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by Mike Hotter on August 18, 2010

Spur of the Moments

Storied indie label Drag City has set itself up as a sort of underground version of Rhino Records in recent years, digging through the rock & roll vaults and reissuing albums it deems to be unfairly neglected. The Chicago-based label follows recent successes (Death’s . . . For the Whole World to See and Gary Higgins’ Red Hash) with the vinyl-and MP3-only reissue of Spur of the Moments, an album from an interesting psychedelic rock band from Southern Illinois who plied much the same musical furrow as West Coast contemporaries Buffalo Springfield, Moby Grape, and Anthem of the Sun-era Grateful Dead. What we have here are 11 tracks of well-played and well-sung hippie rock, with plenty of groovy guitar picking and group harmonies influenced by both the Beatles and country music.

While it is quite remarkable that Spur were doing much of the same work as the more celebrated Flying Burrito Brothers, there is nothing here that will stay with you—the songwriting is fine but journeymanlike. If you were to download one track, it would have to be “Tribal Gathering/We Don’t Want to Know,” a 14-minute epic that starts out as a jam-rock version of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” morphs into a surprisingly heavy groove about halfway through, then ends with a nice rave-up that sounds like it owes quite a bit to Moby Grape’s first album.

One thing that detracts from the overall enjoyment is the lackluster sound quality. The liner notes make clear that Spur come from the garage end of the psychedelic spectrum, but even so, there is a difference between lo-fi recording and what we have here, which is a fine recording made dull by the use of what sounds like third- or fourth-generation source material. Despite these faults, this album should please anybody who can’t get enough late-’60s guitar rock.