It is no exaggeration to call Little Walter the Jimi Hendrix of the electric harp: he redefined what the instrument was and what it could do, pushing the instrument so far into the future that his music still sounds modern decades after it was recorded. Little Walter wasn't the first musician to amplify the harmonica but he arguably was the first to make the harp sound electric, twisting twitching, vibrant runs out of his instrument; nearly stealing the show from Muddy Waters on his earliest Chess recordings; and so impressing Leonard Chess that he made Muddy keep Walter as his harpist even after Waters broke up his band. Chess also made Walter into his studio's house harpist and started to release Little Walter solo records with the instrumental "Juke" in 1952. "Juke" became a smash hit and turned Little Walter into a star, making him a steady presence on the '50s R&B charts.
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.