Formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1967, Spirit were a progressive rock outfit that dropped this bombshell cult classic album in 1970. Randy California (guitar and vocals) fronted the band until his untimely demise when saving his son from a Hawaiian riptide aged just 45, and his stepfather, Ed Cassidy (drums) was the other founder member. Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus was Spirit’s fourth album and was produced by David Briggs, well known for his work with Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Spirit have somehow faded into almost complete obscurity, though this album is more than enough reason to revive their name and celebrate their greatness.
Notwithstanding the album’s genius pop sensibility, Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus fuses psychedelia with classic rock, elements of folk, sultry jazz, blues and americana. Nature’s Way became one of Spirit’s signature songs, highlighting California’s environmental concerns (evident in lines like “It’s nature’s way of telling you, soon we’ll freeze / It’s nature’s way of telling you, dying trees”), and Mr Skin is a tribute to Cassidy, who achieved fame late but revelled in his autumn-years rock stardom. Other highlights include the searing Love Has Found a Way and ethereal Space Child instrumental.
Combining graceful, thoughtful, provocative songwriting with powerful harmonies and great playing throughout, this gem of an album should sit bold in amongst the very best of Led Zeppelin IV (1971), Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon (1973), King Crimson’s In The Court Of The Crimson King (1969) and The Yes Album (1971). It’s a long forgotten masterpiece that you’ll only find in the very best independent record shops where the owner is a muso and your timing is right, but if you do, get your hands on it. It’s a must for anyone with a soft-spot for nostalgic cult epics.