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Spirit - California Blues CD (album) cover

CALIFORNIA BLUES

Spirit

 

Proto-Prog

3.72 | 6 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars Well, next week marks the tenth anniversary of Randy California's death off the coast of Hawaiian island of Molokai, so it seems appropriate to take the time to talk a little about the last Spirit album he released just a few weeks before his untimely demise.

The music here isn't as important as the fact that California finally seemed to have found peace after many years of personal struggles and lack of recognition for his inspiring songwriting skills, and for his incredible oneness with the guitar. This album demonstrates the ease with which he was able to pick up a guitar and make it sing any way he wanted to. If you ever get a chance to see some video footage of Spirit live you'll see that he played almost effortlessly, yet managed to lay down licks that still amaze and inspire guitarists today. His idealistic lyrics seem out-of-place today; indeed, they kind of seemed out-of-place when he wrote many of them in the eighties and nineties. But he was never a slave to fashion, preferring instead to make a path in his own way and let the rest of us get on board, or not.

This album pairs up most of the original band, sans Jay Ferguson who left quite a while earlier. Southern California D.J. Steve "Liberty" Loria takes up bass duties, and Rachel Andes adds some really beautiful and earthy vocals. The band shows the extent of their standing in the music community with guest appearances by Doors guitarist Robby Krieger as well as Spencer Davis.

As the title suggests, this is mostly a blues-driven record, with a mix of Randy's original material and some blues standards such as the Spencer Davis Group's "Gimme Some Lovin"; Robert Johnson's "Crossroads"; and Howlin' Wolf's "Sugar Mama" among others. California's guitar work is as animated and precise as anything he had done since the very early days of Spirit, affirming that despite the years of tribulations, he had not lost anything in terms of skill.

The final twenty minutes or so features a collection of live recordings from the very early days of the band, and showcases the heavy influence of jazz that John Locke and Ed Cassidy brought to the group. There's also a poem tribute to John Lennon that California wrote in the wake of Lennon's senseless murder. The whole thing is a very nice bonus to an already substantial album.

This isn't an essential classic that either progressive, jazz, or even blues fans necessarily need to have in their collections. But it is a beautiful snapshot of an idealistic, humble, and powerfully talented man who was taken away at a time where he still had a lot of music left in him. For that reason it deserves recognition, and would more than likely be welcome in the collection of anyone who still has a little bit of flower- power left in them.

(Rest in) peace Randy

ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |

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