Top 10 Spirit Songs
Spirit remain one of rock and roll's unsung entities. Formed in 1966 by guitarist Randy California, bassist Mark Andes and singer Jay Ferguson, the band would become complete with the addition of drummer Ed Cassidy, who was Randy California's stepfather, and several years older than the other band members. Cassidy's glaring bald head was an anomaly in the heyday of long hair, just one of many paradox's within the world of Spirit. So dig in and explore our little salute to this great lost band as we dish out our Top 10 Spirit Songs.
'Girl in Your Eye'
Very much of its era, 'Girl in Your Eye' lets loose with a flood of sitar-laced sounds. The song, however, is strong enough to hold its own and conquer any 'period piece' daggers you want to throw at it. A beautiful melody carries this one along while the sitar gives way to a biting guitar solo from unsung six-stringer Randy California who drives this deeper into lysergic territory. Come along for the ride, the weather's fine.
Not included on the band's third album, 'Clear,' '1984' was released as a single in late-1969 and tried to warn us of a future that may have seemed distant then, but was obviously not too far off. Another killer Randy California guitar solo makes this one a home run and its catchy-as-can-be chorus should have made this a hit. It didn't and it wasn't, but it's still one of the band's finest moments and deserves its place in the Top 10 Spirit Songs list.
Another great one from the band's fourth LP, 'Animal Zoo' is pretty straight ahead pop-rock and roll, at times coming off like a cross between the Kinks and Paul Revere and the Raiders, of all things. That's a compliment by the way! This gem from the pen of Jay Ferguson has an ultra-catchy chorus that should have made this a big hit, but alas twas not to be. Are you sensing a theme?
The lead-off track to Spirit's 1968 debut album comes out of nowhere and sounds like nothing else out there at the time. The closest relatives to the style of the song would probably be Love or the Doors, but with a touch of Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention thrown in. Even that doesn't quite tell the story of the sound here. It's psychedelic to be sure, but not in the cliched sense of the word. It certainly made the case for letting the album play on!
'Dream Within a Dream'
This beauty from the second album is one of the few that retains the more psychedelic overtones from their debut disc. 'Dream Within a Dream' showcases the incredible guitar work of Randy California. Perfectly produced by the legendary Lou Adler, this Jay Ferguson composition has it all -- a great arrangement, stellar instrumental interplay and beautiful lyrics. The harmonies have an almost Association-like feel to them, but California's piercing guitar running throughout makes it unique.
In this episode of "where'd that riff come from?," we learn that Led Zeppelin were equal opportunity "borrowers," taking not only from the elder blues artists, but from their contemporaries as well. There's no denying that the gentle acoustic guitar riff in 'Taurus' is owed something from 'Stairway To Heaven.' It's no small coincidence then that Led Zep served as opening band for Spirit on the band's 1969 US tour or that Zep used to include a version of Spirit's 'Fresh Garbage' in their early live sets. Regardless of its spawn, it's a beautiful and ethereal instrumental.
From the classic '12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus' album comes another of Spirit's better known tracks. Released at the tail end of 1970, 'Nature's Way' evokes the era from which it came in a way that escapes cliche and makes its case for the Top 10 Spirit Songs. The subtle acoustic strumming and gritty yet pretty harmonies give the song that special something. The album was produced by David Briggs, who was Neil Young's right-hand man in the studio for many years.
Released in January of 1968, Spirit's debut album is one of rock's unsung masterpieces, combining elements of pop, rock and jazz into a psychedelic brew. 'Uncle Jack' is one of many highlights on the LP. Its surging, driving rhythm coupled with a melodic sense reminiscent of much of U.K. psychedelia makes this a real gem that captures the band's early adventures perfectly.
'Mr. Skin' is one of the funkier tracks in the Top 10 Spirit Songs list. It was not only one of the key tracks from the band's fourth album, 'The 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus,' but also served as the nickname for drummer Ed Cassidy due to his shaved head. Though not a big hit on the national charts, the song found its way to regional hit status in many cities and remains one of their most identifiable songs. Its funky groove evokes the style of Sly & The Family Stone and, no surprise, they pull it off wonderfully!
'I Got a Line on You'
This rocker from late-1968 kicks into gear with a pounding piano riff that screams pure rock and roll. The chorus clicks in and things are off and running full steam ahead. Written by guitarist Randy California, the lead-off track from the band's second album, 'The Family that Plays Together Stays Together,' showed the group already moving away from the psychedelia on display on their debut. Though not the massive hit it should have been, it has enjoyed some staying power over these past 40-plus years and remains the band's signature song.