Posts Tagged folk-rock group
Spirit was one of the more adventurous groups to emerge from the Los Angeles psychedelic rock scene in the late 60s. Over 20 years and more than a dozen albums they presented a quirky, amorphous blend of psychedelia, jazz, blues, hard-, folk- and art-rock that benefited first from the emerging, album-oriented FM radio of the late 60s and later from a devoted fan base during the early 70s progressive rock era.
Spirit’s 1968 eponymous debut was released on January 22, 1968 with songwriter/guitarist Randy California and his stepfather, drummer Ed Cassidy leading bandmates Mark Andes (bass), Jay Ferguson (percussion and vocals) and John Locke (keyboards). The album includes the heavy, thumping “Mechanical World,” which was pressed as a single but never caught on. Two better choices for chart action might have been “Uncle Jack” (pop-rock harmony vocals) or “Fresh Garbage” (a rocker in the vein of several contemporary Doors tunes). Two modest hits would come over the next few years with “I Got A Line On You” and “Nature’s Way,” both of which are now staples on the few classic rock radio stations that dig deeper into the period.
The revolving door of personnel changes doomed Spirit to remain a might-have-been band and a venue for California and Cassidy’s eclectic genre experimentalism. In 1971 and 1972, Ferguson left for Jo Jo Gunne and a solo career (remember 1977’s “Thunder Island”?), Andes went to Jo Jo Gunne and then Firefall, and Locke left for Nazereth. The two originals kept at it through the 80s and 90s with several decent art-rock LPs, but with California’s untimely death in 1997, Cassidy called it quits and Spirit’s long-run ended.
Spirit spent more than six months on the Billboard album chart through the summer of 1968, peaking at #31. It is available as downloads for iPods and mp3 players on iTunes (click here) and can be purchased as a CD or mp3 downloads from Amazon (click here).
The original line-up for the Byrds lasted just three short years, from 1965 through mid-1968, long enough to produce the timeless tracks “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (among a dozen others), plus four great folk-, psychedelic- and early country-rock albums. But guitarist Roger (nee Jim) McGuinn was forced to reconstitute the band when, over an 18-month period, original members Gene Clark quit, David Crosby left for Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Michael Clarke and Chris Hillman left for the Flying Burrito Brothers. From 1968 to their eventual breakup in 1972, McGuinn and the in-name-only Byrds underwent several other rounds of personnel changes, the middle of which led to the October 29, 1969 release of The Ballad of Easy Rider. The album has (obvious) close ties to the terrific July 1969 cult counterculture movie, Easy Rider, starring Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson. The film soundtracked several Byrds tunes, including the title track and the wonderful, rambling, spacey, folk-rock gem “Wasn’t Born To Follow.” Interest in a revitalized Byrds peaked after the movie’s summer release, and the working title of the album was originally Captain America (after the film’s anti-hero character). Despite all the hype, The Ballad Of Easy Rider peaked at just #36 in the U.S. Nonetheless, it’s a great late-60s country-rock album.
Long before MTV, The Mamas & The Papas lip-synched through a truncated version of their signature tune, “California Dreaming” on The Ed Sullivan Show (click here) in December 1966. The single was released in 1965 and peaked at #4 in the U.S., one of 11 Top 40 charters they had in their all-too-brief, four-year career as a working folk-pop band. Had they been around 20 years later, they might have had even greater success and longevity. But John Phillips controlled things too much for certain members, and “Mama” Cass Elliott bowed out of the “family” in 1968. John’s “control” extended beyond his bandmates, as we’ve recently heard from his now-50-year-old daughter, Mackenzie. Is she waiting (at 7 years) obediently back stage for her Papa? (The Mamas & The Papas are in the Playlist Vault at DrRock.com).