Spirit: Spirit (1968)

Fresh-garbage / Uncle Jack / Mechanical world / Taurus / Girl in your eye / Straight arrow / Topanga windows / Gramophone man / Water woman / The great canyon fire in general / Elijah. CD bonus tracks: Veruska / Free spirit / If I had a woman / Elijah (alternate take)

A strange but fascinating mix of jazz, blues and psychedelia. Jay Ferguson was very much the leading man of the group,  most of the songs being written and sung by him, although others make some great contributions. John Locke's compositions are close to pure jazz, like in Elijah and several instrumental parts of other songs. Randy California is responsible for some of the finest guitar playing I've ever heard. His instrumental Taurus obviously inspired Led Zeppelin's Stairway to heaven.
Other highlights for me are Mechanical world, which has been one of my favorite Spirit songs, ever since that night in 1988, and Gramophone man.

Spirit: The family that plays together (1969)

I got a line on you / It shall be / Poor Richard / Silky Sam / The drunkard / Darlin' if / It's all the same / Jewish / Dream within a dream / She smiles / Aren't you glad. CD-bonus tracks: Fog / So little to say / Mellow fellow / Now or anywhere / Space chile

A year after the debut, the second album was released. On this album, Randy California was allowed to take a bigger role as a songwriter, being (co-)responsible for 4 of the 11 songs, the rest being written by Jay. As a whole, this is much more of a rock album compared to its more jazz-like predecessor. It's also more varied. There are no bad songs on the album, but I particularly like the early hard rock of It's all the same and ballads like Darlin' if and The drunkard.

In the meantime, Spirit was involved in the score of Jacques Demy's film The Model Shop. The soundtrack was never released separately, but three tracks can be heard on the compilation double-cd Time circle (1968-1972), while some others were included on the third album.

Spirit: Clear (1969)

Dark eyed woman / Apple orchard / So little time to fly / Ground hog / Cold wind / Policeman's ball / Ice / Give a life, take a life / I'm trucking / Clear / Caught / New dope in town. CD bonus tracks: 1984 / Sweet Stella baby / Fuller brush man / Coral

Of the four original albums, this one is probably the least coherent, but in those dark days of 1988, it was the only thing I could cling to. I was a bit disappointed at first listen though. Many songs sounded little like the band I just had discovered, and until I recognized the wonderful Cold wind I didn't like much of what I heard. Except for this song and New dope in town all of the tracks were new to me, and it took some time for me to appreciate some of them, although I immediately liked Ice, Give a life, take a life (co-written by producer Lou Adler, sounds like The Mamas and the Papas) and Clear. Also, the CD-inlay gave me such invaluable information like the surnames and some pictures of the band members. Which name belonged to which face was still a mystery.
I replaced my Edsel 268 a few years ago with the 1996 re-release. It's still in my collection, though, for sentimental reasons: not only is this my first Spirit-album, it's also the very first CD I ever bought.

Spirit: Texas International Pop Festival (199X)

Fresh garbage (= Trancas fog-out + I'm Truckin  + Fresh garbage) / Elijah  (= Poor Richard) / Improvisation (= Caught) / Ground hog  / Gramophone man (= Policeman's ball)  / Dream within a dream (= drum solo + Mechanical world) / I got a line on you / Aren't you glad

The original line-up never recorded an official live album, but on a record fair I was lucky to find a bootleg-CD with recordings of Spirit's performance on the Texas International Pop Festival, which apparently was on September 1st 1969, about two months after the release of Clear. Sound quality is good for a bootleg, and the performance itself is little short from excellent. The only fault I can find is that the people behind it managed to get almost all of the titles wrong. However, the titles mentioned are not always those of the songs that are on the CD. Anyway, a very welcome addition to any fan's collection.

Spirit: Twelve dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970)

Prelude-Nothing to hide / Nature's way / Animal zoo / Love has found a way / Why can't I be free / Mr. Skin / Space child / When I touch you / Street worm / Life has just begun / Morning will come / Soldier. CD bonus tracks: Rougher road / Animal zoo (mono single version) / Morning will come (alternate mono mix) / Red light roll on

After Clear it would take more than a year for another Spirit-album to be released, the last one in the original line-up. In my early days as a Spirit fan, I soon found out that this was the ultimate Spirit-album, and so decided I had to have it. At one time, I even offered a reward of 100 guilders for the first person who could provide me with a copy of reasonable quality. Thankfully,  I never had to pay the money as sooner as I expected a CD-release was announced which I immediately ordered. I was appalled by the ugly artwork on the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab release, but the music more than made up for it. There's a slight difference between the two CD-releases, as the later release has a short organ-intro for Mr. Skin that the MFSL version doesn't have. The MFSL version however is the original. There are no weak songs on this album, and if I were to mention my favorites I would have to name most of the songs. It's still a mystery to me that, with an album as great as this, Spirit never made it big. This is absolutely one of the classic psychedelic rock albums, and everyone who is into this kind of music should hear it. I think it's much better than Forever changes, Piper at the gates of dawn, Sgt. Pepper or anything The Doors ever did, although I admit that this last comparison tells more about my opinion about that particular band than about the quality of Sardonicus. But Sardonicus also sounds much less dated. However, it didn't get the warm reception it deserved. After 12 dreams the band toured for a while to promote the album, but in 1971 the end came. Sardonicus had been made under difficult circumstances. Relations between the band members worsened, especially Randy at times proved to be a difficult person to work with. Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes were the first to quit the group to form Jo Jo Gunne. The end of a great band had come, and although there were to be numerous line-ups under the name of Spirit since, the unique sound and experiment never returned in this form.

All four albums have been released on CD, but it's worthwhile to look for their 1996 rereleases that all have bonus-tracks, most of which were unavailable on CD before and some of which are very good indeed. Other previously unavailable tracks have been released on Chronicles 1967-1992 and Time circle 1968-1972, both of which were released in 1991. The latter is the best of several compilation albums regarding the original band.

Spirit: The best of (compilation rel. 1973)

Morning will come / Mechanical world / Nature's way / Animal zoo / Fresh garbage / I got a line on you / Prelude-Nothing to hide / Uncle Jack / 1984 / Dark eyed woman / Mr. Skin

This compilation was first released in 1973 and can still be found on CD. I bought it in those days to get the songs from the first album and Dr. Sardonicus, which I couldn't find anywhere at that time. Besides that, it was the only way to get 1984. It's a good selection of songs, although I feel Clear doesn't get the attention it deserves, being represented by Dark eyed woman only. Where are Cold wind and New dope in town? The CD has enough space for so much more. As it is, there is nowadays hardly a good reason to buy this one, unless you really don't want all the four albums in their entirety.
Spirit: Time circle 1968-1972 (compilation rel. 1991)

Disk one: Fresh garbage / Uncle Jack / Mechanical world / Taurus / Girl in your eye / Straight arrow / Topanga windows / Gramophone man / The great canyon fire in general / I got a line on you / It shall be / Poor Richard / Silky Sam / Sherozode / All the same / Dream within a dream / Aren't you glad / Eventide / Model shoppe theme (the moving van) / Green gorilla / Rehearsal theme

Disk two: Fog / Now or anywhere / Dark eyed woman / So little time to fly / Ground hog / Ice / I'm truckin' / New dope in town / 1984 / Sweet Stella baby / Prelude-Nothing to hide / Nature's way / Animal zoo / Love has found a way / Why can't I be free / Mr. Skin / When I touch you / Street worm / Morning will come / Turn to the right

A much, much better compilation. Not only does it do more justice to all four albums, in fact it has all the songs that are on Best of, but it also includes 1984's b-side Sweet Stella baby and some unreleased tracks, including some from the Model Shop-soundtrack, and some alternate versions of released tracks. Some of these tracks are now also available as bonus tracks on the Epic 1996 cd re-releases, but even if you have these, Time circle is still worth getting if only for the full-length version of Ice, released only in this form.

Spirit: Feedback (1972)

Chelsea girls / Cadillac cowboys / Puesta del scam / Ripe and ready / Darkness / Earth shaker / Mellow morning / Right on time / Trancas fog-out / Witch

It's probably never a very good idea for a band to keep its original name after most of its members have gone, especially when you bring in some new guys and let them do most of the songwriting. I've never heard of a band that got away with this trick without losing many of its fans. In my case it meant I could not be bothered to even listen to Feedback. Why I ever changed my mind about this I can't remember, but I eventually did give this album the benefit of the doubt and found it to be, much to my surprise, actually quite good. To be fair, there was no reason why it couldn't be in the first place. The main problem with Feedback is that it most of the times completely fails to sound as Spirit and really should not have been released under that name. Of the ten songs, seven are written by newcomer Al Staehely, and three by John Locke. Chris Staehely's guitar playing reminds in nothing of Randy's, and there's plenty of female background vocals. Overall, the album sounds more like Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Doobie Brothers or Jo Jo Gunne. It's only in the John Locke compositions that some of the old Spirit sound is resurfacing. Of these I especially like Darkness, which reminds me of Dave Mason in his best days. Trancas fog-out had been performed live by the original band, and can be heard on the Texas Festival bootleg.

After the release of this album, there were some further changes to the line-up until the band finally broke up. By that time, both Ed Cassidy and John Locke had already left. The Staehelys later recorded another album under their own name.

Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes had formed Jo Jo Gunne, which was more a straightforward blues/hard rock kind of a band. It would take a bit longer for Randy to release anything again.

Randy California: Kapt. Kopter and the (fabulous) Twirly Birds (1972)

Downer / Devil / I don't want nobody / Day tripper / Mother and child reunion / Things yet to come / Rain / Rainbow CD bonus tracks : Walkin' the dog / Live for the day / Rebel

For his first solo-album, Randy only used two of his own compositions (of which Downer would become a Spirit live-favorite) and apparently had some fun playing hard rocking cover versions of other, more famous, people's songs for the rest of the album. His guitar playing is much rougher than it used to be. Made with the help of various others, amongst whom ex-Jimi Hendrix bass-player Noel Redding (called Clit McTorius here for contractual reasons), Ed Cassidy and future Spirit-member Larry "Fuzzy" Knight, this is a very spontaneous sounding album. Nothing genius, but very enjoyable.


After this album,  Randy moved to England  to play with Peter Hammill for a while. His guitar playing can be heard on the album Chameleon in the shadow of the night, in the song Red shift. An accident prevented Randy from touring with Hammill. Meanwhile, there were plans for new projects under the name of Spirit. The first of these, Potatoland, wasn't released until 1981. In 1974 a Spirit line-up consisting of Randy California, Ed Cassidy and Barry Keene started recording on a new album and signed a contract with Mercury Records, that eventually would release some of the bands best work. In fact, this is my favorite period in the band's history.

Spirit : Spirit of '76 (1975)

Side 1: America the beautiful / The times they are a'changing / Victim of society / Lady o' the lakes / Tampa jam (pt. 1) / Maunaloa / What do I have / Sunrise

Side 2: Walking the dog / tampa jam (pt. 2) / Joker on the run / When? / Like a rollimg stone

Side 3: Once again / Feeling in time / Happy / Jack Bond / My road / Tampa jam (pt. 3) / Thank you Lord

Side 4: Urantia / Guide me / Veruska / Hey Joe / Jack Bond (pt. 2) / The star spangled banner

Randy California's first album after his return under the Spirit banner was this atmospheric double album. Line-up included, besides Ed Cassidy, Barry Keene on bass. This is my all time favorite Spirit album. It has some great cover versions of other people's songs, like the coupled America the beautiful / The times they are a'changing, Like a rolling stone and Hey Joe, and a lot of Randy's own stuff of which Victim of society, My road, Veruska (an older version of which can be found as a bonus-track on the most recent CD-release of the first album), Sunrise and Once again are just some of my favorites. Not all songs are equally great, in fact there is some filler, but the sum of them all makes one very impressive album that for some reason reminds me a bit of George Harrison's excellent All things must pass. It's a real shame that this album still hasn't been released on CD, although almost all of it is on disc 1 of The Mercury years. But that really is hardly a replacement.

Spirit : Son of Spirit (1975)

Holy man / Looking into darkness / Maybe you'll find / Don't go away / Family / Magic fairy princess / Circle / the other song / Yesterday / It's time now

It seems the band spend so much talent and energy at the majestic Spirit of '76 that its successor could be little else than very disappointing. No less than four of its ten songs are truly horrible; I could well have done without Holy man, Looking into darkness, Family and It's time now, a leftover from the Potatoland-sessions. The rest of the songs are okay, although the only real highlights on this album for me are Don't go away and The other song, the latter being a sort of bluesy kind of song (without being boring!) co-written by Barry Keene.
Spirit : Farther along (1976)

Side 1: Farther along / Atomic boogie / World eat world dog / Stoney night / Pineapple / Colossus

Side 2: Megastar / Phoebe / Don't lock up your door / One with you / Diamond spirit / Nature's way

This is really much better. For Farther along Mark Andes and John Locke rejoined the band, together with Mark's brother Matt, who also played in Jo Jo Gunne and adds a second guitar to the line-up. "Tasteful" and "laid back" or "atmospheric" again are the best words I can find to describe the sound of the album, which, so I've heard, does not appeal to all fans however. With the exception of Atomic boogie, which is amusing at best, I think this is a collection of great songs Definitely one of my favorite Spirit-albums, perhaps second only to Spirit of '76. I especially like Colossus, Megastar and Matt's instrumental Phoebe. It's a real shame this excellent album is still unavailable on cd, although again most of it can be found on the The Mercury years-compilation. The only ommission here is the orchestral version of Nature's way.
Spirit : Future games (1977)

CB talk / Stars of love / Kahauna dream / Buried in my brain / Bionic unit / So happy now / All along the watchtower / Would you believe / Jack Bond speaks / Star Trek dreaming / Interlude XM / China doll / Hawaiian times / Gorn attack / Interlude 2001 / Detroit city / Freakout frog / The Romulan experience / Monkey see monkey do / Mt. Olympus / The journey of Nomad / Ending

Imagine a collection of songs, some of which are really only fragments while others aren't allowed to finish properly, with interludes of flashes from Star Trek, Hawaiian music, bits from Sesame Street and a lot of silly noises and you may well see that this is the strangest (or if you prefer: experimental) album ever released under the Spirit-banner. Even stranger is that it works very well. Definite highlight is a song that's featured twice on the album, first as Jack Bond speaks, where it's ruthlessly abandoned to continue later as Ending. I have the feeling Randy's trying to make a point with this album but I still haven't figured out what. Anyway, I liked this album immediately but still wonder why....
Spirit : The Mercury years (compilation rel. 1997)

Disk one: Jack Bond / America, the beautiful/The times, they are a'changing / Victim of society / Lady of the lakes / Tampa jam (pt. 1) / My road / Sunrise / Urantia / Maunaloa / What do I have / Feeling in time / Happy / Walking the dog / Tampa jam (pt. 2) / Joker on the run / When? / Like a rolling stone / Veruska / Once again / Tampa jam (pt. 3) / Thank you lord / Guide me / Hey Joe

Disk two: Farther along / Atomic boogie / World eat world dog / Don't lock up your door / Colossus / Phoebe / Mega star / Once with you / Diamond spirit / Stoney night / Pineapple / Looking into darkness / Holy man / Would you believe / Detroit city / Circle / The other song / Yesterday / Family / Maybe you'll find / Magic fairy princes / Gorn attack / Stars are love / It's time now / Green collar man

The four Mercury-albums are represented on this 2-CD compilation, with a couple of extra's, released only a few months after Randy California's tragic death in January 1997. Randy compiled it himself: he chose the songs for this compilation, rearranged the playing order and wrote the liner notes. And I'm sure he did his very best at this job but still I have some critical notes to make. First, I would have preferred to see the two missing albums, Spirit of '76 and Farther along, released on CD separately and in their entirety. In the current form some songs are sadly missing, notably The star spangled banner from Spirit of '76 and the lovely orchestral version of Nature's way from Farther along. Apart from that the rearranging of the playing order spoils most of the original atmosphere, especially in the case of Spirit of '76. As for the other two albums represented here, and that both are available on CD already, why include all those horrible songs from Son of Spirit and leave out one of its few highlights, Don't go away? As for the tracks from Future games I can be more forgiving as it's actually impossible to take these out of their normal environment, although I would have loved to hear some of these songs as they were before final mixing of the album. All summed up I'm disappointed by this release, even though most of the music on it really is fabulous and it's the only way to get that music on CD. The only legal way, that is, as I wouldn't be surprised to find out that illegal CD-versions of Spirit of '76 and Farther along are on the market. But then, at least The Mercury years has made it much easier to make good quality illegal CD's. A missed opportunity really

Spirit : Live (1978)

Side 1: Looking down / Animal zoo / 1984 / Nature's way / Hollywood dream

Side 2: It's all the same / I got a line on you / Downer / Wild thing.

Cd bonus tracks: Rock & Roll planet / Nature's way / Animal zoo / 1984 / All the same / I got a line on you / These are words / Hollywood dream

This is the British version of the three and has recently been rereleased on CD as Live at the Rainbow 1978 with the inclusion of 8 bonus tracks so-called recorded in Tampa and Miami in the same year, although I fail to hear even the slightest difference between the two versions of say, Nature's way and Animal zoo and refuse to believe that it's possible to play this kind of songs twice in an identical fashion. It's a bit of a shame they didn't include Rockpalast jam from the German version, and the b-side of the album's single Nature's way, a version of Hendrix' (who else...) Stone free. Still, this is a great album with hard rocking ("grunge" perhaps?) versions of some of the classic Spirit songs. Actually, I like this version of All the same, with a great drumsolo by Cass, more than the original. The new songs are fine too, although the best of these, These are words, was originally not on this version of the live album.

Spirit : Made in Germany (1978)

Rockpalast jam / Nature's way / These are words / 1984 / Animal zoo / Rock & Roll planet / Looking down from a mountain / Hollywood dream / All the same / I got a line on you

The German version has some extras in the shape of Rockpalast jam, which is the only track actually "made" in Germany, even though the album title suggests otherwise, and two other new songs that aren't on the original release of the British version. These two songs, These are words and Rock & Roll planet can however be found on it's CD re-release. To add to that, Downer and Wild thing are missing. The other songs are the same as on the British version. Made in Germany has been released on CD but is hard to find. For some strange reason I hesitated to long to buy it when it was available and haven't seen it anywhere since. And since Live at the Rainbow 1978 is missing Rockpalast jam I'll continue my search for it.

Spirit: Live Spirit (1978)

Rock & Roll planet / Nature's way / Animal zoo / 1984 / Looking down / All the same / I got a line on you / These are words / Hollywood dream

The US version has all the songs of Made in Germany, except for Rockpalast jam, in a different playing order. So far I know it hasn't been released on CD, but Live at the Rainbow 1978 includes all it's tracks.

Spirit : The adventures of Kaptain Kopter & Commander Cassidy in Potatoland (1981)

We've got a lot to learn / Potatoland theme / Open up your heart / Morning light / Potatoland prelude / Potatoland introduction / Turn to the right / Donut house / Fish fry road / Information / My friend

Work on this album started in 1974 but the record company in those days refused to release it and it would take until 1981 before a reworked version of the album would see the light. By that time various bootleg-versions of the original had already reached the audience. Potatoland is a concept album, loosely based on Orwell's 1984, accompanied by a small comic book that explains the story. Line-up on this album is California and Cassidy, with the help of a lot of others, amongst whom is John Locke. Potatoland has some good moments, like Donut house, Fish fry road and My friend, but overall I don't like this album very much. There are some disco sounds that I find especially disturbing, and most of the songwriting just isn't as good as could be expected from California. Besides, there just isn't much of a story. The album has almost passed halfway before it starts, and at the end of the album the listener is told to wait for the next album, The revenge of the French fries, which doesn't exist and was probably never even worked on. A limited reissue later in the 1980's or 1990's is told to be better. It apparently has more songs, and also a more complete story, but since I've never heard that version I can't judge. So please, record-company people? If you're watching? Can we please have Potatoland as it was meant to be?

Randy California: Euro-American (1982)

Toy guns / This is the end / Mon ami / Rude reaction / Calling you / Wild thing / Easy love / Fearless leader / Five in the morning / Skull and crossbones / Breakout

It seems like Randy gave up on Spirit after Future games and Live, given the fact that most of the creative process for Potatoland had been carried out in the early 1970's and it mostly needed (re-)recording. His second solo-album is a totally different thing than the first. Even though all of the other original Spirit members are present on this album it's a far cry from all of the previous albums, including Kapt. Kopter. There are some good songs here, but as a whole the album fails a bit, perhaps trying too much to be fashionable. There are too many songs that sound like commercial hard rock (Easy love, Five in the morning, Skull and crossbones, Breakout) while Toy guns sounds just like a 1980's Moody Blues song, including the silly lyrics, although I must admit I do like that style.  This is the end is a song like there were many in the early 1960's, including the close harmony vocals. As a bit of nostalgia it's fun. Fearless leader is good enough, the completely superfluous 1000th remaking of Wild thing isn't. Anyway, it becomes very tedious, and even a bit pathetic, to see Randy California playing songs that were once played by Jimi Hendrix as well. The guy had enough talent of his own not to have to refer to his short and obscure period with Jimi H.  Of all the songs here, I find Rude reaction the most interesting. First, it is a good song, but what to think of the lyrics, that include some not very nice references to Neil Young, whom was pushed off stage by Randy a while earlier during a Spirit reunion concert after having being invited to play along by Jay Ferguson. Rather childish really, and one may wonder why Randy chose to remember the incident with this song.

Spirit : Spirit of '84 / The thirteenth dream (1984)

A reunion album,released under two different titles, that features the entire original line-up playing some of their old songs in a new fashion. I haven't heard this album nor do I know any further details but I've heard it's not very good.




Randy California: Shattered dreams (1986)

Hey joe (live) / Shattered dreams / All along the watchtower / Don't bother me / Downer / Second child / Man at war / Killer weed / Hand guns / Radio man / Run to your lover

While the CD-inlay clearly suggests this is a Randy California solo-album, the side of the box and the printing on the CD itself insist this is a "Randy California & Spirit" album, probably because of the fact that included here is one track played live by a  Spirit line-up. Remember what I said in my review of Euro-American about references to Jimi Hendrix? Well, Randy's doing it again on this record, twice. Hey Joe, which is played by a band consisting of Randy, Ed, George Valuck on keyboards and bass and Liberty on bass and bass (?) is a competent version, but the song on Spirit of '76 has the advantage that Randy's quite pleased just sounding like himself. For completists like myself, this version is nice to have though, although I wished they had mentioned when this particular song was recorded. The title track to this album could be called a Spirit song as well, as it was recorded, in the studio, with Ed, John Locke and Larry Knight. The rest of the album is played by a three-man band that features, besides Randy, Preston Heyman on drums and percussion and John "Bugsy" Pearce on drums as well. As a whole, Shattered dreams sounds again like an attempt at commercial hard rock, although this time the result is far more pleasing compared to Euro-American. All along the watchtower is, thankfully, completely devoid of all references to Jimi H., now sounding more like Thin Lizzy trying to sound like a new-wave band, but I still think one cover version (the one on Future games) was enough. Oh gosh, there's another version of Downer as well, but this time it's instrumental only. Man at war has it's moments, as has Killer weed. Hand guns is Toy guns with a slightly different title and slightly altered lyrics which give it the advantage of making much more sense.

In the late 1980's Randy California had been getting a lot of attention by his impressive performances during the Night of the guitar series of concerts, in which he participated together with other legends like Jan Akkerman, Steve Howe and Leslie West. I went to the concert in Utrecht, The Netherlands, and had a great time. I've heard several stories afterwards from people who became Randy California fans that night. There is a CD and a video available of this project, but I haven't heard or seen any of them.

With Randy in the spotlights, it seems time was right for Spirit to resurface.


Spirit : Rapture in the chambers (1989)

Hard love / Love tonight / Thinking of / Rapture in the chambers / Mojo man / Contact / The prisoner / One track mind / Enchanted forest / Human sexuality / Shera princess of power / End suite

Imagine my surprise when I heard two songs from a new Spirit album being announced and played on mainstream radio (!) when I knew little better than that the band did not exist anymore. And even though I wasn't very impressed by these songs I rushed out the next day to order the album. Line-up on this album consists of Randy, Ed and John Locke (whose presence can hardly be recognized, not even in Contact for which he wrote the music) with guest appearances from Mark Andes (who also provides the music for Hard love), ex-Jo Jo Gunne drummer Curley Smith on drums and Randy's sister Janet Wolfe on backing vocals. On this album Spirit sounds more commercial than ever, and one could even call it "overproduced". Without much success, and this CD can regularly be found in secondhand departments and bargain bins in record stores. It's not a bad album however, but it needs some time before it grew on me. I particularly like The prisoner and Enchanted forest.

After the release of this album the band went on tour to promote it. The only concert in The Netherlands was March 13th 1990 in De Melkweg in Amsterdam. I was a bit disappointed to see that John Locke had once again split from the group. The band also had a new bass player, Mike Nile, who incidentally was one of the engineers on Rapture. I don't remember much of the concert, except that I enjoyed it very much even though it was quite short, being just under 90 minutes. Besides some songs from Rapture the band played Downer, Mr. Skin, Animal zoo and many more songs, some of which I can't remember ever hearing on any of the albums. I was surprised to see so many other fans, including some of my own age, one of whom I exchanged addresses with (I lost his) and who also suggested me to check out the band Nektar, which turned out to be completely different in style compared to Spirit, but is very enjoyable anyway. One other person taped the concert, ripped me off 25 guilders for a copy he never sent me. I also bought a T-shirt, "stole" a concert poster, had it autographed by all three band members, had a very pleasant talk with Ed and watched the tape-guy trying to talk with Randy who made a bit less friendly impression, perhaps because he noticed the running tape recorder.

Spirit : Tent of miracles (1990)

Borderline / Zandu / Love from here / Ship of fools / Burning love / Tent of miracles / Logical answers / Old black magic / Neglected emotion / Imaginary mask / Stuttgart says good-bye / Deep in this land

While on its predecessor Spirit sounds like it is trying to make one final attempt at commercial success, Tent of  miracles sounds like this goal was given up on and the band just wanted to have some fun instead. The result is a much better album. Ed Cassidy's Borderline is an excellent start, and there are many more good songs here, like Zandu and Neglected emotion. Mike Nile is contributing in a big way, not only playing bass but also being  responsible for some of the best songs of the album, like Ship of fools, which reminds me a bit of a Robert Cray or Gary Moore kind of song, but is enjoyable none the less, the excellent title-track and final song Deep in this land. It's been a good idea to have him sing these songs as well as Randy's voice can become a bit tedious after a while. Don't judge this album by its ridiculously cheap cover, for Tent of miracles is definitely the best of the last few Spirit albums. I could have done without Logical answers though.

After this record another concert in Amsterdam was announced, but it was canceled in favour of some anti-racism-third-world-let's-show-those-peasants-how-tolerant-we-are-fashion-and-bongo-drumming-show that they need to have in Amsterdam every now and then.

1991 saw the release of two compilations. The first, Time circle, is reviewed on page 1 as it's all about the original line-up. Of the second I'm not so sure.....


Spirit : Chronicles 1967-1992 (1991)

If I had a woman / Darlin / Hey Joe / I can't stand it / Genetic dreams / Fresh garbage / Somebody loves you / Lake of love / King of days

I wish record companies would stop trying to save money on CD-inlays, for the information on this one is just not good enough. There are songs here recorded between 1967 and 1991, mostly new versions of old songs, but the inlay suggests all of these are played by the original line-up. Sensational news, to say the least, but I don't believe it, as the names Arthur Barrow, Sara Fleetwood and George Valuck are also mentioned. And as for the origins of the songs, the albums they were meant to be on (some Potatoland stuff here perhaps?), the story behind the 1991-reunion, if there ever was one, and the real line-ups playing on the songs we're left in the dark. Leaving these criticisms aside, this CD is a small box of treasures. Not all songs are very good, obviously they never were good enough to be included on any of the albums, but it's fun to see how the guitar-bit of Jewish (on The family that plays together) has it's origins in If I had a woman, as Uncle Jack has in I can't stand it.


Spirit : Live at La Paloma (1995)

Life has just begun / Sadana / Mr. Skin / Hey Joe / I got a line on you / Prelude-Nothing to hide / Like a rolling stone / Going back to Jones / Living in this world / Magic wand / Give a life take a life / La Paloma jam - electric jam / 1984 / Jamaica jam / Super La Paloma jam / Natures way

Keyboardist Scott Monahan had played with Spirit before, but for as far as I know this is the first time he appeared with the group on record, or perhaps it was the first time he was given credit. His keyboards and vocals are very present on this album and while some people may prefer this release over the original live album, it's just a bit too smooth for my taste. Although the title suggests all songs were recorded at one venue, Like a rolling stone actually dates from 1987, Living in this world from 1977 (feat. Larry Knight and John Locke), Magic wand from 1981, 1984 from a different concert in 1993 and Nature's way from 1991. There's nothing wrong with that, and I would love to have more live recordings from various line-ups, although I would prefer if they included some liner-notes. But some of these songs are better than most of the album. The versions of Mr. Skin and I got a line on you are perhaps a bit too close to the originals, the three "jams" become a bit tedious after a while and the acoustic version of Give a life take a life doesn't come close to it's original, being a bit spoiled by a harmonica. No doubt the audience enjoyed themselves, the band members did their best and had great fun, sound quality is excellent too, but Live at La Paloma to me sounds to much like a band that clearly had seen better days. There's one BIG highlight, though; a new version of Nature's way featuring the voice of a female vocalist whose name isn't mentioned anywhere, but is very reminiscent of Sarah Fleetwood's.


Spirit : California blues (1996)

California blues / Look over yonder / The river / Call on me / Crossroads / Song for Clyde / Pet shop blues / Sugar mama / Red house / Gimmesome lovin' / We believe / One world Bonus tracks: Like a dog / Poem for John Lennon / Shoes back on / Tell everyone / Soundtrack for a moth

I really don't want to be too negative but I don't like California blues any better than Live at La Paloma. Granted, this has much to do with taste, as this record was actually very well received by many others. But California blues is very blues inspired, and I just don't like blues, perhaps only hip hop and polkas being more of a bore to me. It just never made any sense to me why every single sentence has to be repeated and why all songs need to sound almost identical.

There's some good news too, though. There's the return of Steve (Liberty) Loria and Matt Andes, who brought along his daughter Rachel to sing, and there are guest appearances by Robbie Krieger and Spencer Davis. It's a good thing how Spirit often brought in new members and allowed them to influence the sound of the band, but Rachel's inclusion is a bolder step as it changes the sound in a big way, but with big success as well as the girl sure can sing and her voice really fits the songs. The first track is one of the standout tracks. Look over yonder is a song that Randy co-wrote together with Jimi H., and as a bit of history it's enjoyable enough. Call on me is the highlight of the album, and it gives Miss Andes all chance to show what she can. Song for Clyde has some nice harmonized vocals, and Gimme some lovin' is fun. So far for the positive. Crossroads to me always was a tedious song. I ab-so-lute-ly hate it, and no matter who tries to do it, and no matter how much they do their best, it won't stop me from reaching for the remote control and switching to the next song. Pawn shop blues is virtually the same song, only the lyrics being notably different, and Sugar mama (feat. Robbie Krieger) makes me yawn, as does Red house, which was actually recorded at the same concert as most of Live at La Paloma, which would have received an even lower rating from me if this song had been included. Need I go on? To me this is all just as exciting as a Gary Moore or Robert Cray album. At least the last three bonus tracks are of interest, being early recordings of the original band, but to be able to listen to these one first has to find them first as all bonus tracks have been pasted to the final track of the main album.


Shortly after the release of this album it was all over. January 1997 Randy died while saving his son from drowning. Ed Cassidy ventured on with a group called Spirit Revisited, featuring some other ex-members. The only "new" material will be old recordings salvaged from the vaults.


Spirit : Cosmic smile (2000)

Shake my ego down / Barkin' up the wrong tree / Compromise / No time to pretend / Close to you / Mean and beautiful / One by one / Fire / Wave / Love from the heart / I had a dream / River of love / Break my back / Cosmic smile / Can't sit down (livin' on love)

The first and so far only posthumous Spirit album is a collection of songs recorded between 1990 and 1995. Therefore, it's not a proper album. It's not even a real Spirit album, as Randy California plays much of the instruments solo, with Ed Cassidy being present on only a few songs, as are some other ex-members of the band. That aside, musically speaking Cosmic Smile is better than California Blues. Songs are nowhere near brilliant, but at least I can listen to this CD and enjoy it. No real highlights though, and definitely not the album I want to remember the name of Spirit by. But songs like Shake my ego down, and Fire are enjoyable enough. The title-track, by the way, is a new version of The other song which was previously released on Son of Spirit. Interesting, but inferior




Jay Ferguson= Vocals
Randy California= Guitar
Ed Cassidy=Drums
Mark Andes=Bass
John Locke=keyboards