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Spirit was an American jazz/hard rock/psychedelic band founded in 1967, based in Los Angeles, California. Their 1970 album Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus is highly regarded for originality and uniqueness and is considered by many to be one of the best albums made by a Los Angeles group [source]. Among the many bits of fascinating rock trivia surrounding the group: founder and frontman Randy California jammed with a pre-fame Jimi Hendrix. Curious fans can also peruse unofficial sites for original members and founders Randy California and Jay Ferguson.
posted by joe lisboa (39 comments total)

 
While mentioned (peripherally) in comments on Metafilter (most notably here) and in countless rock intelligentsia ruminations, the band remains largely underknown.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:50 PM on July 3, 2006


Weird. My brother had this in his collection growing up with a bunch of other prog-rock, Ian Hunter, and a bunch of other bands that shaped my tastes. Haven't heard them mentioned since.
posted by docpops at 5:05 PM on July 3, 2006


Good post, man. Spirit were one of the most underrated bands of the post-psychedelic era. Randy Californai was an excellent guitar player, and Ed Cassidy's jazz background kept things rhythmically inventive without wandering off into the ozone. Randy did a good solo almbum of rock standards like "Wild Thing," too, that's worth a listen.

*cranks 'Fresh Garbage'*
posted by jonmc at 5:11 PM on July 3, 2006


Thanks. I'm a-gonna put on 12 Dreams right now. Haven't listened to that in a while - great album.
posted by parki at 5:17 PM on July 3, 2006


I haven't found mp3s yet to base any adulation or snark upon, but the photo here is one of the most Rockinly photographs ever. A tragedy of the modern era is that so many will be unable to enjoy it as such without the cultural MSG of Irony; but dood. It rocks.
posted by freebird at 5:18 PM on July 3, 2006


Somebody played me a song of theirs once that sounded exactly like part of Stairway to Heaven. I can't for the life of me think of the name of the song though.
posted by destro at 5:37 PM on July 3, 2006


I never knew he sang "Nature's Way." I loved that song growing up.

Thanks for the post.
posted by docpops at 5:41 PM on July 3, 2006


That's the song 'Taurus', from their self-titled 1968 debut. As to the Led Zep thing: "It is historically documented that Led Zeppelin once used to open the show for Spirit and [Jimmy] Page took a particular interest in 'Taurus'."
posted by joe lisboa at 5:42 PM on July 3, 2006


I performed Nature's Way for the first time in years last Saturday night. How odd.
posted by wsg at 5:51 PM on July 3, 2006


Randy California had a solo album called "Kapt. Kopter & The Fabulous Twirly Birds" (no song samples at amazon). Though I generally like the Spirit records - and I managed to get most of them picking around yard sales and record shops - this solo record just rocks.

Great guitar sounds and riffs, and some super-sweet drums all over the album. I'm going to go find it right now because the drummer rocks so hard on the cover of "Daytripper". Yeah, Daytripper. Track down that song and dig the little guitar flourishes R.C. throws in to the double-time, galloping chorus of that song. Total 70s guitar rock meltdown.
posted by glycolized at 5:55 PM on July 3, 2006


I guess I got lucky, but Spirit was practically background music for most of my childhood. I forgot about 'em for a while, but recently picked up a bunch again. I've found that it has aged very well, unlike so much of the LA stuff of that era that's unlistenable, now. Intricate rhythms, well thought-out progressions, lotsa space between notes, and lyrics that weren't cut-and-paste aphorisms.

Mechanical World is a standout for me.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:01 PM on July 3, 2006


/flicks lighter. Does ineffectual flash photography from the upper balcony of the Pontiac Silverdome.
posted by substrate at 6:09 PM on July 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


i got a line on you.
posted by quonsar at 6:23 PM on July 3, 2006


A blast from the past! I might buy that 12 Dreams CD.
posted by surplus at 6:25 PM on July 3, 2006


Ahhhhh. The sound of "Mechanical World" in Stan's car when we cut summer school. He just kept punching the buttons on the AM radio because he KNEW someone woulds play it. They did. It rocked. It still rocks.
posted by cccorlew at 6:30 PM on July 3, 2006


Much too fat and a little too long...
posted by hal9k at 6:54 PM on July 3, 2006


it's one of the reassuring things that some of the quality bands that i knew when i was growing up are still being talked about ... but our so called classic rock stations around here seem to have forgotten about them ... except for a rare playing of "nature's way" and "i got a line on you"
posted by pyramid termite at 6:58 PM on July 3, 2006


Haven't listened to that in a while

Not since 1972 or so -- and the last time I dropped acid.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:22 PM on July 3, 2006


Am I the only person in the universe who totally loves Future Games? (And have done for all those years)
posted by Joeforking at 8:18 PM on July 3, 2006


Nice post. Takes me back to the "good old days"...
posted by whozyerdaddy at 8:38 PM on July 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


Wow - I've never heard of these guys before. I'll certainly check them out.

I also highly recommend early UFO... they made some incredible acid rock in the early 70s.

Thanks joe lisboa!
posted by wfrgms at 11:03 PM on July 3, 2006


Here's some Spirit trivia for ya: the drummer was the father of the guitarist.
posted by wsg at 11:52 PM on July 3, 2006


As soon as I read this FPP I was like, "How quickly will jonmc post to make known his incredible-yet-so unobvious music knowledge?" Sure enough, comment three.
posted by nonmerci at 1:36 AM on July 4, 2006


Good old days, indeed. I'm sure I went through 2 copies of Twelve Dreams on vinyl, either because of wear or the dog chewed on one, though I only heard it for the first time in '72 or so.

I find it really amazing that Randy California wrote I've got a line on you at 15.
posted by SteveInMaine at 4:06 AM on July 4, 2006


iTunes link.

Sounds pretty good (great drums), but I had never heard of them.
I guess somehow they never got to scoring a world hit?
posted by beno at 5:07 AM on July 4, 2006


Stepfather, WSG, I believe...
posted by AJaffe at 5:37 AM on July 4, 2006


Sorry everybody but, Spirit = one song. "Fresh Garbage." All else was jazzy-wazzy wanking. Everybody KNEW that the drummer was the guitarist's DAD, fer crying out loud. How hip is that? Also -- back then -- a bald guy who shaved his head was so transparently just trying to hide the fact that he was bald, at a time when hair meant everything, that it was totally embarassing. You saw a lot of those shaved head guys at be-ins and what not. They thought that you thought they were "bizarre." But everybody knew they were just BALD and no one was impressed. Not like today, where this stupid shaved head look has really taken off.
No, history has accepted Spirit at precisely the level they deserve to be valued at -- a one hit wonder.
posted by Faze at 7:26 AM on July 4, 2006


By the way, just so no one thinks that the only things I have to say are negative, I would direct anyone interested is hearing an artisticly SUCCESSFUL jazz-rock group from the Sixties (66-67), to check out the Lower East Side group the Free Spirits, which featured no less than Larry Coryell on lead guitar, lead vocals and song-writing, and Jim Pepper on sax, and Bobby Moses on drums. Coryell's rock songwriting was very fine, and every track on their sole and single album rocks. (This is not to be confused with the Free Spirts abomination perpetrated by Jim McLaughlin a few years later.) The Free Spirits with Coryell straddled the singles and album era, so they really tried to make every song a hit, and there was no filler.
Collector's Choice should find the masters for this excellent disc and issue it as a CD. Right now, it's only available on vinyl, selling for about $50 (when it shows up) on ebay.
Once you've heard the Free Spirits, you will know why Spirit was essentially limp.
posted by Faze at 7:51 AM on July 4, 2006


By the way, just so no one thinks that the only things I have to say are negative, I would direct anyone interested is hearing an artisticly SUCCESSFUL jazz-rock group from the Sixties (66-67), to check out the Lower East Side group the Free Spirits, which featured no less than Larry Coryell on lead guitar, lead vocals and song-writing, and Jim Pepper on sax, and Bobby Moses on drums. Coryell's rock songwriting was very fine, and every track on their sole and single album rocks. (This is not to be confused with the Free Spirts abomination perpetrated by Jim McLaughlin a few years later.) The Free Spirits with Coryell straddled the singles and album era, so they really tried to make every song a hit, and there was no filler.
Collector's Choice should find the masters for this excellent disc and issue it as a CD. Right now, it's only available on vinyl, selling for about $50 (when it shows up) on ebay.
Once you've heard the Free Spirits, you will know why Spirit was essentially limp.
posted by Faze at 8:12 AM on July 4, 2006


Wow, this is so weird, I was playing 12 Dreams yesterday morning, probably at exactly the same time you were constructing this post. Their music has held up very well -- some of the intrumental tracks on 12 Dreams wouldn't sound out of place on a Radiohead album. Great musicians, great melodies, and, as Ferguson went on to demonstrate, great pop music sensibilities. I'm kinda glad they haven't been 'discovered'; along with Tim Buckley, Spirit comprise a small, treasured fragment of 60's music that remains fresh and timeless, and relatively untrammeled by commerce. Thanks for the post.


[And Faze... just go away. Please.]
posted by Bron at 8:31 AM on July 4, 2006


let's see, faze ... your criticism of spirit is

1) jazzy-wazzy wanking
2) don't trust the drummer, omg, he's over 30, he's the stepdad of the guitarist, and holy shit, he's BALD
3) there's this band who sold so few records you have to pay 50 bucks to get a copy, but they're better

my reply

1) nature's way and i got a line on you, and many other of their songs are not jazzy-wazzy wanking ... try to be more accurate in your descriptions ... (although i do admit they did some jazzy-wazzy wanking)
2) the 60s ended in 1970 ... it is now 2006 ... hth
3) larry coryell is a good guitarist, so i suppose that band had something going for them ... i think spirit was a good band, but not among the best, and i suspect one could say the same for the free spirits

no one's mentioned the other descendant of spirit, jo jo gunne ... their first album was quite good and quite a bit more rock orientated ... i also liked jay ferguson's thunder island single
posted by pyramid termite at 8:42 AM on July 4, 2006


I like how Faze's comment on psychedellic music echoes twice.

I have Spirit's first self-titled LP. I found it in a thrift store. Half of it was so uneven I was excited to think that I'd found a self-pressed vanity kind of rare thing. I was pretty surprised to look them up and see all the critical praise. I think if it was a self-pressed album and someone found it today it wouldve been hailed as a major discovery; given all the waxpoetics (magazine) treatment, and all that. As it is, a forgetten major label LP, it's just kind of sad -- there is ambition there, certainly.
posted by Peter H at 9:23 AM on July 4, 2006


Stepfather, WSG, I believe...
posted by AJaffe


You are correct.
posted by wsg at 12:20 PM on July 4, 2006


...it's just kind of sad.

As you say, Peter H. But everyone had "ambition" in those days, everyone was "experimenting," and Spirit just came down too hard on the easy jazz side. Let me put it this way, Strawberry Alarm Clock was better. (And at the time, Mr. Termite, the attempt to hide baldness and over-30-ness and Dadness, was a pretty good sign that your band blew. It was the times.)
posted by Faze at 12:24 PM on July 4, 2006


hiding baldness by actually being bald? ... is that what isaac hayes was doing, too?
posted by pyramid termite at 3:45 PM on July 4, 2006


Twelve Dreams was their best album but I also liked the Feedback album.

"Ripe and Ready" anyone?
posted by nofundy at 5:07 PM on July 4, 2006


Joeforking - future games is fantastic. thoroughly recommended and so far ahead of its time it's not funny. i'd recommend spirit of 76 too - gently subversive psychedelia that's best consumed in a slightly hazy frame of mind. and potatoland too (recently reissued). to me, they were a much more interesting proposition once ferguson jumped ship and randy was allowed more control.

randy california also ended up playing guitar on a peter hammill record...
posted by peterkins at 7:45 AM on July 5, 2006


Faze, I own both the Free Spirits LP and several Spirit LP's. Spirit is better. If you want better Jim Pepper forays into jazz-rock, check out Pepper's Pow Wow or Everything Is Everything instead. You're just parroting from the essay on the Free Spirits in Richie Unterberger's book anyway.
posted by jonp72 at 1:32 PM on July 5, 2006


I'd also like to mention that Spirit appears in the 1969 Jacques Demy film, Model Shop, but Spirit's soundtrack to the film never saw the light of day until Sundazed put out a reissue in 2005.
posted by jonp72 at 1:34 PM on July 5, 2006


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