George Starostin's Reviews



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Don K. Miles <> (23.02.2006)

Spirit... I left Colonial Heights, virginia in late july 1969 bound for Los Angeles, California...yep, Man walked on the moon as we were in a park in Arizona, Operation INTERCEPT was going on at the Mexico border as ordered by Richard Nixon...incidently, there was more pot in LA during that operation than at anytime. It was during the first few weeks that the Manson family scared the hell out of LA. It was a time of bands not as good as a group I loved from the first time I heard them....Spirit!!! I still to this day listen to them regularly. Your description of them was perfect...God I hope there is a corner in heaven that has a section dedicated to the summer of "69. What a year.

xane <> (25.02.2006)

I was in California for a month in 1969 during the late summer. And I happened to see Spirit at an outdoor concert in San Diego. They were great. It was the atmospere of the times. Randy California ( so named by JimmY Hendrix because there was another Randy in the band- Jimmy's band in New York bfore he went to England) and Jay Ferguson. They played Fresh Garbage, Brown Eyed Woman Nature's Way and the impressive Mechaincal World. WHich was written about a bad sushi experience by Jay Ferguson- so he said when he introduced the song.

THis band was better than the Doors and I think Led Zeppelin opened for them at one time. Jazz and Psychedelic rock at its best. They should have been more famous!

Grant H. "Skip" Cole <> (08.04.2006)

I'm writing toi describe one of the sadder moments of my lifetime of music appreciation, involving some GREAT and multi-talented members of the sensational group Spirit. I agree with you that this is one of the most underappreciated, talented, (and-only-God-knows-why) largely UNRECOGNIZED groups of that fabulous time and space, late-sixties, early-seventies California (no pun here). A incident here in God-fearing Tulsa, Oklahoma proves our point. A few yeaers back, I was perusing a flyer for the Tulsa State Fair, when my eyes bulged as I gasped for air:

...S P I R I T ? Tulsa, Oklahoma ? Noooooo Way !

Then a second thought brought me back to reality: Awww, somebody probably bought out the rights to the name....What the heck, we'll go see 'em anyway. Unfortunately, I never got to see the guys at their peak, but I spent hours with their records when I peaked !

Well, my wife and I showed up, excited, a night pregnant with possibilities and wonder. As stage time approached....I began to wonder if we had gotten our timing off or were at the wrong location. The only others there were a bunch of drunk kids and their kids (maybe ten-fifteen people at most).

A dark, handsome fellow with long hair and a drummer with NO hair hit the stage and proceeded to bend their respective instruments in ways that immediately teleported me back some thirty-forty WAS Randy California and Jack Cassady. I was enthralled, naturally. It was over FAR too quickly, and no wonder; they were performing exzcellent work for a couple of laid-back old farts and a few people that were too young to remember any of their powerful work except for "Nature's Way" (which has been played and replayed so many times by the local Clear Channel station that it has lost its former magical touch on my eardrums!)

A few months later I learned of Randy's tragic death.

It pains me to no end to realize that one of his last concerts was soooooo unheeded. We're not talking about one-hit wonders here......I got a Line on You, Fresh Garbage, Nature's way, and the wonderfully artistic Twelve Dreams, an album that was in about every hip person's collection at the time. Have I just gotten too old ? Is Tulsa really that unenthusiastic? Or was the promotion lacking appropriate publicity....I dunno, but I'm sure it didn't excite Randy, Jack, or any other former band-mates that appeared (Jay Ferguson noticeably absent, couldn't see if Locke was on keyboards)

By the way, Randy played a poignant tune I'd never experienced before. It was a bluesy piece about a guitarist who had lost all, and was tasking his instrument to the hock shop sdo he could eat The idea of the song was that he was gonna play the hell out of his axe one more time, forever. I got a strange feeling that perhaps Randy, one of the greatest lead guitarists of all time, from his early years with Jimmy Hendrix, to Kaptain Kopter and the fabulous Whirlybirds and beyond, had lived this experience. Lord, I hope not!


Fox Simon <> (13.06.2000)

I agree with your assessment of this album, but must confess to be astonished that you haven't heard any of their other records. Clear is as good as, but more jazzy than, the first whilst The Family that Plays Together is far better and The 12 Dreams of Dr Sardonicus is a masterpiece. After this they went off the boil a bit, but Potatoland (recorded 1976, released 1981) is one of those wonderful albums on which a band try an array of styles and get every one right, hell, they even sound like Funkadelic on the opening track.

Fredrik Tydal <> (05.07.2000)

Picked up this one on the strenght of your review, also knowing that Wilson & Alroy speak highly of the group. Sure, I was impressed; their slightly laid-back, jazzy style had few counter-parts in late sixties California, where most groups went for a bluesier approach. The instrumental skills are really good all around, even if the bass player can't touch Jack Casady at all. "Taurus" is of course the most interesting track on the album - Led Zeppelin's rip off was even more obvious than I expected. What was Page thinking - that nobody would ever notice it? "Hey, Bob - remember those Californian guys with the bald drummer we used to open for back in '68?" "Eh, no...?" "Good, neither will anyone else." Every classic rock fan should do themselves a favour and track down this album.

Gary Gomes <> (10.08.2001)

Spirit was indeed one of the best groups of the late 1960's--tight , professional, and that guitar sustain that California had going (on a crappy Sears Dan Electro guitar yet) would not be duplicated until 1974 by Robert Fripp. Mark Andes is also a great bass player, better than Casady. I agree (in one of those rare moments) with George; the first album was the best, but I thought The Family That Plays Together had some great moments (particularly "Dream Within A Dream" -- a majestic post-Psychedelic piece, listen to the bass and guitar on this--awesome).

I am not sure why Spirit were not more popular--they were unclassifible much of the time, and a friend who was active in the business (he was almost slated to take over Dewey Martin's drum seat in the Buffalo Springfield), says that the marketers started to figure out how to package these things around the time Spirit appeared. Like Family, they were a great band that just could not be pigeonholed--and suffered the inevitable fate of such bands!

John Drayton and Cathie Peut <> (10.11.2001)

Before reading your review, George, my only knowledge of this band came from my belief that they had a guitarist who had a name more suited to a career as a porn-star than a musician. How wrong I was!

This is a great album, deserving all the praise you have lavished on it.The way in which jazzy chords appear and disappear out of nowhere is real artistry, and "Taurus" is beautiful.

As an aside, I don't really hold it against Led Zeppelin that there is a "similarity" between that track and "Stairway". First, because it sounds to me like an old folk-tune revamped anyway (lovely arrangement, though), and second because I think most popular music derives riffs and progressions from earlier models (e.g. the old bluesmen). What seems to me to be important is not the "originality" so much as how the source material is used. I'll take Led Zep AND Spirit.

Phil Leith <> (06.03.2002)

Fresh Garbage, my all-time Spirit favorite for sure. Even did a piece in a photography class inspired by the song. I've got several of the albums on Vinyl - Spirit, Clear, The Family that Plays Together, Dr. Sardonicus and one or two others. They're a band I keep going back to. Never liked Led Zepplin but I certainly don't hold "Taurus/Stairway" against them. In the liner notes of the Spirit Anthology, it actually says that 1) the Zepplin guys were big Spirit fans and often sat right in front at their shows, and 2) Zep asked if they could use it and were given a green light. They just liked it. It was a compliment.

I personally love the acid jazz aspect of their work, though upon further reflection I can't find much fault with dropping The Family That Plays Together down below Spirit and Dr. Sardonicus.  I still find it quite listenable -- matter of fact, I can't think of a Spirit tune that I flat don't like at all off the top of my head.

Mark Corbett <> (23.01.2003)

Blinkin' flip! This album is absolutely superb. I have to say thank you here, because I would never have bought this if it wasn't for your review (which is spot on). I don't think I'll ever tire of listening to 'Girl in Your Eye' and 'Topanga Windows' (really wonderful vocals), but every other song, bar 'Elijah', is also a cracker. Everyone should have a little Spirit!

Tom Anger <> (21.03.2003)

Liked your reviews- in fact Spirit was on the radio all the time in the late 60's- I was in high school and I loved the songs particularly 'Fresh Garbage' and 'Mechanical World'. Particularly 'Mechanical World' - what a heavy, moody song. Somebody tell my mother...THAT I DIED ! By the way do you know the rest of the lyrics- I would like to perform this song in aband I am in- I never knew all the words and can't find them...but the meelotron - and guitar sustain are first rate...too bad randy Cal died in hawaii in 'the early 90's..

<> (05.06.2003)

why can't i see the name yardbirds somwhere? this band was known to be a yardbirds clone. that only makes it more fun when you think about page ripping of "taurus". he copyed from a band that was a clone of the band he once was a member of (althrough beck and clapton probably did a better work in yardbirds).

Mike Mooney <> (10.06.2003)

why can't i see the name yardbirds somwhere? this band was known to be a yardbirds clone.

I have no idea where this idea came from. I've NEVER before heard that comparison, and I can't hear any similarity whatsoever!

I totally agree with George's original assessment of the first album though - by far their best, and much better than the good, but overrated Sardonicus.

Pedro Andino <> (17.08.2003)

the great lost 60's band. 'elijah' is the best 10 minute jam! with cool guitars! psychedelics! jazz drumming! that is way better than leonard nimoy's embarresing songs in his stupid lp called mr.spocks music from outer space! i remember watching a movie in spanish called el santo contra el invasion de los marcianos! 'tarus' is beautiful. 'fresh garbage' is so funny the title is funny. spirit cannot be denied i love randy california!

Michael H. <> (26.11.2003)

Yes I have this VINYL ALBUM, and I can get more pressings and offer it for sale (but you will have to pay the prices that the used record store charges me and it varies!!!) I learned about "Stairway to Heaven/Taurus" connection (in Maximum Blender magazine) but It has been murmured that there is a vague similarity between the opening notes of this song and those of a song by Johnny Rivers called "Summer Rain". Another suggested source for the introduction chords is The Chocolate Watch Band's "And She's Lonely". The solo chords are also similar to the chords of Dylan's, and Hendrix's, "All Along The Watchtower", though the chord progression is hardly uncommon and any direct influence is also unlikely. Also LED ZEPPELIN was said in books to cover "FRESH GARBAGE" during there early live appearences. But if you hear the song, you cant imagine Zepplin covering it, ect...

Geoffrey Bell <> (15.07.2005)

I see a small similarity between Spirit's "Taurus" and Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven", although, yeah, I've heard that they "lifted" it from a whole bunch of sources. However, I believe a member of Spirit was once quoted as saying something (in response to the rumors) like "If they want to lift a guitar solo, that's cool." (I mysteriously can't find this now, but saw it all of a week ago, methinks.) This in itself, of course, does not justify taking the lick without permission, but it might if you consider what this comment might say about the attitude bands had with one another as far as intellectual property, especially these two bands


David Goodwin <> (14.06.2001)

An incredibly uneven affair, but I like its high points more than the "high points" on any other Spirit record. First, the bad news...we hit a major sag around the middle, from "Darling If" to "Jewish." In fact, "Jewish" is some of the most bizarrely-embarassing crap I've ever heard (the fact that I AM Jewish, and know exactly what he's saying, cracks me up even more...prayer set to music, gawd).

Thing is, though, I never understood why lots of people were so down on this record...until, that is, the completist in me made me go out and buy the ORIGINAL (pre-remix) CD. Yech! Out of the three remixed albums in Spirit's catalogue (First, this, and Clear), this one is by far the most reworked. In its two remix incarnations, on Time Circle and on the reissue album (both are slightly different remixes, but with the same ideas in mind) the album is incredibly smooth, almost slithery in a weird way. The segues are excellent, the string sections blend in well, and the entire experience is just one of pure musical bliss. I love the transition, for example, between "It Shall Be" and "Poor Richard." Yet in the original mix, the transitions are clunky, the strings stick out like a sore thumb...I don't know, it made a *lot* of difference to me insofar as my appreciation of the album was concerned. And to top it off, several of the bonus tracks on the reissue are absolutely marvellous ('Fog', for example, is just sublime).

So anyway, back to the point. I love this album dearly, although I understand that I seem to be in the minority. But give it a chance...and for god's sake, get the reissue!;-)


<> (16.08.2000)

yea,i agree...sardonicus is simply overated.indeed it has the most memorable cover of any spirit lp but musically i prefer the diversity and just simply the music of the first spirit lp.the second and third lps are also more pleasing to me than the overated sardonicus but seem to departmentalize the jazz influence i so liked on their real masterpiece,spirit.

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