(All Album Reviews by ffroyd)
Spirits Burning is one of the most unique entities in the space rock galaxy. The group consists of one main member, Don Falcone, and many other participants from various other bands, projects, etc. Members of Gong, Hawkwind, Acid Mothers Temple, Porcupine Tree, University of Errors, Quarkspace, Scattered Planets, Mooch, F/I, Melting Euphoria and scores of others have all participated on Spirits Burning discs. The recording process would probably not be possible without the power of the Internet but Don finds many different methods of bringing the musicians together and uses his magic to construct tracks with a very natural feel as if these contributors from all over the planet were in the same place for the recordings.
The seedpods of Spirits Burning were launched into the vastness of the universe over two decades ago with the first incarnation forming from the ashes of the band Kameleon that Don had been a bass player with in the 80s. It wasn’t until several years later that the world would see a Spirits Burning recording appear on the Cleopatra tribute disc Schizoid Dimension, a compilation featuring many different artists interpreting the music of King Crimson. This and other factors encouraged Don to keep the project going and shortly the first CD, New Worlds By Design was made available in October of 1999. Since then there has been five more Spirits Burning CDs and several more compilation appearances.
In the spring of 2009, Voiceprint records have released this collection of tracks from all of the Spirits Burning albums entitled Our Best Trips 1998-2008. This isn’t the first CD that compiled SB tracks, in 2006 a release by Daevid Allen and Don Falcone called Glissando Grooves came out on the Bananamoon Obscura label as a limited edition release.
Our Best Trips begins with “By Design” a heavy track from the first album that has roots dating back to Don’s early days by featuring Kameleon guitarist Joe Diehl. Also appearing on synths is Quarkspace/Church of Hed member Paul Williams. I’m glad Don included so many tracks from the first two albums since those were the ones I hadn’t heard yet. I now have to get those as well.
“Second Degree Soul Sparks” from Reflections in a Radio Shower contains a lot of spoken word segments from space rock luminaries like Robert Calvert, Michael Moorcock and Thom The World Poet, who also has a brand new album with SB entitled Golden Age Orchestra. None of the tracks from that album appear on here but I would definitely recommend getting that one for a little different feel than the normal space rock stuff.
The next track is the title cut from the Alien Injection CD. I reviewed that disc elsewhere on Progressive Ears, so if you are interested check out my views on it there. This is followed by “Ingredients, Pink Lady Lemonade, Liftoff” from the Found In Nautre album. Fans of Acid Mothers Temple will automatically recognize the “Pink Lady Lemonade” riff, especially if they have seen them live.
The title track from the Earth Born album by SB and Bridget Wishart appears next. I also wrote about that brilliant album hear so you can go to that review for more details if you’d like. The longest piece on this compilation is “The Ticking of Science”, another one from New Worlds By Design and possibly my favorite here. There are some really wild synth tones here as well as some nice inconspicuous guitar work from Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree.
“Burning Bush” is a very nice, space meets world music, track from the Found In Nature CD and contains some really cool brass including trumpet by Tom Dambly and sax from Purjah from Quiet Celebration, another of Don Falcone’s projects. Also appearing on this one is Pat Thomas from Mushroom who provides bongos and other assorted percussion. “Salome” and “Every Gun Plays It’s Own Tune” are two more pieces from Alien Injection with vocals from Bridget Wishart and Michael Moorcock respectively.
“Drive-By Poetry (Double-Shot Mix)” is an odd track with readings by Daevid Allen and Robert Calvert. There is a good deal of nice guitar work from Jerry Jeter and some cool synth and didgeridoo tones Steve Palmer and Nick Pinnock from Mooch. ”Snakebite Serum” is a piece with spots that bring to mind Hawwind’s “Space Chase” from the Levitation album. There’s some scorching lead guitar work here from DarXtar’s K. Soren Bengtsson.
As if all this weren’t enough already, there are three extra tracks here that aren’t available on any other Spirits Burning album. “Strafed By A UFO” is a great upbeat space rock track featuring Daevid Allen on guitars and Paul Hayles from Lastwind on synths. This one also has rare appearance by Don Falcone on lead vocals. I didn’t realize until hearing this song how much Don’s vocals sound like the late Robert Calvert. While it’s not an exact copy, you can hear Don paying homage to one of the greats of space rock. “Alpha Happiness” is a nice quiet track with beautiful ambient keyboards and acoustic guitar from Nigel Potter of Gunslinger.
Closing the disc is the Planet Gong track opium for the people with some excellent violin from my good friend Cyndee Lee Rule. This is some of her best playing. Also appearing on guitar is Steve Taylor who has played with Hawkind, Nik Turner and the Secret Saucer project.
Although I have mentioned many of the players on the disc, there are so many more excellent musicians here that I did not have time to include in this review. Don Falcone is nothing short of a genius in being able to gather all of these incredible people together for the Spirits Burning albums. For anyone out there curious as to what Spirits Burning is all about, this disc would serve as an excellent introduction to their work. To those who are already fans, this disc has been designed to stand up on it’s own as a unique experience in itself and it succeeds very well at that aim.
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