Robert Walter calls his instrumental heavy organ music "soul-jazz," but that ignores the strong funk element ever-present on all of his albums. This one is no exception, as the opening track, "Adelita," charges out with Walter's Jimmy Smith/Jack McDuff-styled keyboards, driving saxophonist Tim Green into a roaring solo. For this recording, made live in a New Orleans studio with crisp sound, Walter chose top musicians to help the vibe, such as drummers Johnny Vidacovich and Galactic's Stanton Moore, along with bassist James Singleton. The music is baked in the New Orleans groove, with doses of the Meters, Galactic, and Dr. John mixed in. Walter pushes the sonic envelope by shifting into slightly experimental waters during parts of "(Smells Like) Dad's Drunk Again," but he never strays too far afield.
Robert Walter hails from the Greyboy academy of jazz. Spirit of '70 is a solid outing for him, but the funk/jazz legend Gary Bartz steals the show. On tracks like "Corey's Snail and Slug Death," Bartz plays with restraint, frothing with fresh ideas and confidently reaffirming his status as an underrated jazz giant. "Volcanic Acne" is the most cohesive track on the album and shows just how exciting Walter's playing can be when he's inspired. Walter's desire to re-create the "'70s spirit" unfortunately fails to reinvent it.
Robert Walter continues to balance on twin peaks of dance and jazz cultures with Giving Up the Ghost, whose breezy grooves cool sizzling keyboard and sax lines down to a simmer. The band includes alumni from Black Eyed Peas, T.J. Kirk, and Walter's own Greyboy Allstars, which means that the playing is consistently top-notch. There's enough angularity in the arrangements to bear occasional comparison to Medeski, Martin & Wood.
Robert Walter has no problem getting into funky, down-home soul-jazz when he wants to, but the organist/keyboardist/pianist also has his intellectual side. He obviously appreciates the soul-jazz that B-3 icons like Jimmy Smith, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Johnny "Hammond" Smith, and Jack McDuff offered in the '60s, but he has also shown his appreciation of Medeski, Martin & Wood as well as the post-bop and fusion that Larry Young explored after he moved beyond soul-jazz.