on July 11, 2000
A hearty "Amen" to all the five star reviews before. This is simply one of the greatest rock albums of all time, debatably the most successful concept album ever (probably due to the elasticity and emotional resonance of its "dream" theme), and in my opinion the best "headphone album" ever. Spirit made some wonderful tunes before, but were hampered by the laconic and inconsistent production of Lou Adler on their prior records. Fortunately they connected with David Briggs in time to produce this masterpiece of psychedelia prior to their untimely breakup. Interestingly, for a psychedelic album it is remarkably extroverted, emotionally engaging, accessible, and musically disciplined. Every damn song is memorable, and indispensible to the flow of the album. It manages to somehow collapse the emotional experience of a fitful night (Asleep? Awake? Drugged out?) into a breathtaking forty minutes or so, with stunning moments of beauty and sonic adventure. Thirty years down the line, this album refuses to sound dated, and showcases the instrumental and vocal talents of the band at their height. All you young ones (especially musicians) out there who think that they've heard it all from the 60's through the 90's, well if you haven't heard 12 Dreams (and Randy California on guitar) then you are very wrong. The only contemporary reference I can think of off-hand is OK Computer by Radiohead, but this album is more consistent and more fun than that one. Buy this record, and appreciate one of the pinnacle achievements of an era when musicianship and artistic vision was prized as a mark of hipness. Limp Bizkit and Snoop fans can pass--nothing of interest here.
This album was first released when I was in college, and it never left my roommate's turntable. It was the best thing he ever did for me! This is not only one of the best albums of 1970, it's one of the best albums ever.
Though Spirit had their only bona fide hit with "I Got a Line on You" the year before Dr. Sardonicus was released, this album earns Spirit a permanent place in rock history. It is a stunning blend of rock, jazz, blues and superb musicianship.
This newly mastered edition includes four bonus tracks: two slightly different versions of songs from the original album and two additional Randy California songs. The first is the previously unreleased "Rougher Road" and the single "Red Light Roll On," which had been previously unavailable on CD. Like the original tracks, all songs were recorded in 1970.
This was the fourth and final album by the original lineup. All of them are worth owning and the two-CD restrospective Time Circle includes all but two tracks from Dr. Sardonicus in addition to numerous b-sides and previously unavailable material. But if you can only afford one album, The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus is the one to own. ESSENTIAL
on April 23, 2001
Spriit was (and still is) sadly one of the most overlooked bands from the psychedelic era- perhaps it was due to drummer Ed Cassidy's famous bald shaved head; perhaps it was the fact that the music was more skin to the Soft Machine and other jazz-oriented bands of the day during the era when country/rock (the Dead, Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, etc) began to dominate California rock... whatever the reason, Spirit deserves greater attention and praise than it has received.
While they DID score a surprise hit in 1968 with "I Got a Line on You," it is without question the concept oriented lp "The 12 Dreams of Dr.Sardonicus" that will forever define the band. The songs, like the talent in the band, are enormous and special, spanning the gamut from the jazzy blues of the wonderful "Mr. Skin" (tribute to drummer Cassidy)to the out n out psychedelia of the gorgeous "Love has Found a Way," to the surrealism of "Animal Zoo."
"12 Dreams" remains one of the most consistent listens that I own from late 60's, early 70's rock n roll. This is due most to the brilliant musicianship of Jay Ferguson, John Locke, Mark Andes, Ed Cassidy, and Randy California. The wonderful interplay between these men is top-rate, with California's brilliance on the guitar meshing perfectly with stepfather Cassidy's jazzy drumming (he was drummer for the Rising Sons, featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder). The songs, as I mentioned earlier, are brilliant and flow wonderfully. The combination of the 2 equals an album that I can't put down for very long.
Now with alternate takes, Spirit's colossal lp comes to life again- better than ever. Fans of late 60's rock know about Spirit. The time has come for the rest of the world to do the same. An absolute no-brainer of a purchase. One of the most underrated and brilliant lps ever made. Period.
on March 8, 2007
In 1973, I was an un-soldier stationed at a remote U.S. army outpost in South Korea. We lived in metal Butler huts (hooches), 12 people per hooch; and most of the guys in my hooch were draftees like me. We spent a LOT of time sharing aromatherapy materials and listening to all kinds of music, including Eddie Kendricks, Pharaoh Sanders, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Al Green, Donny Hathaway, the James Gang...and Spirit.
Many nights I would fall asleep with the Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus playing in the background, over and over again, on a small portable cassette player that had been left running because someone had been too stoned to turn it off. The player was set up to auto-repeat every time it reached the end of the tape, so this album was literally the soundtrack of my own dreams for months. I never got tired of it. It's magical music.
These songs have always been out there just sort of weightless, floating above all of the other tunes in my musical subconscious. I've never completely figured out the lyrics to "Nothing to Hide" or "Life Has Just Begun" -- the lyric translations submitted online are just laughable -- but it doesn't matter. My own personal soundtrack has changed over the years, so I hear different things now than I did when these 12 songs first got under my skin, 34 years ago. Sardonicus still gives me goose bumps today.
on November 21, 2000
Concept LPs were plentiful when this was on the charts in 71 and 72, but few were as cohesive and haunting as Spirit's "Twelve Dreams". Regardless of how many THOUSANDS of times I played it from start to finish (I'll be seeing that rotating Epic label well into the next incarnation), I don't think I was ever able to glean the intended story, but that didn't matter.
As one reviewer has already stated, the breadth of emotional range and sonic joy in these grooves (digits?) is astonishing even thirty years later. Spirit was one of the best groups peddling jazz with their west coast space-rock (Soft Machine and The Flock being others), and this album seemed to pull together all the ideas that had been floating kind of randomly on prior efforts like "Clear" and "Spirit 1".
It probably ranks as one of the better 'headphone LPs' of its day, too.. up there with, say Pink Floyd's "Ummagumma". Not the least of its joys are "Mr. Skin" (why hasn't THIS song been sampled or reworked?), "Street Worm" with Randy California's scorching guitar, and "Love Has Found a Way", which is psychedelia at its best.
Sadly, it would prove to be the group's final shining moment before a follow-up album that lacked, uh, spirit, and a host of returns and regroupings and spin offs that just didnt't have the magic of "Dr. Sardonicus". Jay Ferguson went onto to several other rock groups, and was last seen composing some unremarkable film scores in the 80s.
But there was THIS exploding nova.
on July 21, 2006
After hearing this album, I must conclude that I was a deprived child. What else could explain why, after coming of age in the late 1960's and early 1970's, I never heard this album in its entirety until I was 52 years old? There I was, living at a Midwestern college campus in the early 1970's, and the counterculture failed to introduce me to this classic work of rock and roll art? Oh, sure, they'll tell you that I heard the highlights on the burgeoning underground FM radio sites of the era... but does that really account for such a collosal oversight? I think not.
Throughout my half-century on planet Earth, the spirit of 'Spirit' has been summed up in the songs 'I Got a Line On You' and 'Nature's Way'. Suspecting that these exceptional compositions may represent the mere tip of an iceberg of delights, I acquired a ten-track 'best-of-Spirit' compilation a couple years ago. While the music was good enough, my curiosity was satisfied that the band must have been a cult favorite, such as Arthur Lee's 'Love', and I had missed Spirit's Revelation. I kept hearing, however, that 'Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus' was the band's true masterwork. A week ago, I stumbled across a brand new, expanded and remastered version of the disc for the unheard of price of $7, shipping included, and had no choice but to take the plunge. Needless to say, the Spirit has been revealed to me.
There are four truly outstanding songs on this 'Dr. Sardonicus' remaster. The opener, 'Nothin' To Hide' is rich, funky, and a bit ominous rock number featuring an engaging chorus. It's followed by one of the iconic tracks of hippie consciousness, 'Nature's Way'. This remaster vibrantly displays the rich harmonies that were coaxed forward by the masterful production of David Briggs. Track six, titled 'Mr. Skin', garnered a good deal of FM airplay in the early 1970's... and rightly so due to its many textured, robust feel. And finally, last among the bonus tracks, we're treated to 'Red Light Roll On', which makes a funky pop experience out of "getting the shaft". In addition to these exceptional tunes, the album is rounded out by tracks that are certainly a cut above filler. 'When I Touch You' and 'Life Has Just Begun' are rock anthems, the first riding high on a churning rhythm guitar riff, and the latter a rock collage of psychedelic sounds. 'Animal Zoo' is thick and fuzzy, up-beat rock, while 'Space Child' is a jazzy piano and trippy synthesizer-based instrumental. 'Street Worm' offers perhaps the best hard-core lead guitar runs from Randy California on the disc, and 'Morning Will Come' was a pulsing rock track with vocals and horns that were appealing enough to also claim FM airtime.
There are some lesser tracks, but certainly nothing you will feel forced to suffer through. 'Love Has Found a Way' is a bit overworked by the special FX, beginning with the backward rhythm track compliments of Briggs. It has an interesting bridge, however, which settles down nicely rather than expanding the melody, as most bridges do. Similarly enjoyable is the first bonus track, 'Rougher Road', with its rapelling rhythm guitar foundation. Unfortunately, as with the two bonus tracks that follow (reprises of 'Animal Zoo' and 'Morning Will Come') the offerings are in a monaural format. The closer on the original album, 'Soldier', while vocally intricate, is rather subdued and undistinguished.
I'm not sure what the supposed concept is behind 'Dr. Sardonicus', but there are twelve tracks for the twelve dreams, so that makes more sense than a lot of what passed for psychedelia in the late 1960's. Compared to other supposed, overlooked masterpieces, such as Love's 'Forever Changes', 'Twelve Dreams...' delivers some serious goods. And this 1996 remastering and repackaging, with extensive and informative liner notes from band leader Randy California, as well as numerous period photographs and illustrations, make for an extemely attractive product. If you're a fan of rock music from the psychedelic era, and you've never heard this disc, do yourself a favor and check it out. You may discover, to your utter disbelief, that you too have been deprived!
on February 19, 2001
I see all the great reviews on this band and know now that I was not crazy to fall in love with their music ever since the release of their second album in 1968. I can't tell you how many people I turned on to this band...and still do.
Just for starters, when Randy California was 15, Hendrix asked him to travel to England with him. They would play together in clubs in and around New York City, and Jimmy was really impressed with the kid. Of course, Randy's mom said no because he was too young, so he hooked up with his bald jazz drummer stepfather ( Ed Cassidy had been a sessions jazz musician for 15 years) and co-formed Spirit with Jay Ferguson when Randy's mom returned to LA.
You've got to figure that Ed, with his jazz & beat roots, is hooking these kids into current jazz riffs of the time, but the kids don't want to abandon their folk-rock roots. So a kind of musical schizophrenia takes place, sometimes folk, sometimes rock, sometimes jazz, sometimes fushion of a number of these genres. What emerges is some of the most innovative music ever created at the time ( and argubly in any time), with a constant undercurrent of rivalry among the band members that leads, along with their lack of commercial success, to their downfall only after four Lps. But it was the chemistry of their discontent that kept this band producing gem after gem, proving once and for all that the whole can be so much more than the sum of its parts.
What was created in their wake is timeless, with no respect of course. In the first three albums, they tried to include everything and exclude nothing...so you get tender folk ballads, next to Hendrix-like phychedelia, next to fushion-like jazz riffs, and virtually no one, and I mean no one, knew what the heck this stuff was...except other musicians like Jimmy Page who borrowed a riff from a California tune ( Taurus) to start up "Stairway to Heaven." Add to this the band's penchant for sliding one song into another, their desire to create a concept for at least some commercial success, and their inablity to settle on what the heck they really wanted to do with all the musical forms they were experimenting with (not even to mention the fine lyrics on some of their songs...probably a Cassidy addition too hooking the kids into the beat poets as well), and you get The Twelve Dreams.
I look at this piece and see it influencing an entire generation of art/glam rock..from Bowie to Kiss...sans the fine fine musicianship. The makeup, the costumes, the conceptualization of song targeting a strong social element in the dream...Dr. Sardonicus was Spirit's own little Rocky Horror Picture Show. And it all endures today in small, rather eclectic circles. I could go into individual songs...gosh this band could do soooooooo much...but others have done a fine job of this. Just to say to all you out there, give these blokes some respect...a listen or two, and you will be hooked for a long long time.
"Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus" is one of the great underrated classic rock albums, perhaps because it didn't contain a big hit single and the band that recorded it faded into obscurity in the years following its release. Perhaps the most successful fusion of jazz, rock and psychadelic music ever recorded (jeez, how many others have there been?), "Twelve Dreams" starts off with the excellent "Nothing to Hide" and never takes a false step. Though recorded in 1970, it was sonically so far ahead of its time that it sounds almost contemporary. Other first rate cuts include "Morning Will Come," "Animal Zoo," "Mr. Skin" and the fine folkie "Nature's Way," which was later covered by Victoria Williams.
I would give "Twelve Dreams" the nod over Spirit's "Best Of" album as a better purchase. It is more consistent for one thing, not to mention that half of the songs from the Best Of album are on it.
on November 30, 2001
How's this for amazing luck? I turned 21 in 1970. That's it. Best piece of timing a music sponge could ever have. Then, more great fortune: met a musician friend whose true calling was Instant Recognition of Musical Greatness in Others. Doug could spot genius on vinyl before the needle dropped. His collection was an ongoing tour through new spaces in my own head.
Skip ahead 30 years. Doug has long gone missing...and his records with him.
Now for The 20-year Unscratched Itch. When things really click, when all life's gears mesh into positive inevitability, a riff chugs through me. Nine notes. One of those fundamental, irreducible weldings of rhythm and tone, shaped just like your own EKG. Except, I don't know what it's from. It's from one of Doug's records. Long gone.
So I'm flipping through the vinyl at The Analog Room (San Jose, CA. Highly recommended). Still filling in the void, you see, and I see TWELVE DREAMS. Yeah, I remember it, pretty much...good, too...was it as dated as the cover art? I've had my hand on it a dozen times in a dozen states. This time I pop.
PRELUDE--NOTHIN' TO HIDE. The atmosphere changes density. Overgrown neural paths open and clear. Am and am not merge. Then, Randy's never-heard-before-or-since glissando glide path to the coda. AND THE RIFF!! That amazing, nervy, terse piece of the life force made audible. Beethoven's balls in nine notes. Now I die happy.
Folks, SARDONICUS is that good from one end to the other. I just somehow misplaced it in the creative lightning-and-hail storm of its day. (Floyd, the Beatles, Janus, Jeff Beck, Zep, the Stones--all at their peak at the same time--you kidding me?)
Thank you to all the reviewers for holding this gem up to the light and letting us appreciate it from different angles. A headline in the current Rolling Stone laments,"Sales Slump Turns Serious." Well, yeah. In parting, and sounding pretty much like the fogy I am: Something vast and valuable has been ebbing out of our musical culture for years. It's the kind of creative generosity, questing adventure, and take-my-hand companionship that inhabits THE TWELVE DREAMS OF DR. SARDONICUS. Go get.
on July 31, 2004
My neighbor gave this album to me when I asked him for some good '60s and '70s rock. Spirit and another band called Spooky Tooth have been dominating my CD player while (sadly) the dust grows on The Darkness.
Listen to Animal Zoo - it's so good they have two versions! Nothing to Hide charges you up and will get you to crank up the stereo so the neighbors can hear the horns! It's melodic, jazzy, rockin', and a great end-to-end album. Remember when they made great albums that took you from beginning to end without having to skip a song or two? This is one of those albums! You'll put this album on and your friends will ask you if they can have a copy (unless your friends listen to Britney Spears, and then they shouldn't be your friends anyway)
I just can't believe more radio DJs aren't spinning this record. It's great driving music, great party music, great BBQ music, well, you should just play it all the time.
Buy this album, you will NOT be sorry! Read the reviews, they say it all!