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Spirit - Live Spirit (LP)

Spirit - Live Spirit (LP)

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Genre: rock
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title:  Spirit Live
Company: Potato/First American Record
Catalog: PR2001
Year: 1978
Country/State: US
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: cut upper right corner; original inner sleeve
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 6387
Price: $8.00

Released on the Potato/First American Record imprint, "Spirit Live" is a true oddity. If you believe the liner notes, these nine tracks were recorded at shows in London, Miami and Tampa. That's fine, except for the fact a couple of the songs sounded way to accomplished to be concert performances (check out ''). By he way, showcasing the band stripped down to a trio featuring guitarist Randy California, drummer Ed Cassidy and bassist Larry Knight, that would place the recordings in the 1977-78 timeframe. So here's the interesting thing - judging by these nine tracks, even as a trio these guys were apparently a dynamite live act. I have no idea how much post-production polish was added to the set, but in their stripped down format the band shed some of their eclecticism, offering up a more mainstream attack that I found very appealing. If you were looking to hear their 'hit' in a live setting, this was a pretty good place to start as these versions of 'Nature's Way', 'Animal Zoo', and 'I've Got a Line On You' all stayed pretty true to the original studio versions and in some cases (check out the dazzling 'Nature's Way') may have been even better than the studio originals. The set was also interesting given it included four Sprit rarities; 'Rock and Roll Planet', 'Looking Down', 'These Are Words' and 'Hollywood Dreams' (the latter wasn't a cover of the Thunderclap Newman song). The band also deserved kudos for avoiding the usual double album live set drollness. Sure, there were a couple of dull patches (the seemingly endless synthesizer solo on 'Looking Down' and most of the ten minute 'All the Same'), but elsewhere keeping it short and sweet worked wonders.

- A never before released song, 'Rock and Roll Planet' showcased a surprisingly tuneful and accomplished Spirit, complete with sweet harmony vocals. Easily one of California and Cassidy's best melodies and it gave you a taste for what an amazing, if overlooked guitarist California was. rating: **** stars
- Hard to believe I'm saying this, but if anything, the live version of 'Nature's Way' may have surpassed the studio offering. Stripped down to a trio, this version avoided all the non-essential bells and whistles with California and company forced to focus on the song's essentials. Cassidy's drumming was amazing (how often do most folks really notice the drumming?) and California's vocals were simply stunning ... Fantastic performance. rating: **** stars
- When he was with the band Jay Ferguson always brought a commercial edge to Spirit and that was aptly on display in the live version of 'Animal Zoo' . With California taking lead vocals and the trio turning in some stunning three part harmonies, this version was another one that actually seemed to benefit from the stripped down live setting. rating: **** stars
- I can't say '1984' was my favorite Spirit song, but the live version was definitely an improvement over the studio track. Way more rockin' ... rating: *** stars
- Billed as a 'new song', 'Looking Down' was another surprisingly mainstream and tuneful California tune. With a bit of editing (notably ditching Larry Knight's extended bass solo), it was easy to picture this one getting mid-1970s radio play with a bit of support. Maybe it was just my ears, but this one sure sounded like it reworked segments of 'Animal Zoo' into the melody. I've also seen the song entitled 'Looking Down from a Mountain'. YouTube has a clip of the band performing the song at a 1979 German concert: rating: *** stars- I'll give the band the benefit of the doubt with respect to the ten minute plus 'All the Same'. To my ears the track was little more than a stage set for a seemingly never-ending Cassidy drum solo. Mind you it was a good drum solo, but it was still a drum solo. For anyone interested, YouTube has a couple of clips showing the band performing the song as part of a 1978 German concert: and rating: ** stars
- Their best known song, 'I've Got a Line On You' appears in a fast and hard punching rendition. Biggest surprise here are how nice the harmony vocals are ... post-production support perhaps ? rating: **** stars
- Another 'new' song, in spite of the audience sound effects, 'These Are Words' certainly didn't sound like a live track - compared to the other songs it had a totally different sound and vibe. If it was a live track, the song appeared to have been recorded in a small club with excellent acoustics and subjected o quite a bit of post-production work. No idea what the song's genesis was, but it was really, really good and it was unfortunate that it was effectively lost on this album. rating: **** stars
- 'Hollywood Dream' was a middling slice of boogie rock. California used it to turn in some tasty guitar pyrotechnics, but otherwise there wasn't all that much to get excited about. For anyone interested, YouTube has a clip of the band performing the tune for the German Rockpalast television program: rating: ** stars

"Live Spirit" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Rock and Roll Planet (Randy California - Ed Cassidy) - 2:52
2.) Nature's Way (Randy California) - 3:35
3.) Animal Zoo (Jay Ferguson) - 4:07
4.) 1984 (Randy California) - 3:19
5.) Looking Down (Randy California) - 7:17

(side 2)
1.) All the Same (Randy California - Ed Cassidy) - 10:12
2.) I've Got a Line On You (Randy California) - 3:06
3.) These Are Words (Randy California) - 3:56
4.) Hollywood Dream (Randy California) - 4:11

For hardcore Spirit fans, with various tweaks and edits, this material seems to have been reissued on a number of albums including:

- 1978's "Live" (Illegal catalog number ILP 001)
- 1978's "Made In German" (Potato catalog number 172200)
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