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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Norman Greenbaum - Spirit in the Sky: The Best Of (1967-77 us, wonderful colorful rock with west coast psych, folk and jazz tunes, 2009 Repertoire digi pack issue)

Norman Greenbaum was born November 20, 1942, in Malden, MA. He began his musical career while a student at Boston University, playing area coffeehouses before relocating to the West Coast during the mid-'60s and forming a kind of psychedelic jug band dubbed Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band. After issuing the 1966 single "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago," which fell just shy of reaching the Top 50, the group disbanded, and Greenbaum subsequently formed a series of short-lived acts before finally returning to his solo career in 1968. 

A year later he issued his debut LP, Spirit in the Sky, releasing several unsuccessful singles before reaching the Top Three with the smash title track, which sold some two million copies. It proved to be Greenbaum's only hit, however, as follow-ups like 1970's "Canned Ham" and the next year's "California Earthquake" tanked; after the release of 1972's Petaluma, he retreated from music to focus on his California dairy farm, but returned to show business during the mid-'80s in a managerial capacity, also promoting a number of concerts. 
by Jason Ankeny

"Spirit in the Sky" was a classic one-shot hit: an unforgettable fuzz guitar riff, those eerie descending glissando psychedelic guitar effects, a soulful female backup chorus, and a rare gospel-rock song that explored a religious theme without sounding dogmatic or sappy. Greenbaum had more depth than the usual one-shot artist, but the fact is that he never came up with anything else remotely on the level of "Spirit in the Sky," as this 15-song anthology demonstrates. 

He was a witty, droll songwriter with slightly absurd tunes that didn't quite descend into novelty, as on "Canned Ham" and "The Day the Well Went Dry." Selections from his early-'70s Reprise albums comprise most of half of this disc, and they're amiable, mildly humorous good-time rock that isn't even as penetrating as the rawer and goofier stuff he did before his solo career as the leader of Dr. West's Medicine Show & Junk Band. Four Dr. West songs are on this CD, including the minor 1966 hit "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago," as well as a previously unreleased 1977 recording, "The Day They Sold Beer in Church." 
by Richie Unterberger

1. Spirit in the Sky - 3:59
2. California Earthquake - 3:09
3. Lucille Got Stealed - 3:55
4. Canned Ham - 2:51
5. Tars of India - 2:58
6. Marcy - 3:11
7. Hook and Ladder - 2:44
8. Rhode Island Red - 2:47
9. Junior Cadillac - 3:33
10.Skyline - 3:12
11.Jubilee - 2:58
12.Milk Cow - 3:01
13.Back Home Again - 2:43
14.Titfield Thunder - 5:04
15.Damper - 2:58
16.I.J. Foxx - 4:18
17.Petaluma - 2:42
18.Country Lad - 2:22
19.The Day the Well Went Dry - 2:37
20.Jigsaw (Greenbaum, Kane) - 2:33
21.Weird - 2:26
22.Daddy I Know - 2:56
23.Gondoliers, Shakespeares, Overseers, Playboys and Bum - 2:20
24.The Day They Sold Beer in Church - 4:02 .
All song by Norman Greenbaum except where noted.

*Norman Greenbaum - Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals
*Russell DaShiell - Guitar
*Doug Kilmer - Bass
*Norman Mayell - Drums
*Robbie Robinson - Guitar
*William Truckaway - Synthesizer
*Stephen Busfield - Guitar
*Russell DaShiell - Guitar
*Bill Douglass - Bass
*Dan Hicks - Percussion
*John McFee - Steel Guitar
*Bill Meeker - Drums
*Dan Paik - Mandolin
*Stovall Sisters - Vocals
*Rita Abrams - Vocals
*John Casey - Dobro
*Ry Cooder - Mandolin, Slide Guitar
*Henry Diltz - Glockenspiel
*Mark Naftalin - Accordion
*Richard Olsen - Clarinet
*Fritz Richmond - Bass, Jug, Washboard

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