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

TWELVE DREAMS OF DR. SARDONICUS

Spirit

 

Proto-Prog

4.18 | 119 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

HolyMoly
Special Collaborator
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl and Canterbury Teams
4 stars The "swan song" by the original, "classic" lineup of Spirit. Has the feel of a concept album, with songs linked together, and with 12 songs representing the 12 dreams, I guess. Randy California really comes into his own as a songwriter/singer here, setting the stage for his eventual domination of the group's direction. After this album, the group split for a while, with Ferguson and Andes forming Jo Jo Gunne. The group would eventually reform as Spirit, but for the most part, Randy California and Ed Cassidy remained the only consistent members from here on.

This is a delightfully diverse album, so why not take it track by track:

Side A

Prelude-Nothin' to Hide (R. California) - Short acoustic "prelude" (reprised at the end of the album) soon kicks into a lively rock tune with some pretty sick slide playing. Slightly odd lyrics like "We've got nothing to hide / We're married to the same wife"

Nature's Way (R. California) - After "I Got a Line on You", probably their best known song. The eco-rock anthem par excellence. Based on a solo acoustic performance, but with percussion and heavenly backing vox added on.

Animal Zoo (J. Ferguson) - Let's all throw off our shackles and inhibitions and get down and dirty like animals! Let's forget to pay the rent, shower only occasionally, and par-tay all the time! Let's quit the group and start an even smellier group! Excellent "chicken-clucking" guitar hook in this one.

Love Has Found a Way (R. California / J. Locke) - Hey! Woozy psychedelia all of a sudden! Locke is all over the synths in this one, and the drums are played backwardsAnd the vocal harmonies TOTALLY rule. This one gets more and more amazing, until it cuts abruptly into ---

Why Can't I Be Free (R. California) - Brief 1 minute ballad, kind of a conclusion to the prior track.. Pretty, but not too incredibly substantial.

Mr Skin (J. Ferguson) - This one's funky! Lotsa horns providing pithy "answers" to Jay's surly verses. Dedicated to Cass Cassidy, the bald drummer.

Side B

Space Child (J. Locke) - Total keyboard feature, an instrumental fading in and out of different dream-sequence-like sections. More cool Mini-Moog. If I recall right, this was one of the earliest albums to use the Mini-Moog.

When I Touch You (J. Ferguson) - As the prior song fades out, distorted voices slowly fade and get more and more frantic, until it climaxes and California comes in with the slow but powerful riff that anchors the song. This song has Jay's best vocal on the album too, and the extended outro has some excellent guitar soloing, a section reminiscent of Yes's outro to "Starship Trooper".

Street Worm (J. Ferguson) - A bouncy, elaborate arrangement that only needs a couple of verses and chori until they give the 2nd half of the song to Randy, who turns in some truly dazzling solos.The song, I guess, is about personal freedom and free sex and taking off all your clothes and all that dated hippie stuff.

Life Has Just Begun (R. California) - Emotional, sad ballad with lovely vocal effects, harmonies (again; I sometimes take it for granted, but these guys really nail their harmonies on this record).

Morning Will Come (R. California) - Hit single material! Was this a single? I think it was. Kind of a rhythm and blues feel to this one, with horn punctuations again, and a truly joyous performance from Randy.

Soldier (R. California) - But the good mood was not to last. A sullen, almost dejected closer, probably about that disappointing Iggy Pop album mentioned in the title. Or maybe Randy was just mad that album wasn't going to be released for another few years.

IN TOTAL, I feel this album is an excellent addition to any prog rock collection, and it really deserves classic status for "classic rock" in general. It was a commercial disappointment upon release, probably contributing to the band's subsequent breakup. But I think it's kind of the "Dark Side of the Moon" of an alternate universe... a futuristic album that could have been a game changer for intelligent rock music. It's not perfect, but it comes awfully close in spots. 4.5 stars.

HolyMoly | 4/5 |

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