Randy California — The Euro-American Years 1979-1983
(Acadia ACAD 8141, 1983/2007, 4CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2008-01-01
It merits discussion as to what, in the early 80s context, constituted the difference between a Spirit album and a Randy California album. Because nearly every Spirit composition in those days was California's, and he was the focal point of that band, it would seem that the two were essentially interchangeable, or at the very least conveniently blurred. But in fact, the material released on the two Randy California LPs herein (Euro-American and Shattered Dreams) and various demos, singles, EPs and live sets that this sprawling four-disc set is chronologically aligned with generally favor a more straight-ahead hard rock approach laced with melodic hooks and flashy guitar chops than the more eclectic and diverse material that had been recorded under the Spirit moniker to date. But indeed, during this four to five year period those differences often became blurred for the musicians involved and fans alike.
At some point after the Spirit Live album in '78, Spirit split up and California was offered the opportunity to make a go of a solo career by none other than Ian Gillan, with an opening slot on the former Deep Purple singer's 1979 European solo tour. A trio was quickly assembled with drummer Jack Willoughby and bassist Steve "Liberty" Loria, and the three took off for England as the Randy California Band. They toured, some demos were recorded, and then the band came home. Almost immediately, Loria became the touring bassist of a new version of Spirit in early 1980. It was during that time that recordings began for what was to be a new Spirit album that ultimately never saw the light of day (included herein, of course). Around '81, the Potatoland album was finally released, and another European tour was arranged, during which California was signed by Beggars Banquet (UK) label to do the solo Euro-American LP, which is included in its entirety on disc one, along with additional material recorded concurrently that appeared on various bonus discs, EPs, singles, and versions of the LP released in other countries, as well as plenty of unreleased cuts. Disc two carries on with additional recordings from the period, some of which ended up on the Shattered Dreams LP in '83, others recorded as demos, yet others unreleased. Disc three features excellent live recordings from the Spirit 1980-81 band featuring RC, Ed Cassidy, Loria, and keyboardist George Valuck, from various dates and venues, mostly stateside. Finally we come to disc four, the "collector's bonus" disc, which is roughly split between demos and miscellany from the period, and a complete soundboard recording of the Randy California Band in Ayr, Scotland, November '79. The sound quality on this last disc tends to be a bit dodgy, especially on the live material, but apparently these were the only surviving recordings of that tour. Together, these four discs include nearly all the archival material that could be found from this period (and deemed listenable) by archivist Mick Skidmore, and all taken it's probably a bit more than the casual fan needs, but then again, at a price tag of around $28, how can one go wrong.
Related artist(s): Randy California
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