Although released in 1971, the debut self-titled album by Spirit of John Morgan was actually recorded two years earlier, before the spirit of the '60s dissipated into the excesses of the '70s. But even back in 1969, the British quartet were already fish out of water, gasping for R&B in a Technicolor age of psychedelia. So they created their own, an entire album's worth of strong, shadowed, R&B numbers underlit by magnificent musicianship and powerful rhythms. The set opener, a menacing cover of Graham Bond's "I Want You," is a case in point, stalker-like in its intensity, with John Morgan's organ conjuring up a phantom of the opera from which there is no escape.
Recorded in 1985, The Spirit of Christmas finds Ray Charles performing a variety of holiday favorites with vocal assistance from the Raelettes and an appearance by jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. The ten tracks mix standards and originals, including "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and the ballad "That Spirit of Christmas," which was featured in the movie National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. The Spirit of Christmas is perfect background music for any holiday celebration.
Robert Walter hails from the Greyboy academy of jazz. Spirit of '70 is a solid outing for him, but the funk/jazz legend Gary Bartz steals the show. On tracks like "Corey's Snail and Slug Death," Bartz plays with restraint, frothing with fresh ideas and confidently reaffirming his status as an underrated jazz giant. "Volcanic Acne" is the most cohesive track on the album and shows just how exciting Walter's playing can be when he's inspired. Walter's desire to re-create the "'70s spirit" unfortunately fails to reinvent it.
The name of the Spirit of Gambo viol consort comes from an old manuscript referring to the viola da gamba as a "Gambo Violl." It is interesting that absolutely nothing in the packaging of this release, at least in its U.S. version, identifies the ensemble as being from Chicago, or America at all. Be that as it may, the group delivers strong performances of some pieces that have been somewhat neglected within the viol consort repertoire.