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Curious and brave...
on 10 July 2008
Spirit's first album is a curious, brave, but not always satisfying mixture of styles, reflecting the fairly diverse background of the group's members. While the playing and singing is consistently good - backed up by some exceptional drumming from R&B and jazz veteran Ed Cassidy - several of the tracks verge on the seriously lightweight in terms of lyrics and melody and, while they were considered "where it's at" at the time, are definitely preserved in aspic.
The first "ecological" number reflects a lot of what follows... cool (for the time) lyrics "look beneath your lid this morning see the things you didn't quite consume", very catchy tune with an insidious back-beat that's been extensively sampled, superb but derivative jazz tinged piano break, excellent singing and nice soft landing. Too pretty ?... too clever ?... Well yes, but it's a great track.
And so it goes. "The Girl In Your Eye" with its sitar backing verges on the horribly quaint but... it's good, "Straight Arrow" with its simple melody contains a short, but excellent jazzy break that lifts it into the unforgettable zone, "Uncle Jack" perfectly captures "underground" rock & roll c.1968 and "Elijah" is about as close as you can get to straight jazz as played by a pop group.
It's like Love meet the Byrds, the Beatles and Horace Silver on a laid back day. Or... well that's the problem. I remember seeing a concert review from around 1968/9 that criticised the band for playing exactly as you heard them on the record. Is that good or bad? Who knows, but it sums up this odd album... polished and clever... almost a classic but lacking something.