Rhinofy-Spirit Primer

“Mechanical World”

I heard this on WDRC FM, out of Hartford, Connecticut.

It was a rite of passage. You wanted to get closer to the music. Your old record player with the heavy tonearm you put a nickel upon no longer did the trick, albums were in stereo, you had to hear it all, so you saved up your pennies or implored your parents and you got something with detachable speakers and a turntable with a force less than a gram and a half, and included was a receiver, which pulled in FM.

Now I lived close enough to New York to listen to WOR, and then WNEW and WABC when those free-format outlets ruled the FM airwaves. But I also explored, and came to love WDRC, which was an amalgamation of hip Top Forty and stuff just further out there, like this.

You noticed “Mechanical World,” because it sounded not quite like anything else. It wasn’t completely unique, yet it was anything but copycat. And it had a darkness and a heaviness such that it endeared itself to those who were not buying the high school b.s. That’s right, it was 1968, and we were questioning authority and everything was up for grabs and it was all led by music. Imagine that, artists on the bleeding edge beholden to no one but themselves, you became so enamored of the sound that you listened all the time.

“Fresh Garbage”

How to explain this? A song that’s rhythmic but also swings, that’s heavy and light all at the same time, with a pleasing lead vocal and equally pleasing lead guitar.

And there you have the magic of Jay Ferguson and Randy California.

And then there was the break, which was closer to jazz than anything on Top Forty radio, all done in a little more than three minutes, and this was the album’s opening cut, back then bands were not afraid to take a risk, to blow you away.


Only famous now, an unheralded album track back then that almost no one took notice of except for…Jimmy Page.

Yes, “Taurus” is the track that Page ripped off for “Stairway To Heaven.”

Zeppelin opened for the band, Page had access, listen and you’ll hear the antecedent to the world’s most famous rock and roll track.

“I Got A Line On You”


Akin to its contemporary, Steve Miller’s “Living In The U.S.A.,” but with even more changes, and accessibility.

This actually went to number 25 on the pop chart, which was quite high considering “Mechanical World” only went to 129.

“I Got A Line On You” is the kind of track that puts a smile on your face every time you hear it, that has you cranking the radio, thrilled that there are such great sounding records in the world.

There’s percussion, bass, lead guitar, smooth, soothing vocals and a hooky chorus. Come on, what more could you ask for?


Another single that penetrated the pop chart, that went all the way to number 69.

Once upon a time “1984” was a scary year, something that portended darkness, the end. And then it came and went. But before that…

This is mild psychedelia, but it’ll have you bopping your head in time.

It’s a little too smart for its own good, with too much packed into its brief length, but it works. Because you get the idea the people who made it were thinkers, were not just consuming the pabulum, but pushing the edge…contemplating what was to come.

And once again, Randy California’s lead guitar stings without overwhelming the track, the solo has you squinting your eyes and playing air guitar.

“Dark Eyed Woman”

A harbinger of what was to come, “Twelve Dreams…”

This is a magic track, especially in retrospect.

“So Little Time To Fly”

The Spirit track I listen to most these days.

It swings, it’s so SOULFUL! It lays down in the groove and then just stays locked on.

Randy California exhibits a guitar sound that you just want to get inside and marinate in. And he also sings lead, while Jay Ferguson performs backup vocals.

Not that John Locke, Mark Andes and Ed Cassidy were not integral members of the band. Andes and Cassidy were a rock solid rhythm section with no sludge, they kept the whole enterprise on track, and Locke’s keyboards were indispensable.

Once you discover “So Little Time To Fly,” you can’t listen only once. It ends and you’ve got to hear it again. That’s great music, something so incredible it doesn’t have to knock on your door for acceptance, rather you bang that barrier down just to get closer.

Welcome to the sixties, the rock revolution, when music ruled the world, drove the culture and experimentation was endless, when all the hits sounded different, when you were addicted to the radio because you wanted MORE!

“Prelude-Nothin’ To Hide”

And then comes…

It’s like the Moody Blues moved to Los Angeles, listened to every record from London to San Francisco and extruded an elixir so exquisite, so perfect as to resemble nothing so much as a diamond, not in the rough, but perfectly formed.

Really, “Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus” is one of the greatest albums of the classic rock era. Astounding from beginning to end, one wonders how a band could get it so right.

You want me to believe in albums? Cut something as good as “Dr. Sardonicus” today.

No one’s come close.

This is the opening cut.

It starts off so ethereal, acoustic and moody, as if you’re singing to the most sensitive person in the world. And then…

That’s when the band turns on a dime, unleashes the force of rock and roll and implores you to WAKE UP!

You could never be asleep again after listening to “Dr. Sardonicus.”

Remember when records changed your life? When it wasn’t about the sponsor, but what was in the grooves?


“Nature’s Way”

And then the record gets quiet again.

Arguably “Nature’s Way” is Spirit’s best track. They concocted something that was palatable to the masses yet doesn’t sacrifice the band’s essence, all the while sending a message.

If you don’t get “Nature’s Way,” you don’t like music.

“Animal Zoo”

And here we go back to the “I Got A Line On You”/”Living In The U.S.A.” sound without being derivative of what came before.

It’s a funny cut, wherein the verses scream and the choruses slow down.

If you don’t nod your head to this, you’re PARALYZED!

“Mr. Skin”

A secret society, either you’ve experienced the magic of this track.

Or you have not.

It’s like you’re floating down a river and then you go over the brink, you’re in the midst of the waterfall, AND IT FEELS SO GOOD!

And then there’s the middle part, totally unexpected, so different.

And then you’re back in the groove.

And this is just another album cut?


“Morning Will Come”

It’s the chorus that closes you.

The track takes off on a tear and you cast aside all your preconceptions and possessions and just follow the music.

All of the above cuts are excellent.

But really, if you just played “Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus” over and over you’d get it, you’d be satiated, you’d understand Spirit, you wouldn’t be able to stop talking about the band.

Which then imploded.

That’s right, there was too much talent for one act to contain. The band split in two. One still called Spirit and another entitled Jo Jo Gunne.

And then there were solo albums from Randy California and Jay Ferguson and the latter even had a hit single in 1978, long after the band’s debut.

Spirit is a rabbit hole you fall down into and never fully climb out of. You can stop playing the band’s music, but it will still be there in your head. You’ll be singing “Nature’s Way” when you least expect it, every time you hear one of their songs on the radio you beam, knowing there’s truly something to live for.



Rhinofy-Spirit Primer

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