Spirit – Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (1970): Forgotten Series

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By the time Spirit’s fourth album Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (Epic Records) appeared in the shops, the Los Angeles band had already established itself as one of the most exciting acts on the scene.

Cemented by vocalist Jay Ferguson, guitarist Randy California, keyboardist John Locke, bassist Mark Andes and drummer Ed Cassidy, Spirit had the ability to manipulate a variety of sonic flavors into its repertoire, forging a sound that was unique and inspiring. Aside from amassing admiration from the underground sect, the group also enjoyed a brief burst of commercial success, with the fast-and-frisky “I Got a Line On You,” which cracked the Top 25 early in 1969.

Not quite as experimental as Spirit’s previous two albums (Clear Spirit and The Family That Plays Together), Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus focuses largely on straight-forward rock arrangements and patterns. Favoring economy over excess, the band conceived a phenomenal recording where every single track projects its own personality and purpose.

Powered by an onslaught of commanding vocals, booming choruses, pulsating percussion, vigorous piano fills and pumping riffs, “Animal Zoo,” “Street Worm,” “Prelude – Nothin’ To Hide,” “Morning Will Come” and “Mr. Skin” rip and roll with direction and determination. On a quieter level, there’s the acoustic-laced “Nature’s Way” and the delicate decor of “Why Can’t I Be Free,” while “When I Touch You” is shaded of a dark and moody exterior, and “Space Child” is an arty psychedelic instrumental.

The songwriting, both lyrically and melodically, along with Spirit’s dynamic musicianship, make Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus the masterpiece that it is. Although the band continued to craft great music, this album remains the best in the basket. Flowing with fluency and force, Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus is hard-rock perfection defined.


Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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