Steve Hoffman (2017)
By Beppe Colli
May 19, 2017
four albums released by Spirit's original line-up - the ones that really count:
Spirit and The Family That Plays Together, from 1968; Clear, from 1969; and
Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus, from 1970 - have been re-released many times,
starting with the vinyl editions on Epic from the early 70s, after Epic bought
the Ode catalogue, Ode being the label that produced and released the group's
first three albums.
have been many vinyl and CD editions, stereo and mono, with variable results.
audiophile label Audio Fidelity announced they will re-release Spirit's first
four albums in SACD format, which could prove to be the definitive word when it
comes to Spirit.
decided to get in touch with ace remastering engineer Steve Hoffman, who's
working on this.
interview was conducted via e-mail.
first question deals with the group's second album, given the fact that - due
to the proverbial "original tapes being lost", or so it was said at
the time - all previous editions of The Family That Plays Together that I've
listened to were explicitly said to be re-mixes, all sounding different to me.)
know you are remastering Spirit's first four albums, of course I assume the
original tapes were in good conditions. So we're talking about original
analogue tapes, and original mixes for the group's second, The Family That
Plays Together, right?
original Ode analog mixes for the first three albums, Epic analog mixes for the
fourth album, yes.
the covers of my not-quite-original copies (all Epic from the early- to
mid-70s), no recording studio is mentioned, so I'm curious to know where the
albums were recorded, on what equipment.
Recorders Studio on Yucca Street, in Hollywood. Not my favorite studio...
production on the first album is quite elaborate, with vocal layers, strings
and brass, and quite varied guitar timbres, some of which were original at the
time. What's your take on the first album?
liked it at the time, still do. Jazzy stuff with great songs.
track Fresh Garbage sounds quite accessible and, in a way, could be regarded as
being "commercial". Then it goes into a completely different mood,
with a Wurlitzer piano solo. Do you think Spirit were "too subtle" to
register on a mass level?
think Spirit was a band that needed a strong leader to get them places, on
tours, on radio interviews, etc. They didn't have a leader.
album The Family That Plays Together is in a way even more varied than the
group's first, with more strings and brass. Did you get any surprises while
listening to the original tapes?
the album really sounds like it was recorded in a practice room, charming sound
and really great songs. The mixing is what it is, not how I would have done it
but then I wasn't around then!
their fourth album, Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus, Spirit definitely rocked
but were seldom aggressive. So I'm curious to know if you ever had the
opportunity to catch them "live".
them live in 1971 at the Valley Music Center in Woodland Hills, CA. They
basically did the entire Dr. Sardonicus album and blew us all away. Soon after
they broke up, God knows why.
group's main composers - Randy California and Jay Ferguson - had quite
different writing styles, yet successfully contributed to each other's songs -
here I'm thinking about Jay Ferguson's background vocals on I Got A Line On You
and Randy California guitar fireworks on Aren't You Glad. In this respect, do
you have any favourites?
love all of their songs, a sincerely underrated band.
it was... well, I wouldn't say it was common, but it was definitely not rare at
the time, each member of Spirit had an individual signature sound. Is there anything
special that struck you while you were listening to those tapes?
were too laid back possibly for the time. They weren't an underground band but
they were like Love, they were not disciplined enough. Too many Chiefs in the
band, pulling in too many directions.
a kid, I happened to hear the more "radio-friendly" portion of
Spirit's catalogue "in real time" (i. e., at the time the original
albums were released). I remember listening to Fresh Garbage, I Got A Line On
You, Aren't You Glad, Give A Life, Take A Life, I'm Truckin', When I Touch You.
However, at the time, the group's eclecticism kept me at arm's distance. Do you
think today's audience could regard this as a virtue?
I think today with the short attention span of most people a group like Spirit
wouldn't even register with them, sadly.
know you've finished working on the first two albums, with the other two titles
to come in the near future. Is there anything you'd like to say as an
introduction to the group's music, sound-wise?
playing and writing, but like Pet Sounds or Love's Forever Changes, the songs
have to be paid attention to. This is not music to dust the tables with. One
has to really pay attention. Hopefully these new releases will make it possible
to do that. Having these albums with all the original mixes I grew up with as a
kid will be a dream come true for me and hopefully others.
© Beppe Colli 2017
CloudsandClocks.net | May 19, 2017