Norman Greenbaum

Spirit in the Sky

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Norman Greenbaum was much stranger than his big hit "Spirit in the Sky" would suggest. Then again, that tune -- a confident, fuzz-toned paean to God, that sprit in the sky -- is hardly the most conventional of '70s AM anthems, so perhaps it isn't surprising that the album bearing the same title is all over the map, with sub-War low-riding anthems ("Junior Cadillac"), singer/songwriter introspection, eerie post-psychedelic pop (the genuinely unsettling "Marcy"), and utter oddities ("Canned Ham"). That, of course, means that it's far more fascinating than many soft rock curiosities of the early '70s, and the near-schizophrenic cavalcade of material means that the record doesn't hold together, but that's part of what makes it worth hearing. And while Greenbaum wasn't exactly a consistent songwriter, he did hit the mark several times ("Skyline," "Canned Ham," "Jubilee," and "Junior Cadillac" are all strong), and even the misfires are interesting and well-crafted, at least in terms of its early-'70s peers. This doesn't mean that it's a lost gem, but for listeners who want to dig into early '70s AM pop and soft rock, it's certainly worth hearing.

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