Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Spirit
More Psychedelic Rock
Don’t bother with the black label Epic reissues. In our experience they are consistently awful.
Yellow is the original label and orange the first reissue; both can be good.
The reviews reproduced below tell the story of the album far better than I can. If you like Pink Floyd, The Beatles (circa Revolver and Pepper), and the myriad other bands who took off in the direction of Psych Rock and Art Rock, you should find much to like here.
And if you don’t we give you your money back.
Gary Graff, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996
The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus was Spirit’s crowning moment and one of the era’s great underrated albums. Loosely conceptual, it housed songs that were Spirit’s prettiest (“Nature’s Way”), funkiest (“Mr. Skin”) and hippest (“Animal Zoo,” “Nothin’ to Hide”). Rather than dated, it still sounds fresh today. * * * * *
Jaime Gonzalo, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005
By 1970 southern California’s Spirit had recorded three innovative LPs, but their synthesis of rock, classical, and jazz had thus far awoken little interest. Powerful West Coast impresario Lou Adler, who had signed the band to his label Ode in 1968, abandoned them.
To top it all, a split had arisen in the camp, between Spirit’s main creative forces — guitar whiz Randy California (who had played with and learned from Jimi Hendrix when both were in the Blue Flames) and singer Jay Ferguson. California championed experiment; Ferguson was after straightforward commerciality.
Feelings could not have been worse when Spirit recorded Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus. Luckily, David Briggs, who worked with Neil Young, managed to harness all the animosity into Spirit’s masterwork. The album was enriched by meaty horn arrangements (“Morning Will Come”), imaginative vocal harmonies (“Nothin’ To Hide”), and a structured approach to psychedelic studio trickery such as stereo panning and tapes run backward.
The band experimented with the then new Moog on “Love Has Found A Way” and “Space Child” and unveiled perfect rock singles in “Mr. Skin” and the funky “Animal Zoo” — still light years ahead of their time. It also spawned a classic FM single, the acoustic treat “Nature’s Way.”
After a New Year’s Eve concert at Fillmore East that year, the band split; the album finally went platinum five years later, a belated reward for the superb job done by Briggs and Spirit’s original line-up. Oh, and “Dr. Sardonicus?” It is the nickname Spirit coined for the mixing desk at the studio.