The Spirit of Music

So we’ve done a lot of forward thinking recently, and now it’s time to wind the clock hands back, to a simpler time. To a time when, I’ll admit, I was not alive, but it makes me nostalgic nonetheless.

Spirit, the band, from left to right: Cassidy, Ferguson, Andes, Locke and California, off the cover of 1973's "The Best of Spirit"

I’m talking about the 60’s, in particular the late 60’s. In 1967, a legend was born. In the foothills that are Los Angeles, five men came together to create one of the first jazz-fusion bands ever. Their names were Randy California, Jay Ferguson, Ed Cassidy (“Mr. Skin”), John Locke and Mark Andes.

Together, they formed Spirit, a name that hardly anyone from my generation recognizes. And even for people who were alive in that era, they remain in obscurity. But they exploded onto the scene in 1968 with the release of the self-titled first album. The single off that album, “Mechanical World”, stayed at #31 in the charts for eight weeks. Check it out:

Mechanical World (1968)

In 1968, a little-known band named Led Zeppelin was touring with Spirit as their opening band, and continued to hold enormous respect for them as they themselves became more famous. Listen to “Taurus”, which was released off the 1968 album to hear what Jimmy Page’s influence was for “Stairway to Heaven” two years later.

Taurus

And Spirit was busy – they released another album, The Family That Plays Together, later that same year – which was very successful overall, featuring the song “I Got a Line On You”.

But by the mid 70s Spirit was beginning to have problems. Ferguson and Andes left the group in 1971, and subsequently Randy California split off to do some solo work. California moved to Hawaii, where he had a religious awakening of sorts – and by the time the band got back together to release the album Spirit of ’76 in, well, 1976, their sound had changed dramatically.

Cover for "Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus"

But in that in-between period, Spirit released Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, an album that is still hailed as a landmark album in the annals of rock and roll. Nearly half of the cuts off their “Best of” album come from this record. This album covers such a wide expanse of musical styles and thematic ideas, and distills them to their purest forms. Here are some tracks off of that album:

Morning Will Come

Street Worm

One thing that sets Spirit apart from other bands from the late 60’s was their early use of green themes, as seen in their songs “Fresh Garbage” and “Nature’s Way”.

Nature’s Way

The band also released the album Clear that year, which was a decent album, but had one that song rose far and above the rest (and is one of my favorites):

Dark Eyed Woman (1970)

But after their initial split, Spirit was never quite the same  – even though they had reunited. The members played together on and off until 1990 when California passed away. But it’s never too late to honor these unsung legends by listening to their music – a prime example of world class rock.

[Feel free to drop me a comment if you dig Spirit as much as I do! Thanks, ~Josh]

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PEAK KEYWORD: SPIRIT

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Spirit of Music

  1. KJ

    Spirit………..well done piece. One of those underrated bands, like Moby Grape. One of my fellow workers swears by Spirit. Its happened before, bands come back, its hard to recapture that ‘magic’. My wife, and I comment, we are so glad to have grown up in the 60s. Look how that music still lives strongly.

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