Alexander Spence

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Oar Review

by Lindsay Planer

No one except psychedelic Renaissance man Alexander "Skip" Spence could have created an album such as Oar. Alternately heralded as a "soundtrack to schizophrenia" and a "visionary solo effort," Oar became delegated to cut-out and bargain bins shortly after its release in the spring of 1969. However, those who did hear it were instantly drawn into Spence's inimitable sonic surrealism. As his illustrious past in the Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Moby Grape would suggest, this album is a warped blend of acid folk and far-out psychedelic rock. While these original compositions do draw heavily from those genres, each song has the individuality of a fingerprint, and Spence performed and produced every sound on the album himself at Columbia studios in Nashville in the space of less than two weeks. This burst of creativity was directly preceded by a six-month incarceration in New York City's Bellevue Hospital after chopping down a door at the Albert Hotel en route to do the same to fellow Moby Grape members Jerry Miller's and Don Stevenson's doors. A common motif to this album is the presence of saints and demons. Even the straightforward narratives such as the love ballads "Broken Heart" and "Cripple Creek" -- which feature vocal treatments reminiscent of folkie Fred Neil -- are bathed in unusual chord sequences and lyrical double-entendre. The majority of the sounds on this long player remain teetering near the precipice of sanity. Primary examples include "War in Peace," the epic "Grey/Afro," and the sound effect-laden "Books of Moses." Comparisons have been made to Syd Barrett, John Lennon, and Frank Zappa -- the latter especially for the intense sonic collage techniques displayed on albums such as Lumpy Gravy and Civilization Phase III.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Alexander Spence 03:44 Amazon
2 Alexander Spence 02:16 Amazon
3 Alexander Spence 03:32 Amazon
4 Alexander Spence 02:17 Amazon
5 Alexander Spence 06:27 Amazon
6 Alexander Spence 04:05 Amazon
7 Alexander Spence 03:29 Amazon
8 Alexander Spence 02:04 Amazon
9 Alexander Spence 02:42 Amazon
10 Alexander Spence 02:53 Amazon
11 Alexander Spence 01:31 Amazon
12 Alexander Spence 09:38 Amazon
13 Alexander Spence 04:42 Amazon
14 Alexander Spence 02:48 Amazon
15 Alexander Spence 03:06 Amazon
16 Alexander Spence 03:35 Amazon
17 Alexander Spence 00:59 Amazon
18 Alexander Spence 00:47 Amazon
19 Alexander Spence 01:47 Amazon
20 Alexander Spence 01:02 Amazon
21 Alexander Spence 00:34 Amazon
22 Alexander Spence 01:14 Amazon
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