Spirit

Farther Along

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AllMusic Review by

This 1976 reunion of Spirit without Jay Ferguson, but with the inclusion of Matt Andes, brother of original bassist Mark Andes, who is also here, has some very special moments. The title track is a little R&B-folk number by Randy California, Andes, and Cassidy, while the second song, "Atomic Boogie," is California indulging himself again in musical excess. The entire band is listed as co-writers on this tune only, so they can all shoulder the blame for the weakest track on an otherwise excellent album that features many collaborations by the various musicians. "World Eat World Dog" is a nice slice of the old-style Spirit by John Locke, California, and Ed Cassidy, setting a mood and featuring conducting and arrangements by David Blumberg. "Stoney Night" continues in this vein, horns battling the bubbling guitars and providing proof that the collective forces of Spirit were truly a unique and important rock group. The John Locke instrumental "Pineapple" doesn't need words to convey the Hawaiian theme which runs through much of California's music. He doesn't have to write the song to influence it heavily. The percussion and vibes are magical, while John Locke's keyboards more than hint at what was missing when the band crafted recordings or played live without him. Al Schmitt's production shines on "Colossus"; the award-winning engineer for so many artists and Jefferson Airplane producer is in his element here. Note the Don Henderson-orchestrated instrumental version of the group's FM nugget "Nature's Way," which ends the set. This third Mercury release in the mid-'70s takes a couple of songs to get going, but the collaboration with the Andes brothers and John Locke puts Cassidy and California back into a true band setting, and the package becomes a very musical and cohesive unit. "Phoebe" is another luscious instrumental (three of the dozen titles are music with no words), while a Beatles-style "Once With You" and "Diamond Spirit," with its inclusion of the title track melody at the end, allow California to front a full Spirit without battling the strong personality of a Jay Ferguson. The Andes brothers, who backed up Ferguson with his Jo Jo Gunne band, are more interesting in this setting as well, and give support to California's music. Had the Staehely Brothers from the Feedback album combined here rather than the Andes boys, the direction would have totally changed, and it is an interesting thought to ponder. The five discs that make up the four Mercury 1970s releases from Spirit have great merit, and the best of this music could be combined with Epic/Legacy's Time Circle double CD to make for a nice four- or five-disc overview of this important set of sounds from an underrated band.

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