Spirit: Spirit

Spirit: Spirit

Audio Fidelity  AFZ 520

Stereo Hybrid



"A true touchstone to the late sixties and the psychedelic music of the times."

Includes 4 BONUS Tracks!

Spirit's 1968 debut album spent more than six months on the Billboard album charts and received heavy airplay on underground FM radio. Their music was part of the core, essence, and heartbeat of the the hippie, psychedelic, counter culture movement. The album is timeless, as fresh today as when it first appeared.

The band could play more styles than almost any other group. On Spirit they unveiled a mélange of rock, jazz, blues, folk-rock, and even a bit of classical and Indian music. The music is experimental. The vocals flow as easily as the instrumentals. Spirit struck a careful balance between disciplined studio chops, jazz improvisation, and driving rock and roll. Guitar prodigy Randy California is a clear standout, but the other band members are superb as well; John Locke's shimmering keyboards, Mark Andes' subsonic wall of bass, and Ed Cassidy's precision drumming. Big credit has to go to lead singer Jay Fergusson, whose phrasing is always just right with a wonderful spontaneous feel. The Marty Paich string arrangements are sublime.

The songs tackled unusual lyrical themes, like "Fresh Garbage" and "Mechanical World" while "Uncle Jack" showed some solid psych-pop instincts. And, it has long been debated if Led Zeppelin lifted the opening guitar lines of Spirit's "Taurus" for their own much more famous "Stairway to Heaven."

This is an essential album if ever there was one, and it would prove impossible to trace any musical time line without the inclusion of Spirit, and in particular, this body of work.

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7 of 7 recommend this, would you recommend it?  yes | no

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

Bonus Tracks:
12. Veruska
13. Free Spirit
14. If I Had A Woman
15. Elijah (alternate Take)
Comments (2)

Comment by Tony Reif - June 30, 2017 (1 of 2)

Anyone heard this yet? Would appreciate any comments, particularly in relation to the Repertoire remasters, which sound fresher and more detailed than the remixed Sonys. But it might be hard to make a direct comparison, because the SACD was mastered from the original mix (don't know Repertoire's source but assume it was the remixes).

Comment by Tony Reif - July 15, 2017 (2 of 2)

I'm a big Spirit fan so I ordered this just to see what Steve Hoffman did with it, and to hear the original mix in high-res. And I think he did a good job, considering. As he says on his forum, "Even though some songs sound like they were recorded at the back of a laundry, I think you'll appreciate the fact (at least I hope so) that we didn't add a bunch of treble to the songs or compress or limit any of the songs to make them pop or sound up to date." In another post he says, "It's a below average mix, really, but it has a certain charm. I wouldn't want to mess with it. Remixes always sound worse to me." And yes, in some ways the original mix is crude by today's standards. The voices have a ton of reverb on them, the panning in the long instrumental "Elijah", where each solo is jump-panned to the centre, is jarring, and timbrally nothing sounds very realistic - there's an overall thinness to the sound that suggests the frequency response (especially in the mids) was/is far from flat. For comparison I don't have the 1996 Sony remix, I have Repertoire's 2004 remaster of it, which the engineer, Eroc, interestingly discussed in an old Hoffman forum:

He was working from a dat of the mix, which is too bad because the mix would have been at least 20 bits (it's super bit mapped to CD). Nevetheless, detail is good and the music sounds fuller timbrally and just more massive - more like rock, and closer to the way you'd imagine it to have sounded if you'd heard the band live. It has more punch too. Whether this is partly due to compression or EQ'd highs I can't really say. It still sounds pretty dynamic to me and not overbright. Eroc's p.v. on mastering is completely different from Steve's here. Eroc is credited on the Repertoire CD "restored and remastered by". The 1996 Sony remixes of these first 4 Spirit albums, which do try to replicate much of the original mixing in terms of panning, reverb and overall sound, apparently don't try to compensate for the limitations of the gear used in the original tracking. Says Eroc:

"My point of view (and my experience) is, that clever digital treatment will point out the details of a mix a lot better, than we could reach with analog gear decades ago...
When I get a production from e.g. the 70's on my desk, I can exaktly tell what they intended back then in the mix. I also can tell which gear was used and also what they tried to get out of that thing but didn't succeed. I grew up with studio-equipment since the 60's and spent nearly half of my life behind the controls. So I'm using now the digital technology and my experience to enhance the sound to be more pleasant for the ears."

Where you can directly compare the two approaches is in the four bonus tracks, which were only mixed in 1996. The SACD has more resolution certainly (more air and more hiss too), the Repertoire remaster sounds somewhat more realistic, less of its time. I'm keeping both.