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Spirit - Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus CD (album) cover

TWELVE DREAMS OF DR. SARDONICUS

Spirit

 

Proto-Prog

4.13 | 192 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars This would be the last Spirit album to feature the original lineup, and what a finale it turned out to be! ‘Twelve Dreams…’ is generally considered to be one of the top American psychedelic albums ever made. There has been no shortage of musicians and bands who have pointed to this album as inspiration for their own work, particularly in the early and mid-seventies. Spirit’s unique and seamless blend of rock and jazz/fusion were stretched to the limit on this loosely thematic work that explored the timeless topics of the meaning of life, the intrusive nature of modernization, and the deeper meanings of numerous classic and popular literary works. This was the Beach Boys ‘Pet Sounds’, Steely Dan’s ‘Pretzel Logic’, and ‘Sgt Pepper’ rolled into one.

While the dominant sound throughout the album is once again Randy California’s ever- expanding guitar experimentation, the band also essentially introduced the moog synthesizer as an integral part of psychedelic music with this release. Few bands (if any) had used the instrument to such a mature and varied extent prior to this album, and keyboardist John Locke does a masterful job of combining psychedelic meandering with jazz improvisational sounds to great effect, particularly on the funky “Mr Skin”, the introspective “Life Has Just Begun”, and the melancholic anthem “Soldier”.

Most of the arrangements on this album are tighter than on the band’s first four albums, presumably with the overall goal of more commercial success coming off their first really big break with 1969’s ‘Clear’. There are a couple exceptions, most notably the choppy “Love Has Found a Way” with its seemingly pointless tempo changes and slightly gauche vocal harmonies; and the aggressively bluesy but slightly misleading opening track “Nothin’ to Hide”. But for the most part this is a very cohesive collection of short songs that seems to fit together quite well, and serve to highlight the importance of each member’s contributions to the band’s overall sound. IT was during the recording of this album that California had the famous accident and head injury that some say affected him for the rest of his life, but to be honest there isn’t any apparent evidence of the fracturing personal relationships and California’s mental problems that were revealed publicly in the years following its release.

It’s a little surprising this wasn’t a major hit when it released in late 1970, but part of the problem can probably be attributed to the collapse of the supporting tour, the band’s fracturing as a result, and in more general terms the public’s fading interest in the flower-power generation rockers of the late sixties.

Spirit would never again achieve either the artistic or commercial success of their early years after this album released, and California would soon embark on a largely anonymous solo career for many years before finally returning to a Spirit lineup that was well-received by long-time fans, but was largely ignored by the critics and the music industry in general.

Like I said at the outset, this is an outstanding forty minutes of psychedelic, guitar- intensive and socially-inflected music that is highly regarded by musicians of all stripes even today. It is probably essential for the collections of serious musicians, and I would say it is pretty close to that for the rest of us. Four stars, but I could see where others might give it five.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |

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