fine). But whatever way you look at it – Esoteric Recordings have stumped up yet another goody here. And if ever a band deserved reappraisal – there surely SPIRIT shall be that band...