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Spirit Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus album cover
4.11 | 121 ratings | 12 reviews | 37% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1970

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Prelude - Nothin' to Hide (3:43)
2. Nature's Way (2:40)
3. Animal Zoo (3:10)
4. Love Has Found a Way (2:42)
5. Why Can't I Be Free (1:05)
6. Mr. Skin (4:01)
7. Space Child (3:25)
8. When I Touch You (5:37)
9. Street Worm (3:43)
10. Life Has Just Begun (3:29)
11. Morning Will Come (2:50)
12. Soldier (2:50)
13. Rougher Road* (3:17)
14. Animal Zoo* (3:10)
15. Morning Will Come* (2:50)
16. Red Light Roll On* (5:41)

Total Time 54:13

* bonus track on CD


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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Jay Ferguson / vocals, percussion, keyboards
- Randy California / guitars, vocals
- John Locke / piano, keyboards, moog synthesizer
- Ed Cassidy / drums, percussion
- Mark Andes / bass, vocals

Releases information

1996 CD Epic/Legacy 65003 with bonus tracks noted with *
1970 LP Epic 30267

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and to aapatsos for the last updates
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  • Mr Skin Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, 1970

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Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
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SPIRIT Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus ratings distribution

(121 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(37%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (13%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

SPIRIT Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
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!!!!


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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#94047) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Review by ClemofNazareth
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.



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Send comments to ClemofNazareth (BETA) | Report this review (#118402) | Review Permalink
Posted Saturday, April 14, 2007

Review by jammun
5 stars You wouldn't have known it from listening to their first three albums -- well, there might have been a inkling or two-- but Spirit was slowly drifting towards something big, if not in terms of success then in terms of accomplishment. The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus is so perfect one can't help wondering if, a la Led Zep, these guys made a pact with the Devil. Just kidding, all you Zep fans. The pact that was made was with David Briggs (Neil Young's producer back in the day), who simply frames the songs in the best possible light, and what beautiful light it is.

This is one of those sorta/kinda concept albums. There's no real concept, other than the twelve dreams segue one to the next and that the first song is quoted during the last, but there is a continuity and purpose here not evident on any previous Spirit recordings. The songs are the best Spirit had come up with yet; there's not a bad one -- not even a suspect one -- in the bunch. It's hard to list highlights because everything here is find, but I'll take a shot at it:

- the excellent rocker Nothing To Hide, with Randy California unleashed on slide guitar - the acoustic, eco-conscious Nature's Way, with great vocals - the funky Mr. Skin - the jazzy Space Child - the almost arena-rock vibe of When I Touch You - the polished pop-rock of Morning Will Come

So there's six of the twelve dreams, with the remaining six being equally satisfying.

Spirit finally realized the potential of that first album, releasing one of the great albums of the time. I won't call this one underrated; rather, it's overlooked. The band unfortunately splintered following its release and although there are later albums that carry the Spirit name, they are not worthy.


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Send comments to jammun (BETA) | Report this review (#155272) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars Much credit has been given to David Briggs the producer of this album who has been called the sixth member of this band for his work over the 5 months it took to record it. Briggs was known for being Neil Young's producer back then. Randy California SPIRIT's guitarist said this about David Briggs: "Acting as a catalyst and friend, David inspired and guided us to our very best studio performances. I will always remember him for his quick wit, no-nonsense decisions and brotherly disposition. This album could not have happened without David...". This album is much loved by those who have heard it, it's rated very highly on all the sites. We get 12 short tracks although at times it feels like songs are blending into one another. My biggest problem is that some of the songs remind me of when I was 9 or 10 years old when mom had that AM radio station on that played light seventies tunes (it was the seventies). There is lots to like though besides those tracks. Not much in the way of psychedelia though like I had hoped.

"Prelude-Nothin' To Hide" opens with gentle guitar and soft vocals. It kicks into a higher gear before a minute.The tempo picks up late. It's ok. "Natural Way" is a favourite of most. Strummed guitar, vocals and percussion early. Electric guitar comes in but this is really mellow. It's ok. "Animal Zoo" is catchy with samples of the city streets (horns honking etc.). Piano 1 1/2 minutes in. "Love Has Found A Way" is light with harmony vocals. "Why I Can't I Be Free" features acoustic guitar and reserved vocals.

"Mr.Skin" opens with vocal melodies. I finally like a song ! This is heavier. Sax 2 minutes in and the drums that follow sound great. Lots of sax late. "Space Child" opens with lots of piano, synths and drums. An excellent instrumental. "When I Touch You" has this psychedelic intro then the guitar comes in followed by vocals.The guitar is outstanding before 5 minutes. "Street Worm" is catchy with some killer guitar after 3 minutes. Good song. "Life Has Just Begun" is laid back with reserved vocals and acoustic guitar. "Morning Will Come" is uptempo with sax. Guitar 1 1/2 minutes in. "Soldier" is a mellow tune with piano.

Good album but i'm not loving it.


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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#224731) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, July 06, 2009

Review by Sinusoid
4 stars That's the spirit.

One of the best proto-prog acts that isn't vomitrociously over-hyped, Spirit gave the world a spectacular crossover pop/rock/psych/prog album with their fourth effort and showed us, the listeners, how they can stretch pop music beyond our imagination.

Various jazz, psych and pop elements creep their way into every song, yet Spirit gives us enough variety in the songs to prevent boredom. The genre checks aren't too widespread, and the changes are not too abrupt, so we don't get a wasted aural exercise here.

John Locke and Randy California are the key contributors here as their performances are dynamite. Progsters might recognise Locke moreso as his ''Space Child'' contributions are splendid from the floating piano lines to the Moog solo. Yet, California's responses and solo squeals in ''Street Worm'' more than match. Jay Ferguson also gets a special mention for his impressive vocal control and power without being too overwhelming.

DR. SARDONICUS is not short of great tracks. Some are very catchy like the post-Bo- Diddley ''Animal Zoo'', the upbeat ''Morning Will Come'' and the funky ''Mr. Skin''. Others are more poignant and touch your sould like ''Soldier'' and ''Nature's Way''. A few others can satisfy your intellectual stimulation such as the vibes-induced psych-fest ''Love Has Found a Way'', the synthesizer infested ''When I Touch You'' and the aforementioned ''Space Child''. The opening cut has various amounts of those elements complete with an orchestra fueled closing riff.

Only the short ''Why Can't I Be Free'' is not up to par with the rest of the album. The music may not be the most overwhelmingly dominating you've ever heard (the reason for the reserved rating), but make no mistake, DR. SARDONICUS is a force to be reckoned with.


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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#302039) | Review Permalink
Posted Monday, October 04, 2010

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars West coast, man

I remember being disappointed with this album when I finally heard it. With the trippy cover and its reputation I was expecting something really mind-blowing in the spacey-psych tradition but what I heard was something far more conventional. Indeed Sardonicus is just another West coast California hippie-rock album blended with mild psych, jazz, and bits of funk and folk. The album fits well alongside the other California bands of the day, though for my money is less interesting than much Grateful Dead, Airplane, or even The Doors.

David Briggs, famous for his work with Neil Young, was brought in and you can hear his "refined roughness" all over the place?gritty music but a professional sheen. The album's themes are the usual counter-culture concerns of the day, the playing and singing more than competent. "Nature's Way" is a beautiful acoustic number, sad, longing. "Animal Zoo" is a cute dittie like Arlo Guthrie would play for the kids. "Love Has Found a Way" is a cool track with vibes and backward rhythms, along with some early Moog experimentation. Still, pretty tame stuff for 1970. I'm amused when people talk about this as a heavy Acid album when Piper and Strange Days were already three years old, and by 70 there was some seriously weird stuff going on, stuff that makes this album sound like backing music for The Brady Bunch by comparison. "Mr. Skin" is where they throw in some funky guitars and horns for yet another flavor. "When I Touch You" is nice and heavy. The album closes with "Soldier" which is a truly lovely song, almost a spiritual which connects emotionally like Procol Harum or a good Band song would. Very slow with some pipe organ in the background. Great ending.

Despite some very memorable moments the album does not excite me like an American Beauty or Strange Days, let alone getting into English stuff. That said, it's a good album worthy of three stars and it should please many rock fans provided you don't have the high expectation I had going in.


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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#381358) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, January 16, 2011

Review by 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.


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Send comments to HolyMoly (BETA) | Report this review (#747166) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Review by friso
4 stars Spirit - Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970)

Who can resist a good song?

The American group Spirit had already released three psych albums in the late sixties before this relatively 'normal' rockalbum was released, which is often seen as their best. The band impresses with it's long list of songs that all work really well, being both melodic and atmospheric. Perhaps Supertramp had a good listen too. When it comes to style it reminds me of same period The Who and Blue Oyster Cult. Rock with melodic twists, dual vocals, use of effects and keyboards and tiny bit of American glamour (which I'm not too fond of myself). Moreover, without the few progressive moments on the album I wouldn't have thought this had been a psychedelic rock act.

All songs flow into each other very naturally, exploring many emotional landscapes and varied ways of arrangements possibilities. Artistically, the broadness of ideas reminds me a bit of the better moments of the Beatles. Not a single song stands out for me, because I like all of them almost equally much. Sometimes the music has that typically American 'feel-good vibe', but it still works for me - which is saying a lot.

Conclusion. Not too much to say here except that it's a great early seventies rock album that should be engaged as such, not as a progressive work. Four stars and recommended to fans of the named bands and those who appreciate seventies quality song-writing and style in general. This album also has some 'missing-link'-like qualities.


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Send comments to friso (BETA) | Report this review (#867978) | Review Permalink
Posted Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review by Warthur
5 stars A masterful release by Spirit and a perfect snapshot of the strange transition period when psychedelic rock's time in the sun was coming to an end and progressive rock was emerging from its elder sibling's shadow, these Twelve Dreams of Dr Sardonicus take the listener on a wild and diverse trip, held between folky acoustic gentleness, psychedelic head trips, and some downright rocking numbers, often within the same song (just check out that incredible transition in Prelude - Nothin' to Hide!). Nature's Way is an absolutely incredible song which I could just listen to over and over again forever, but the whole album is an essential for psyche- prog fans.


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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#944583) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Latest members reviews

5 stars "You have the world at your fingertips, no one can make it better than you." The same opening phrase is the last phrase of this Spirit work. A concept album? I don't know, but it's good. Dr. Sardonicus was the nickname for the Spirit mixing desk at the studio (maybe inspired by the Willian ... (read more)

Report this review (#967350) | Posted by VOTOMS | Friday, May 31, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars This is one of my top 10 albums of all time, despite that I only really listen to the first half. There are 6 songs I really love on this album: 1) Nothin' To Hide A nice transition from a dark folk sound at the beginning to a harder, more powerful piece at the end. I love the bass and al ... (read more)

Report this review (#96167) | Posted by k_crimson | Sunday, October 29, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars You had to be there at the time! It was a comforting moment when a host would spin this amazing hunk of vinyl for a bunch of sprawled stoners in a suburban basement. Suddenly, faces would light up in post-peak glee and somebody would always say, "I love this album man!" "Twelve Dreams" ... (read more)

Report this review (#94374) | Posted by Vingatondooda | Thursday, October 12, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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