Friday, June 1, 2012

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die #173. Alexander Spence - Oar (1969)

173. Alexander Spence - Oar (1969)
Label – Columbia Producer – Alexander Spence
Art Direction – Lloyd Ziff
Nationality - USA
Running Time – 44:03

Track Listing (standout tracks listed in bold)

Side One
"Little Hands" – 3:44  
"Cripple Creek" – 2:16
"Diana" – 3:32
 "Margaret/Tiger Rug" – 2:17  
"Weighted Down (The Prison Song)" – 6:27
"War in Peace" – 4:05

Side Two  
"Broken Heart" – 3:29
 "All Come to Meet Her" – 2:04
 "Books of Moses" – 2:42
 "Dixie Peach Promenade (Yin for Yang)" – 2:53
"Lawrence of Euphoria" – 1:31
 "Grey/Afro" – 9:38

“Oar” is a 1969 album by the late Alexander “Skip” Spence. It is Spence's only solo album, and he plays all of the instruments. His claim to fame is being a one time member of Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Moby Grape. In June of 1968, Spence was admitted into the Psychiatric Ward of New York's Bellevue Hospital for a 6 month stint Bellevue following a delusion-driven attempt to attack Moby Grape bandmates Don Stevenson and Jerry Miller with a fire axe!! Oddly, it also signaled the beginning of his most prolific writing cycle. This is a strange record. The songs are pleasant enough – quiet, stark production, interesting lyrics – but his vocals are so bad it was tough to listen to the entire thing. Not an easy listen! Some of the more straightforward songs such as the love ballad "Broken Heart" or "Cripple Creek" are easily the stand out tracks, while the rest are full of unusual chord sequences and lyrical meanderings which make the record sound like it’s teetering on going out of control. Likely it all made perfect sense in his own head. Legend has it that Spence said that the sessions were intended by him to only be a demo, which he gave to his producer David Rubinson to get ideas on how to flesh out the tracks with full production, and instead the demo recordings were submitted for released by Columbia Records. When first released, the record was not promoted by Columbia Records and it was at the time the lowest-selling album in Columbia Records history, and was deleted from the Columbia catalogue within a year of its release. It is not recommended.

Listen to the record "Oar" here!
You can purchase the vinyl here

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