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It’s Natures Way of Telling You That Spirit’s Great…


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Finally, I am back to blogging about Vinyl!  This LP is one of the gems I pulled out of the garage sale mother lode.  I think it is a real treasure.

Let’s go back to Los Angles California in 1967 to experience the spirit of Spirit.  Spirit was formed by Guitarist Randy California and Drummer Ed Cassidy (a.k.a. Mr. Skin).  Ed Cassidy was actually the Step Father of Randy California.  Ed Cassidy had been a major jazz drummer and had played with Cannonball Adderly, Gerry Mulligan, Roland Kirk, Thelonious Monk, and Lee Konitz.  In addition he had played with blues musicians like Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder.  Right before Randy California formed Spirt with his step father he had been playing with Jimi Hendrix in a band called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames.  (circa 1966). Additional members of the band were Bass player Mark Andes, Lead Vocals, percussion player Jay Ferguson, and keyboard player John Locke.  

Their self titled first LP was released in 1968.  It contained two hits that are on this “Best of” LP.   The first hit they had was “Mechanical World.”  Their first LP also contained their biggest hit “I Got a Line On You.”  “Mechanical World” reached #31 on the Billboard 200 and “I Got a Line On You”.  The album was a huge hit and stayed on the charts for over eight months.  Their second Album was called “The Family That Plays Together”  Their third album was released in 1969 and it was entitled “Clear”.  Due to Randy California’s personal connection with Jimi Hendrix the band was offered the spot before Hendrix at Woodstock.  Their record company executives advised them not to participate because the festival was not going to be significant and so it would benefit the band more to concentrate on their own tour and promoting their new album.  I can’t help but think that this band would be so much more well know if they had played Woodstock instead!

This band was heavily influential to so many other musicians.  Many guitarist held Randy California in high regard.  Jimmy Page worshiped the ground Randy California walked on.  Led Zeppelin was the opening act for Spirit at the beginning of their 1969 tour.  Randy California introduced Jimmy Page to the Theremin.  The Theremin was synthesizer that reacted to heat and the motion of the body.  You may recall seeing Jimmy Page use this on stage with Led Zeppelin in the movie “The Song Remains the Same.”  Jimmy would wave his hand through the antenna area of the Theremin and make all kinds of strange noises with it.  Randy California had one that he mounted to the amplifier of his guitar.  During the 1969 tour of Led Zeppelin they even did a medley of songs by Spirit that included the hit song on this “Best Of” LP called “Fresh Garbage”.    Spirit is considered to be one of the chief architects of Psychedelic Art Rock.  Their masterpiece album is considered to be Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus.  It is as revered as Pink Floyd’s  Dark Side of the Moon.  This album contains my favorite song by Spirit Nature’s Way.  Spirit also was one of the earliest bands to use brass and strings in their music.  You can hear how they influenced bands like Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Chicago, Earth, Wind and Fire, War, The Animals, and the list could go on and on and on.

So listen to the music and then I will wrap up the strange ending to Randy California and the amazing band Spirit.

Side 1:

1.  1984:  This song never appeared on a Spirit album until this onePrior to the release of “The Best of Spirit” in 1973 the song was only available as a single.  The Band had challenged Randy California to write another hit like I Got a Line On You.  At first it looked like he had done it and the song rose up the charts.  But it stagnated at #69 on the Billboard chart.  It’s still a really great song.  I had forgotten all about it till I heard it again.  The song is almost symphonic.  It has that very dramatic opening.  It’s a great cut to start their “Best of ” LP with.  It also features a great psychedelic lead guitar solo by Randy California.


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2. Mechanical World:  This is the song that started it all for Spirit.  It was released in 1968 and got to #31 on the charts.  It was a very long song for radio at that time.  It clocks in at over 5 minutes when most songs that made it on the radio at that time were only 2 to 3 minutes.  This song sounds like it could have been a song by Jim Morrison and The Doors.  It underscores a great gift of this band.  They had a great ability to make lyrics an integral part of each song.  Note the strings in this song.  It is interesting that they were used so successfully on their first album but they never went back to that sound on any other LP they ever made.  Great Fuzz guitar work again on this cut.  Also, great keyboard work from John Locke.  Jay Ferguson is probably the most under appreciated lead vocalist in Rock n Roll history.


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3. Natures Way:  This is one of my favorite songs.  I love everything about it.  The use of Tympani Drums by Ed Cassidy is brilliant.  It creates a highly dramatic effect.  This song echos the great song by Ten Years After “I’d Love to Change the World…” The quite guitar starts out, then the tympani come in, next the cow bell.  There is the eerie sound of Randy California’s distorted guitar.  The uneasy sound of the overlaid vocal lines as they reprise the message and build to the climax “…it’s natures way of telling you somethings wrong…”  The only problem with this song is it’s too short.


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4.  Animal Zoo:  This song is also from “Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus.”  What a very 70’s sounding song.  This song was released as a single but never made it past #69 on the charts.  Note the use of the Moog Synthesizer.


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5. Fresh Garbage:  This song is from Spirits first album.  This is one of the songs that Led Zeppelin used to cover.  The lyrics are part of the overall theme that used to permeate a lot of their songs.  Environmentalism.  They were pioneers in the use of music to promote environmental issues.  I can hear how groups like War, Santana, The Animals, The Doors, Chicago, etc… all were influenced by this great music.  I love the jazzy keyboard solo in this song.  It’s kind of Ray Manzarek like.


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Side 2

1. I Got a Line on You:  This is the best known song of all of Spirits great music. It originally appeared on their second album called “The Family That Stays Together”   I love it too.  It immediately takes you back to the early 70’s.  Can’t you just hear this song blaring out of an A.M. radio?  I know I can…I know I did…  This song just rocks and makes you want to dance!  What else needs to be said?

 

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2.  Prelude – Nothing to Hide:  This was the first song on the album “Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus”.  Thus the reference to Prelude.  This is the prelude of a concept album.  Spirit was one of the forerunners of this type of album rock.  The song features a wild guitar solo from Randy California.

 

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3. Uncle Jack:  This was the second cut on the first Spirit album.  It has a very progressive art rock sound.  No one sounded like these guys back then.  After they made this record a lot of bands started sounding like this.  Spirit actually invented a kind of L.A. sounding rock.


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4. Morning Will Come:  This song was the 11th cut on “Twelve Dreams”.  It almost sound like Glam Rock.  I love the horns in the background.  It just has a great jazz influenced rock sound.  Randy California again has a great solo in this song.

 

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5. Dark Eyed Woman:  Dark Eyed Woman was the first cut on their album called Clear. It has a moody atmospheric opening.  I love Randy’s guitar sound.  This should have been a big hit.  It is a tightly constructed multi part song.  It is somewhat experimental for it’s time. Again this song is too short.

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6. Mr. Skin:  Mr. Skin is the nick name of Drummer Ed Cassidy.  He was famous for his shaved head and, like Johnny Cash; he was famous for wearing black.  (Note the two Photos of the Album).  Mr. Skin was the sixth cut on “Doctor Sardonicus”.  It has great horns on it.  It also features great percussion from “Mr. Skin”.  This is a very cool sounding song.  It swings and is very easy to listen to.


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And now the rest of the story…

After the tour in 1973 to promote “Doctor Sardonicus”  Ferguson and Andes left the group and formed  Jo Jo Gunne.  The band went through a lot of personnel changes.  Solo projects ensued.  And things began to com apart.  The band disbanded in 1973.  Randy California moved to Hawaii.  There were some attempt to reunite in the late 70’s.  At a concert in Santa Monica California, Randy California punched out an inebriated Neil Young and the keyboard player (John Locke) said “that’s enough” and walked off stage.  That was pretty much  it for Spirit.  They reformed again in the early 80’s with some minor success but again they all went their separate ways.  On January 2, 1997 Randy California was surfing in Hawaii with his son when they both got caught in a rip tide.  Randy was able to push his son out of the tide to safety but he could not save himself.  John Locke also died in August of 2006 from complications of lymphoma.  Ed Cassidy is still playing the drums and performing.  He is also an actor.  Maybe you know him from his time on General Hospital?  Isn’t life ironic…

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Posted in Vinyl | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Captain Beyond leaves me “Sufficiently Breathless…”

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For those of you who haven’t friended me on Facebook, (A phrase I thought I would never utter!) I spent the Fourth of July in Austin, Texas.  I went to a really cool record and CD store call “End of an Ear”.  I strongly recommend them to any and everyone.  Visit their site at:  www.endofanear.com.  I can assure you that vinyl is alive and well in Austin Texas.  For a complete list of all the cool vinyl and CD stores in Austin check out www.VinylAroundAustin.com.

I tried to resist buying any more LP’s.  but I failed badly.  I picked up four great albums:  Captain Beyond – Sufficiently Breathless, Alan Parsons – I Robot, Buffalo Springfield – Retrospective, and a blues LP by a New Orleans pianist who was know as “Archibald”.

When I found the Captain Beyond LP I flipped out!  I’ve wanted this record ever since I first heard the title cut in 1975.  Back then F.M. Radio wasn’t like it is now.  It was kind of underground radio. D.J.’s had complete freedom as to what they played.  They could play without commercial interruption for long periods of time.  If a D.J. wanted to play the entire live version of Whipping Post from The Allman Brothers Live at Fillmore East they could.  Captain Beyond was one of the “Cult Band’s” of that time.  They were a kind of Super Group.  

Sufficiently Breathless was the second LP from Captain Beyond. The LP also had different band members from the first LP.

The line up of the second LP was as follows:  Lee Dorman – Bass, Guille Garcia – Congas, Timbales, Percussion, Rhino (We will come back to him later) -Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, and Slide Guitars, Rod Evans – Lead and Harmony Vocals, Marty Rodriguez – Drums, Back-up Vocals, Reese Wynans – Electric and Acoustic Pianos, and Paul Hornsby  – Organ on “Starglow Energy”.

Lee Dorman was the bass player for Iron Butterfly when they recorded the Psychedelic Rock classic “In-Na-Gadda-Da-Vida”.  Dorman received all the song writing credit for this record because everyone else was being sued at the time.  It is unlikely that he wrote all the songs by himself, but he definitely was a major contributor.  Guille Garcia had played with Chicago and also played on Joe Walsh “Barnstorming” prior to joining Captain Beyond.  

This brings us to “Rhino.”  Rhino was the nick name of Larry Reinhardt.  Larry had played with Lee Dorman after Iron Butterfly recorded In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.  He first appeared on the album “Metamorphosis”   I actually saw Rhino and Dorman perform in El Paso Texas in 1976.  Iron Butterfly had reformed and were out on tour opening for Rush on the “Fly By Night” tour.  On “Sufficiently Breathless”  Rhino is simply named as Rhino.  If you check out the pictures above there is a detail shot of the band.  The guy in black is Rhino.  He looks like Jimmy Page.  The information super-highway was years away and so a lot of  rumors got started that Rhino was actually Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin).  I think it helped sell a lot of records for Captain Beyond.  I even remember hearing DJ’s on FM radio speculate about this very thing.  It kind of was a smaller version of “Paul is Dead”.   For years I thought that Rhino was Jimmy Page!

 

This brings us to Rod Evans.  Rod Evans was the first lead singer of Deep Purple.  He was the lead vocalist on their first to big hits:  “Hush” and “Kentucky Woman”.  The other members of the band felt their sound was to “Pop”  oriented so they kicked him out of the band and hired Ian Gillian.  (Ian Gillian was every bit as revered as  Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin when I was an angst ridden teenager.)  More on Rod Evans when we get to the wrap up.

I know very little about the Drummer Marty Rodriguez.  I do know that the new producer of “Sufficiently Breathless”  Giorgio Gomelsky did not like the original drummer Brian Glascock  even though he had played with Santana; so, Guille Garcia personally recommended Rodriguez.  

Reese Wynans is a very interesting person.  Reese had been in a band called Second Coming.  This band was a forerunner to The Allman Brothers.  Second Coming had Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley as members.  When Reese joined Captain Beyond, Betts and Oakley joined the Allman Brothers.  Reese got beat out of his spot in the Allman Brothers by some guy named Gregg Allman.  I guess blood is thicker than water.  Things worked out for Reese anyway.  We will get back to his story later as well.

Paul Hornsby is better know today as a major producer than as an organist.  He produced records of The Charlie Daniels Band and The Marshall Tucker Band.  Paul got involved in the session because he knew Reese through his involvement with the pre-Allman Brothers Band called Hour Glass.  Is this a web of musical incest or what?!?!

This LP was recorded in 1973.  It is dedicated to Berry Oakley.  In a strange twist of irony.  Berry Oakley was killed in a motorcycle accident in Macon Georgia almost exactly a year after Duane Allman was also killed in Macon Georgia in a motorcycle accident.  The accidents even occurred just a few blocks apart! With all the Allman Brothers connections on this album it is not surprising that it is dedicated to Oakley.

On the inside fold out of the album and on the back of the album; the song order on side one is wrong. I have no idea why.  The song order is correct on the albums label.  So let’s hear this great cult album from one of the original “Stoner Groups” Captain Beyond!

Side 1

 Sufficiently Breathless

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The LP starts with this very cool and laid back acoustic sound.  The percussion has a Latino flavor.  Then the chorus hits you and you know you are listening to the right stuff.  The lyrics are appropriately cryptic.  At the break we get the first great guitar solo from Rhino.  The background music becomes drone-like and sounds a little Eastern influenced.  There are great harmonies here.  Evans does a great job as lead vocal. And then it all fades out…

Bright Blue Tango

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Right off the bat we get a great dose of the keyboard word from Reese Wynans.  The song has a funky swing to it.  Not exactly a Tango but it does make you want to move your body through space.  Once again great guitar work by Rhino. 

Drifting In Space

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Now Captain Beyond shows their Allman Brothers/Santana roots.  This is really great music.  It swings!  Wynans has a great solo in the middle of the song.  Evans vocals are awesome.  The rhythm section has soul.

Evil Men

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Evil men starts out with a breezy almost Steely Dan guitar sound but quickly switches to a much more sinister sound.  Next a  percussion break followed by a nice guitar solo by Rhino.   Rhino has an extended solo over a stop-start back-beat.  The vocals return.  Rod Evans sings his heart out.  Then Side 1 ends with the fade out…

Side 2

Starglow Energy/Distant Sun

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Side 2 fades in with some nice keyboard work from Wynans and Hornsby.  Don’t tell me Alan Parsons wasn’t a big Captain Beyond fan.  This cut could have just as easily been on I Robot or some other Alan Parsons Project.  Starglow energy is one of my favorite cuts on the record.  It has a majestic feel to it.  Once again Rhino and Evans shine.  Personally, give me a” taste of Starglow Energy!”  The song fades out and then there is an immediate kick of percussion that summons in Distant Sun.  The beginning of this song foreshadows fusion jazz.  The song has a very jazz like middle section too.  This is just very creative high quality rock-n-roll. These guys didn’t want to sound like someone else.  What they came up with had never been heard before.  This is why this LP is considered by many different artist to have been very influential.  The end of this song is surprisingly abrupt.

Voyage Of Past Travellers/Everything’s A Circle

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Track 3 and 4 are uninterrupted as well.  Voyage of Past Travellers (Intentionally spelled this way by the song writer.)  Is very Pink Floyd sounding and segues directly into the final song Everything’s A Circle.    Voyage fades in like a bad radio signal.  There is some nice feedback guitar and then a mysterious voice send us a message.  There is a fade into the Bass guitar and percussion.  This could easily be Santana.    I love the duel guitar sound in this song. Once again the music takes on a Latin Swing sound.  Great percussion, great vocals.  The music makes you want to move.

So I hope you enjoyed Captain Beyond – Sufficiently Breathless.  I think it is one of the great “cult” LP’s of Rock-n-Roll.

So what happened after this great record was finished?  Well, Rod Evans had trouble getting along with others once again.  As soon as the record was completed he left the band due to tensions that developed during the recording sessions.  The band later reformed at the end of 1973 and went on tour.  There is a CD of Captain Beyond recorded “Live” in Arlington, Texas at The University of Texas at Arlington.  It was recorded in 1973 but not released until 2002.  They still couldn’t work out their differences and the band split up again.  Rod Evans completely got out of the music business.  He became a Respiratory Therapist  in 1980.  He was talked out of retirement to do a “Deep Purple” reunion tour.  The problem was Deep Purple didn’t want to have anything to do with Evans.  Rod Evans did the tour anyway and got sued.  He lost the law suit along with a +$6000,00o damage judgement.  In order to pay the damages he gave up all the rights to his royalties from his Deep Purple days.  There are many people who would love to know his whereabouts today.  He has entirely disappeared.

Larry “Rhino’ Reinhardt went on to have a long but not distinguished career.  He played on several recordings of the Bobby Womack.  He had his own band, he play with a band called Mad Dancer.  In 2008 he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  He put out a CD called Rhino’s Last Dance in 2009.  Somehow he managed to survive and is still alive today.  You go, Rhino!

The last person I want to fill you in on is the keyboard player Reese Wynans.  Reese went on to play with Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble.  He played with Stevie till the day Stevie died.  I got to see Double Trouble open for The Who in The Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas a month or two before Stevie was killed in a helicopter crash in Wisconsin.  They were so good that I told my friend that I was with: “If I were The Who, I wouldn’t go on after that.”  Reese continues to have a great career.  He has toured with Joe Ely, Chris Layton, and Tommy Shannon on the Double Trouble tour “Been A Long Time” and has also played with the great Delbert McClinton.  I got to see Reese play with Delbert McClinton when Delbert was asked at the last minute to substitute for George Jones to open for The Rolling Stones.  Reese was great that night as well.

So there ends the story of Captain Beyond – Sufficiently Breathless.  This band stood at the crossroads of so many different bands and trends in Rock-n-Roll.  What is really cool about the record is that you can hear it all in the music.  I have to stop writing now I am breathless…

Another tale from the turntable.

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Posted in Life Events, Vinyl | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments