Sunday, November 7, 2010

The New Spirit of Capitol (music)


New spirit of capitol I've written before about sampler albums: compilations of music from a particular record label whose goal was to introduce people to new music.  Warner/Reprise had several of these, available by mail if you bought an album, but they weren't the only ones.  Capitol Records tried the same thing in 1969 with The New Spirit of Capitol.

Capitol was probably the biggest US record company in the 60s, with the Beatles and the Beach Boys.  But in 1970, the Beatles had broken up and the Beach Boys were considered washed up* and had moved on.  Also, there was a change in management so that EMI Records was more involved.

So, in order to trumpet the changes, they released the album, The New Spirit of Capitol.  It consisted of an eclectic mix of British groups, especially from their Harvest label and US names and a surprising number of groups that went on to be superstars.  The tracks were:

  • Steve Miller Band -- Little Girl.  Miller was successful from the first, and this was from his fourth (and best) album, Your Saving Grace.  But he did not become a major name until he had a hit with "The Joker" several years later.
  • Hedge and Donna -- Jamie.  A folk-rock duo with soul influences who never made much of a splash.  "Jamie" is a soft rock tune parts of which seem very much like Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne."
  • Joe South -- Games People Play. At the time, this was the best-known song on the album -- a top 20 single.  South was a very successful songwriter, but this is the song that first comes to mind when his name is mentioned.  It takes its title from a best selling self-help book of the time.
  • Linda Ronstadt -- Silver Threads and Golden Needles.  Ronstadt at the time was just launching her solo career after a hit as lead singer for the Stone Poneys.** The song is a rock version of an older country song, and her voice is as good as ever***.
  • John Stewart -- July, You're a Woman.  Now known as host of The Daily . . . no, that that John Stewart.  He was actually a big success before this album, as a member of the Kingston Trio and this was from his first solo attempt.  He later had some hit songs in the 1979.
  • David Axelrod -- A Little Girl Lost.  Named White House Chief of . . . no, not that David Axelrod, either.  He was a producer and A&R man who started a performing career.  Though he has been successful, he's never was a chart topper.
  • Edgar Broughton Band -- Toy Soldier.  One of the Harvest Records acts, the band never was a hit in the US.  Broughton's voice has been compared to Captain Beefheart, and he even covered one of the Captain's songs, but he was more a blues artist than avant garde. "Toy Soldier" was a blackly humorous and very bitter antiwar song.
  • Grand Funk Railroad -- Please Don't Worry.  Grand Funk was just starting out; this was from their second album and the first to go platinum.  Grand Funk were becoming superstars as New Spirit was released.
  • The Sons -- It's Time.  A San Francisco group, originally called The Sons of Champlin.  Nice song, but they never caught on.
  • Pink Floyd -- Astronomy Domine. Believe it or not, Pink Floyd was just a cult British group up until Dark Side of the Moon.  This was the earliest, four-minute version of "Astronomy Domine" from The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, so it wasn't even a new song.  Still, it's always been the most outstanding song from the Syd Barrett era.
  • Guitar, Jr. -- Broke and Hungry. There were two acts named "Guitar Junior" in the blues world; this one eventually switched his stage name to Lonnie Brooks.  This is classic electric blues and Brooks had a long career after this.
  • Bob Seger System --Innervenus Eyes.  Yes, that Bob Seger. At this time, he was trying to find the right mix to break out nationally; this song is somewhat more spacey than you'd expect from him.
  • Mississippi Fred McDowell -- The Red Cross Store. McDowell was a slide guitarist who played for years in northern Mississippi until he was discovered in the late 50s, where he immediately became a sensation in the blues world. 

The album just hit #200 on the Billboard top 200 list for one week, then vanished.  I picked it out of a cutout bin for 39 cents.  It was the best record bargain I ever got.****

*A few years earlier, I saw them at a free concert at Nassau Community College on Long Island.  They didn't draw 200 people.  For free.

**"Different Drum," which had been written by Mike Nesmeth of the Monkees.

***Linda Ronstadt put less emotion into her singing than any singer I've ever heard.  Her voice, though, was a magnificent instrument and a pleasure to listen to.

****Not counting legal free music, of course.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for casting your spotlight light on this obscure little gem. I share the feeling that this is one of the best collections of music I never paid for. I got it free when I purchased the Siegel-Schwall Band LP back in 1969. Interestingly Hedge & Donna have a small, nostalgic following in Southern California to this day.

Michael Snell said...

I bought this album back in the day. Have told the story many times of how many future stars were on it. Over the years I have gotten fuzzy on just how many there were. Thanks for refreshing my memory and paying tribute to a fine sampler album

george said...

just got this for 2 .00 bucks it sounds great thanks for infor.

Gisele aka LA2LACehf said...

I absolutely loved the wonderful duo, Hedge and Donna, back in the day and wonder what happened to them.

Unknown said...

I have one still wrapped in the original plastic