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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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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
5 stars After the superb Clear album, Spirit was really flying in a class of its own which allowed them to make THE psychedelic album that not even The Beatles would managed to do. Up until this album, Spirit was one of the most advanced psych-proto-prog groups (two members were jazz veterans), but songwriting-wise they were still a step bellow Jefferson Airplane and The Beatles. But with 12 Dreams, Spirit would surpass both with this flawless album that strikes by its awesome construction, its incredibly tight songwriting, aligning the brilliant ideas and impeccable melodies one after the others, bridging them magnificently together and implacably stunning you with awe and stupor and forced admiration. Graced with a superb psychedelic artwork (trafficked shots of the disguised band members), this loose concept of Dr Sardonicus' twelve dreams in twelve songs (not am accident, uh?;-) is one of the top twenty albums list of all times, and if it is not in yours, get yourself a shock treatment, you are not sane and even less insane. As a logical continuation, guitarist Randy California has now taken over the majority of the songwriting - Ferguson has never been stronger while John Locke has no space for his jazz influences but still contributes two beauties - and again Spirit is way ahead of schedule on their era with their ecological preoccupations.

Although the album is not long, from the first second of the acoustic guitar intro of the Prelude, until the final notes of Soldier, Spirit will not give a single second of rest and you will come out of this dream sequence breathless. This is even more so true with the Cd reissues since you are not allowed to flip side. Nothing To Hide gives a good idea of what lays ahead with its incredible vocal harmonies behind Ferguson's, but as you think the tracks is one its way out, out comes from hidden the groups stepping up tempo for a bit of sparring bouts complete with brass section. The track slowly dies down to reach the horrifyingly beautiful Nature's Way, where California and Ferguson create heaven on earth (no need of fallacious gods) and the whole group is right behind them with flabbergasting backing vocals harmonies. Way too short, NW ends with an incredibly polluting engine sputtering its toxic fumes and in comes Animal Zoo with its superb humour and infallible bass line. Just as you walk out of the park, an electronic whizzing sound is taking you to a trafficked backwards tape intro, Love Has Found A Way is divided in two by another infallible bass line, before allowing the ultra-short but orgasmic Why Can't I Be Free. A reggae rhythm (in 1970?) gives the perfect intro into Mr Skin, where the band unleashes all its power while remaining in control of your mental ejaculations with ultra tight songwriting.

Once the slice of wax has been flipped quicker than a pancake, a spacey piano takes us by the hand into a quiet but ever-changing twirl of melodies and ambiances where the myriad of chord succession gives you the thrill of a lifetime. Some prog groups used less cord succession throughout their whole career than spirit did in this tune. As the track cedes ground to electronics sounds very reminiscent of 2001's Space Odyssey (the psych trip around the end), a raunchy guitar takes over and When I Touch You does touch you, you cannot be anything but floored in amazement, wondering how this album is still not in everybody's household. The track is halfway between a Floyd space track and a hard rocking Beatles (Come Together-style). Street Worm is another superb tracking worming its way into your brains and California sometimes-fuzzy guitar is close to Trower's contributions in Procol Harum and Hendrix (he's a pupil) bravery. Probably the least immediately accessible track on the album, Life Has Just Begun as its title tells you will sink in time (but since it only began, you got plenty of it, right?). Another highlight is in sight with the horn-inflicted Morning Will Come (suggesting you the end of your dreams are about to end), but the track is one scorcher, but as usual a bit short. Funnily, Soldier (an excellent quiet tune, is closing the album, but I would've switched the last two tracks of place for a more effective ending.

Unlike its three preceding albums, the remastered version does not come with bonus tracks that honour the album (but could that have been possible?) even if Rougher Road could provide the suitable to the album it yearns. Alternate takes of two tracks mar a bit the re-issue, while the closing bonus Red Light is rather interesting live track, but a bit out of context with the album.

As incredible as it may seem, after such an immense album, and for rather still unclear reasons (I am not really convinced by the explanations given), the group will explode with singer Ferguson and bassist Mark Andes (and his brother Matt) will form Jo Jo Gunne which will never live to the expectations (promising debut, but lacklustre following two), while Randy California is diving into drugs, leaving Locke alone in the group to record the awful Feedback. Yes, Sardonicus is simply the best album to come out of LA (much better than The Doors or Love or other consorts) and although not prog per se, the album is one of those proto-prog gems every proghead simply must have if he wants his life to be completely fulfilled. Better than sex and even better during sex, especially playing air-guitar with her clitoris with your tongue. Ooooorgasmic!!!!

Sean Trane | 5/5 |

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