Thursday, October 1, 2015

Spirit - 1970 [1996] "TheTwelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus" (Original Master Recording)

Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus is the fourth album by the American psychedelic rock group Spirit. It was produced by David Briggs, who is best known for his work with Neil Young. The original LP was released in 1970 by Epic. It peaked at #63 on the Billboard 200 in February 1971—the band's lowest charting album to that point—and spent 14 weeks on the chart. However, with strong catalog sales it also became the band's only album to be certified Gold in the U.S., achieving that status in 1976.
"Nature's Way" became one of Spirit's signature songs, but was not a big hit at the time, peaking at #111 on the Billboard pop charts in 1971. In 1973, the B-side of "Nature's Way", "Mr. Skin", also charted, peaking at #92.
The album was re-issued on CD in 1996 by Sony in remastered form, with bonus tracks.

Although Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus has the reputation of being Spirit's most far-out album, it actually contains the most disciplined songwriting and playing of the original lineup, cutting back on some of the drifting and offering some of their more melodic tunes. The lilting "Nature's Way" was the most endearing FM standard on the album, which also included some of Spirit's best songs in "Animal Zoo" and "Mr. Skin." [The 1996 CD reissue has four bonus tracks, though these are on the nonessential side: mono versions of "Animal Zoo" and "Morning Will Come," the 1970 single "Red Light Roll On," and the previously unissued "Rougher Road."] 

Spirit was formed with the intention to combine jazz, rock, classical, and folk with a mystical orientation. Led by the family duo of Hendrix-inspired guitarist Randy California and his uncle, jazz drummer Ed Cassidy (whose shaved head--some 20 years ahead of its time--was the band's visual focus), Spirit had a few idiosyncratic hits such as "I Got A Line On You." The band didn't reach its prime until Twelve Dreams, after which they promptly broke up. A loosely constructed sci-fi concept album, it contains the band's biggest hit, the ecological "Nature's Way" (complete with booming kettle drums), the surreal rock of "Animal Zoo," and the orchestral psychedelia of "Life Has Just Begun." Bristling with ideas, energy, and California's meaty guitar, Twelve Dreams exemplifies the best of the late '60s experimentalism.

A hearty "Amen" to all the five star reviews before. This is simply one of the greatest rock albums of all time, debatably the most successful concept album ever (probably due to the elasticity and emotional resonance of its "dream" theme), and in my opinion the best "headphone album" ever. Spirit made some wonderful tunes before, but were hampered by the laconic and inconsistent production of Lou Adler on their prior records. Fortunately they connected with David Briggs in time to produce this masterpiece of psychedelia prior to their untimely breakup. Interestingly, for a psychedelic album it is remarkably extroverted, emotionally engaging, accessible, and musically disciplined. Every damn song is memorable, and indispensible to the flow of the album. It manages to somehow collapse the emotional experience of a fitful night (Asleep? Awake? Drugged out?) into a breathtaking forty minutes or so, with stunning moments of beauty and sonic adventure. Thirty years down the line, this album refuses to sound dated, and showcases the instrumental and vocal talents of the band at their height. All you young ones (especially musicians) out there who think that they've heard it all from the 60's through the 90's, well if you haven't heard 12 Dreams (and Randy California on guitar) then you are very wrong. The only contemporary reference I can think of off-hand is OK Computer by Radiohead, but this album is more consistent and more fun than that one. Buy this record, and appreciate one of the pinnacle achievements of an era when musicianship and artistic vision was prized as a mark of hipness. Limp Bizkit and Snoop fans can pass--nothing of interest here.

Spriit was (and still is) sadly one of the most overlooked bands from the psychedelic era- perhaps it was due to drummer Ed Cassidy's famous bald shaved head; perhaps it was the fact that the music was more skin to the Soft Machine and other jazz-oriented bands of the day during the era when country/rock (the Dead, Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, etc) began to dominate California rock... whatever the reason, Spirit deserves greater attention and praise than it has received.
While they DID score a surprise hit in 1968 with "I Got a Line on You," it is without question the concept oriented lp "The 12 Dreams of Dr.Sardonicus" that will forever define the band. The songs, like the talent in the band, are enormous and special, spanning the gamut from the jazzy blues of the wonderful "Mr. Skin" (tribute to drummer Cassidy)to the out n out psychedelia of the gorgeous "Love has Found a Way," to the surrealism of "Animal Zoo."
"12 Dreams" remains one of the most consistent listens that I own from late 60's, early 70's rock n roll. This is due most to the brilliant musicianship of Jay Ferguson, John Locke, Mark Andes, Ed Cassidy, and Randy California. The wonderful interplay between these men is top-rate, with California's brilliance on the guitar meshing perfectly with stepfather Cassidy's jazzy drumming (he was drummer for the Rising Sons, featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder). The songs, as I mentioned earlier, are brilliant and flow wonderfully. The combination of the 2 equals an album that I can't put down for very long.
Now with alternate takes, Spirit's colossal lp comes to life again- better than ever. Fans of late 60's rock know about Spirit. The time has come for the rest of the world to do the same. An absolute no-brainer of a purchase. One of the most underrated and brilliant lps ever made. Period.

Tracks Listing

1. Prelude - Nothin' to Hide (3:43)
2. Nature's Way (2:40)
3. Animal Zoo (3:10)
4. Love Has Found a Way (2:42)
5. Why Can't I Be Free (1:05)
6. Mr. Skin (4:01)
7. Space Child (3:25)
8. When I Touch You (5:37)
9. Street Worm (3:43)
10. Life Has Just Begun (3:29)
11. Morning Will Come (2:50)
12. Soldier (2:50)

Total Time 54:13

Line-up / Musicians

- Jay Ferguson / vocals, percussion, keyboards
- Randy California / guitars, vocals
- John Locke / piano, keyboards, moog synthesizer
- Ed Cassidy / drums, percussion
- Mark Andes / bass, vocals

5 comments:

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  2. I couldn't agree more..... one of my all time favourites..

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