Album review: SPIRIT – Sunrise And Salvation, The Mercury Era Anthology (Remasters, 8 CD Boxset)

Cherry Red [release date: 08.10.21]

Accidentally or on purpose, Spirit managed to avoid true success, giving the firm impression that if their career ever got anywhere near the glittering shop window of fame, they put the pedal to the metal, giving it nary a sideways glance as they sped past.

Their story is much like the story of any other band who started life in the sixties – faltering steps, mistakes, fallouts, line up changes, label problems – but when they truly got their writing and recording act together, their febrile mix of rock, jazz and psychedelia struck a chord with millions. They just didn’t do it often enough to achieve lasting commercial success.

This mammoth, 8 CD Boxset, titled Sunrise And Salvation, captures over 200 tracks of Spirit material. The majority of these tracks were laid down in the seventies, and many of them were subsequently released by Mercury Records. And indeed many of them lay unreleased until now.

The first five CDs in this set comprise the band’s double album, Spirit Of 76, (CD1&2); Son Of Spirit/Farther Along (CD3); Future Games (CD4) and The Thirteenth Dream (CD5), with many unreleased songs skilfully worked into these original track lists by famed archivist Mick Skidmore. All have been given a 2020 shine, gleamingly remastered by someone who clearly knows what he or she is doing.

The band’s notoriously fluid construction circuitously led to the re-assembly of the main players in 1974, with drummer Ed Cassidy rounding up key men, Randy California, John Locke, Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes. And that’s where this collection begins – Mercury Records took a flier on the band based on hearing literally countless tracks of new material, laid down in Florida’s Studio 70 that year.

The first release, and perhaps the most appetising slice of the cake was Spirit of 76, a cultural collision of songs informed by each musician’s worldview, with a few nods to other artists, like Dylan, Hendrix and Rufus Thomas.

Previously unreleased material, like a live cover of ‘Hey Joe’ and live versions of the band’s “hits” I Got A Line On You’, ‘Skin’ and ‘Fresh Garbage’ are real value-add bonuses on the second CD.

CDs 3, 4 and 5 are filled to overflowing with bonus material, some live, some previously unreleased studio tracks. CD3, Son Of Spirit (1976) again cherry picked from the wealth of material stocked up on Studio 70′s shelves.

The new material of follow up, 1977′s Future Games (CD4), zoomed off into Science Fiction territory. A fabulous cover of Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ is almost buried among the band’s ‘Kahuna Dream’, ‘Stars Are Reborn’, ‘Bionic Unit’ Sci-fi tracks, like we’d accidently crashed a Zappa recording session.

Fast forward to 1984 and The Thirteenth Dream (CD5). Clearly a reference to the band’s best selling sixties’ album, The Twelve Dreams Of Dr Sardonicus.
It’s constructed around re-recordings of 7 of the usual suspects, like ‘Skin’ and ‘I Got A Line on You’, with some innovative new material added. Jay Ferguson’s ‘Black Satin Nights’ and Randy California’s ‘All Over The World’ are thrilling period rock songs, full of gritty poetic flourishes, going some way to make up for the recycled material at the core of the album.

CDs 6, 7 and 8: It’s only a slight exaggeration to claim that archivist Skidmore built these 3 CDs from the ground up. And that’s a claim recognised by the AllMusic team on their internet site.

They are simply bulging at the seams with previously unreleased material, beginning with CD6 and Spirit Of Salvation, again culled from Studio 70′s apparently endless supply of quality recordings. And ending with CD8 and early demos from 1977′s Future Games, supplemented with live material recorded when the band hit their mid seventies’s peak.

In between, CD7, Live At Armadillo Headquarters, Austin, Texas (not to be confused with the Glasgow Armadillo) is chockablock with previously unreleased recordings. And although the band’s studio albums are overflowing with conviction in their ability as artists, they demonstrate that up on stage, rawness, realism and real talent, coupled with the sweaty clang and clamour of playing live, distinguishes the great rock bands from the also-rans. *****

Review by Brian McGowan





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Power Plays w/c 8 August 2022 (Mon-Fri)
BORN LOST Take Time (Mouthpiece) (Revolver Records)
JAIME KYLE Driving With The Brakes On (Conquest Music)
SCARLET DORN Born To Suffer (SPV Recordings)
HOLDING ABSENCE Coffin (Sharptone Records)
TYRANNOSAURUS NEBULOUS Get Some (Echoed Past Records)
KROOKED TONGUE When The Beaches Bleed (indie)
SKYPILOT Knifed On The Beach (The Distortion Project)

Featured Albums w/c 8 August (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 LESSMAN VOSS Rock Is Our Religion (Atomic Fire Records)
12:00-13:00 H.E.A.T. Force Majeure (earMUSIC)
14:00-16:00 THE SLAMBOVIAN CIRCUS OF DREAMS A Very Unusual Head (indie)



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