This is a home-grown compilation put together by Florence Halfon and Jon Newey, with liner notes by Kevin Le Gendre.
It’s a double disc package and it contains many of the classic Kirk tracks, like Volunteered Slavery, The Inflated Tear, and The Black And Crazy Blues. It reveals a wide range, from reinventions of familiar tunes like Duke Ellington’s Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me and Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine to revolutionary anthems like Spirits Up Above, and many examples of Kirk’s sound experiments, whether it was with strange instruments like the flexafone, the manzello and the stretch, or multiple horn-playing and circular breathing.
In the ’60s, we rock fans were familiar with a couple of jazz musicians who spoke our kind of language as well as the jazz language: Charles Mingus was one, and Roland Kirk was another.
This is an excellent collection with one proviso. It isn’t Does Your House Have Lions, put out by Rhino/Atlantic Jazz in ’93, and, to my mind, a masterpiece of a compilation. Unlike this one, the sequence is not chronological but, rather, what makes sense musically. And the packaging is classier too. And Kirk’s instrumentation on each track is more exact, rather than just providing a list every time of all the instruments he can play. And it contains Rahsaan’s exuberant I Say A Little Prayer!
But if you don’t have Does Your House Have Lions, which is still available but at a steep price, Spirits Up Above is good enough. And it’s a bargain!
In the meantime, try this reminder of a true original: