Spirit — The Original Potato Land
(Floating World FLOATM6080, 1973/2011, 2CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2014-01-16
Anyone hearing this disc for the very first time might well conclude that this is the weirdest album ever produced. On one level there is an Orwellian concept running through all the tracks, but it’s presented in a whimsical comic book-like story about our two adventurers (Kaptain Kopter and Commander Cassidy, the two principals in Spirit) visiting a world inhabited by giant potato people. This album was intended to be the follow-up to Randy California’s Kapt Kopter and the (Fabulous) Twirly Birds, but when the band presented it to Epic, they refused to release it, and eventually cancelled Spirit’s contract over it, leaving the band without a label. Before that all happened, in early 1973, while Spirit was touring the UK, they made an appearance on Bob Harris’ BBC radio show, at which time the entire first side of the yet-to-be-released Potato Land album was played. Many listeners taped that show in anticipation of the album’s release, but after months went by with no release, Harris (who still had the acetate) played the entire second side of the album. Now the entire album was out there, albeit circulating as a bootleg tape among fans. Two years went by, then Spirit finally resurfaced on Mercury records with a new double album Spirit of 76. It seemed like Potato Land would never be released, although calls for its release continued from fans throughout the world.
Finally, in 1981, Potatoland was released – but it wasn’t the same version that had been premiered eight years earlier; instead it featured four newly recorded tracks on the first side of the LP, and the second side featured material from the first side of the original version, but heavily remixed with many new parts and overdubs added. Finally, in 2006, the original 1973 version premiered on the BBC was released with a half dozen bonus tracks (mostly live material taken from a 1972 Kapt Kopter show) and a short interview clip with California and Cassidy extracted from that Bob Harris show in April ‘73. Within the concept album, there are numerous references to Spirit’s earlier work, including a new version of their legendary ‘banned’ single “1984,” to set the Orwellian tone, and a reprise of it near the album’s end. “Natures Way” from Sardonicus also appears here in a reworked version, and in a short reprise titled “Nature’s Theme.” The core of the first side contains the five songs “Turn to the Right,” “Donut House,” “Fish Fry Road,” “Information,” and “My Friend,” which are all tied together into a suite with the story line dialog interspersed. These are all great songs that could stand strong on their own. The second side continues with a rockin’ version of “Walkin’ the Dog” that would have fit well on the Kapt Kopter... album, then continues with a series of potatoland related suites, reprises and dialog bits, ending up with the memorable song “It’s Time Now” (which would later be repurposed as the closer for the Son of Spirit album in 1975). This 2011 reissue of the “original” version includes a second disc which contains the entire 1981 Potatoland “re-make” album, with four additional bonus tracks, including “Midnight Train,” a song heretofore only available as part of a one-sided flexi-disc in Dark Star magazine around 1978. So with this two-disc version, one gets the ’73 original, the ’81 re-make, and a nice collection of bonus material all in a single package.
The Pineapple Thief to Tour North America – November and December of 2019 will see The Pineapple Thief bringing their music to Canada, Mexico, and the US, and famed drummer Gavin Harrison will be on board. The band has been touring extensively in Europe, but North America will be new territory for them. » Read more
Scott Walker RIP – Noel Scott Engel, better known as Scott Walker, was one of the most intriguing and enigmatic musical figures in the second half of the 20th Century. His strange career started with The Walker Brothers, an American pop group that featured no one named Walker and no brothers. After moving to England in 1965, they had a series of hit singles. Scott's solo work started with Scott in 1967. Starting in the 80s, his work took an increasingly avant-garde turn. » Read more
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more
Quasar Lux Symphoniæ - Abraham - One Act Rock Opera – First, let's clear up any confusion: This is in no way related to the British neo-symphonic group Quasar that once featured Tracy Hitchings as vocalist. Instead, QLS is an Italian four-piece core band... (1994) » Read more