Exposé Online banner

Spirit — Son of Spirit / Farther Along
(BGO CD644, 1976/2004, CD)

Spirit — Future Games / Spirit of 84
(BGO CD657, 1984/2005, 2CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2006-05-01

Son of Spirit / Farther Along Cover artFuture Games / Spirit of 84 Cover art

After Spirit’s first four classic albums, the band entered a period of fluctuating personnel, style, and success. The double-LP Spirit of ‘76 had marked the revitalization of the band around guitarist Randy California and drummer Ed Cassidy, and indulged the experimental side of the group. Finding themselves the object of some chart action after years of disappointment, the two quickly followed up with Son of Spirit, hanging onto bassist Barry Keene from the previous record. It is a much tamer affair, sticking to the band’s more song-oriented side, and maintaining a relatively pastoral mood. There are some beautiful acoustic guitar moments, and plenty of great, if somewhat restrained, lead parts on electric. California, as the sole singer, uses his modest vocal talents to good effect on the soft material. The previous album had introduced a trend of cover tunes, and the Beatles’ “Yesterday” is added here.

The next year, original members John Locke (keyboards) and Mark Andes (bass) came back into the fold temporarily for Farther Along, leaving only singer Jay Ferguson missing from the band’s classic lineup. For the most part, this album continues in the relatively non-experimental vein of its predecessor, though it should be noted that a non-experimental Spirit album is still fairly out-there compared to most bands. Aside from an embarrassing disco beat on one track, the material here stands up well through the years; a couple of the tunes rank with the band’s best.

The reunion of players didn’t last beyond the 1976 tour, leaving California alone to carry on the name. After a pair of relatively tame albums, Spirit took a left turn with what is perhaps their most experimental recording, Future Games. Each side of the LP flowed continuously, mixing songs with bits of sound borrowed from TV shows, most prominently the original Star Trek. While it certainly strays into “difficult listening,” this record is full of interesting moments. The sound of California’s multi-tracked guitars on these mid-70s albums reminds me of Peter Hammill’s solo studio work, the way chords are built up out of overdubbed single notes.

After some touring with various personnel for the next couple years, California retired the Spirit name. In December of 1982, however, the original quintet, complete with Ferguson, regrouped for some live-in-the-studio sessions, mainly to record new versions of their classic older tunes, though a few new songs were tossed in. It’s hard to fathom now why anyone thought this was a good idea, but the result was The Thirteenth Dream (released as Spirit of 84 in the US for no good reason). “Mechanical World,” “I Got a Line on You,” and “Fresh Garbage” are not well served by the translation from their original eccentric incarnations to slick 80s hard rock anthems. California’s lead guitar is stellar as always, but the whole thing just seems like a futile exercise in recapturing something that was so much part of its own time that it can’t really exist in another era. While it’s wonderful to see the later albums in this long-lived band’s history once again on the shelves, listeners looking for an entrée into the strange world of Spirit should start with their first four releases before moving into this territory.


Filed under: Reissues, Issue 33, 2004 releases, 1976 recordings, 2005 releases, 1984 recordings

Related artist(s): Spirit, Randy California

Latest news

2019-03-20
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more

2019-03-03
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more

2019-02-21
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more

2019-01-31
Keyboardist Ingo Bischof R.I.P. – Keyboard player Ingo Bischof, best known as the longtime keyboard player of German band Kraan, passed away on January 29th, 2019. Bischof was born January 2, 1951 in Berlin-Kreuzberg and joined Kraan in 1975. » Read more

2019-01-11
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Sensitiva Immagine - E Tutto Comincio Cosi... – Here is one that Edison Records (RIP) of Japan spared no laudatory word on when it was first reissued by them back in the early 90s. Marquee's encyclopedia claims its origins as a cassette release...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues