29 May SPIRIT- “SPIRIT OF ’76” (ALBUM REVIEWS)

Randy California of the Rock Band Spirit performing at the Gorge in Washington State on 6-22-86. Photo by Ben Upham. Magical Moment Photos.

RANDY (WOLFE) CALIFORNIA OF THE ROCK BAND SPIRIT. PHOTO-ART BY BEN UPHAM.


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SPIRIT-
“SPIRIT OF ’76”
(ALBUM REVIEWS)

REVIEW #1-
THE CHARLESTON GAZETTE
CHARLESTON, W. VIRGINIA
MAY 18, 1975
This West Coast group which, in 1968, showed itself as one of the few American bands to create a truly original sound, is back with, its best album yet. “Spirit of 76” is a Bicentennial concept album. It is
patriotic — in a weird way — and optimistic in a way not expected in a rock album.
But Spirit is more than a rock band. Its music is an amalgam of jazz, rock and the avant garde. Spirit has always been best at this brand of music. Ed “Cass” Cassidy, 52-year-old Spirit founder, is as steady with the drumbeat as he was initially, and his stepson Randy California’s guitar work is as fascinating.
They are the creative core of the band, and they are fine. On this two record set, there are some excellent surprises. First off is the opening tune, “America/The Times They Are A-Changing,” which is excellent. “America” gets a fine acoustic, folk treatment and melts beautifully into Dylan’s “Times.” It is fine.
“The Star Spangled Banner” closes the album, and it has never been given a better contemporary treatment. It is an excellent jazz piece, with a fine vocal. Outstanding tunes abound on the set. “Victim of Society” and “Lady of the Lakes” are fine rock numbers, and there is a thrilling version of “Like a Rolling Stone.” There is nothing contrived anywhere on the album. All the music is fine, polished stuff.
“Spirit of 76” is the first Spirit album in three years. It is their best since the classic “Clear Spirit.” It is a refreshing treat to hear from musicians like Cassidy and California. The band’s new album should re-establish Spirit as one of the rock world’s most respected acts. One thing’s for certain — you can’t beat “Spirit of 76.”

REVIEW #2-
“IT’S ABOUT TIME”
BY F.M. MOSES
JULY 10, 2004
This is the first Randy California effort without the help of Ferguson, Locke, and Andes to rehash the legacy of Spirit. Though 1971’s release of “Feedback” seemed to satisfy a few Spirit fans’ cravings, many felt that the band was missing its main ingredient= Randy California!
“Spirit Of 76” is California’s first collaboration with the trademark name after nearly five years of the release of the stunning “Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus” classic album. No, it isn’t the best follow-up album…but the title of the album offers a truce, for, it is in the “spirit” of its time. With Calfornia and Cassidy minus the rest of the original line-up leading the way, “Spirit of 76” lacks some of the heavy jazz influences of the previous Spirit + California efforts. But for the elements that are lacking without the rest of the band, California makes up for with his brilliant guitar work and his find ear in music production.
To look at the album in another distinct way, it is sort of like Bob Dylan from “Blonde on Blonde” to “John Wesley Harding”…the ingredients differ, but both flavors are equally satisfying.
“Spirit of 76” brings that same brand to life…it is much more mellow than the previous California/Spirit efforts, yet it is full of body and soul. Lacking the experimentation of “Twelve Dreams…,” “Spirit of 76” is more natural in its sound…it reveals a beauty that cannot be duplicated by any mixing board…for, it comes right from the heart.

“Sunrise” and “Maunaloa” remain as some of my favorites on this album …there is plenty of studio experimentation made by a simple guitar and rhythm session, similar to the Hendrix tradition. If Dylan praised Hendrix’s version of “All Along the Watch Tower”…he surely had to recognize the chilling, yet beautiful version of “Like a Rolling Stone” composed by California on this album.

“Spirit of 76” remains more like a MTV production of “Unplugged” in a bands’ discography…it proves that Randy California was truly a musician, not just another victim who fell to the grace of a record company. By now, any Spirit fan can recognize that Spirit are unique in their following. From a band that rejected an offering to the original Woodstock, the group has a lot more to offer than words can say. “Spirit of 76” proves that a band can make the best without selling out!
It’s about time this album made its way to compact disc…hopefully it will have the same impact on others as it did for me…to see the Spirit collection reissued in its entirety! “Spirit of 76” is just a start, and what a fine start it is!

SPIRIT DISCOGRAPHY:
1968 Spirit
1969 The Family that Plays Together
1969 Clear
1970 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus
1972 Feedback
1973 Best of Spirit
1975 Spirit of ’76
1975 Son of Spirit
1976 Farther Along
1977 Future Games
1977 Live Spirit
1981 Potatoland II
1984 Spirit of ’84
1989 Rapture in the Chambers
1990 Tent of Miracles
1991 Time Circle (compilation of unreleased tracks)
1992 Chronicles ’67-’92 (compilation of unreleased tracks)
1995 Live at La Paloma
1996 California Blues
1997 Made in Germany (Live 1978)
1997 The Mercury Years
2000 Live at the Rainbow (Live 1978)
2000 Cosmic Smile
2002 Sea Dream
2003 Blues from the Soul
2004 Live from the Time Coast Live ’89-’96)
2005 Son of America
2006 the Original Potatoland
2007 Salvation, the Spirit of ’74
2008 Rock ‘N’ Roll Planet (Live ’77-’79)
2009 California Blues Redux (different than California Blues)
2010 The Last Euro Tour
2011 Tales From the Westside

CLICK THE LINKS BELOW TO SEE MORE RANDY CALIFORNIA & SPIRIT PHOTOS:
RANDY CALIFORNIA & SPIRIT FINE ART AMERICA IMAGES BY BEN UPHAM
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RANDY CALIFORNIA & SPIRIT FINE ART AMERICA IMAGES BY BEN UPHAM
AND
PURCHASE “SPIRIT OF ’76” REMASTERED CD