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iTunes Review

Alexander “Skip” Spence was a gifted, largely self-taught multi instrumentalist with an ear for unsettling dissonances and an uncanny knack for evoking the haunted atmosphere of pre-war blues and country with nothing more than a twist of his weathered vocal chords. A prime mover on San Francisco’s psychedelic scene, Spence lent his shambolic drumming to an early incarnation of Jefferson Airplane and gained fame as a member of Moby Grape. After being institutionalized in the wake of a violent mental breakdown, Spence cut out for Nashville, where he recorded the unnervingly skeletal tunes that make up Oar, his only solo release. Though Oar is infamous for being one of the lowest selling major label releases of all time, its influence on contemporary music far outweighs its sales numbers. Artists as diverse as Tom Waits, Cat Power, and Uncle Tupelo have picked up on the determinedly ramshackle instrumentation, ghostly aura, and hair-raising melancholy of tracks like the creaking murder ballad “Weighted Down” the flippant “Lawrence of Euphoria” and the formidable “Books of Moses”.

Customer Reviews

"I Could Use Me Some Yin For My Yang"

Former Jefferson Airplane drummer and Moby Grape rhythm guitarist Skip Spence left us with this beautiful artifact from the late 1960s, a true solo album on which he literally plays every instrument and handles all the singing and songwriting duties. This is the portrait of an artist with demons that will not be everyone's cup of tea. However, if you're a fan of the Grape, mind-expanding 1960s music, and/or wasted-loner-psychedelic-folk-country-rock albums with affecting and twisted lyrics, I think you will love "Oar." Rockers such as "Little Hands," "Diana," and the mind-blowing "War In Peace" at times recall the work of contemporaries like Moby Grape, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and even Cream, but are all stamped with the mark of Spence's unique vision. Sounding at times like Kris Kristofferson but with a better voice and more psychedelic journeys under his belt, Spence shines on the acoustic country-influenced numbers like "Dixie Peach Promenade" and "Weighted Down (The Prison Song)," while the guitar picking on "Cripple Creek" is simply gorgeous. The remaining songs are more experimental (especially tracks 13-22, which is bonus material to the original album), often featuring only vocals, bass guitar, and drums, and might sound like simple backing tracks to some ears. Be that as it may, selections such as "Margaret-Tiger Rug" and "It's The Best Thing For You" have a bizarre charm to them, and the intense polyrhythms of "Grey/Afro" have significant transportative powers, believe me. An album like nothing else and perfect for listeners with a taste for adventurous music.


I read the "release date" while listening to the first track. It blew my mind. Then I realized that one should never believe iTunes blindly... It was still pretty amazing that the album was released in 1969. But a little less so. It is really fun to find another tripped out guy like Barrett to listen to though. Skip's a little less whimsical though. Not a bad thing, just the main difference.

Wrong release date

I think they mean 1969

Oar, Alexander "Skip" Spence
View in iTunes
  • $9.99
  • Genres: Rock, Music, Pop
  • Released: Sep 09, 1949

Customer Ratings