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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Spirit

Twelve Dreams of Dr Sardonicus, Remastered & Expanded 2CD Edition

Review by Gary Hill

I'm sure you'll get disagreement as to which album from an artist is their best, but it's a safe bet that Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus is up close to the top for most Spirit fans. This new edition is a double CD set. The first disc is not only remastered, but includes a number of bonus tracks added to it. The second disc is a live CD. All in all, this is quite an exceptional release. I'm glad to add it to my collection, and I am sure a lot of people feel similarly happy to have it in theirs.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2022  Volume 2. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2022.

Track by Track Review
CD ONE:
               
Twelve Dreams of Dr Sardonicus
                   
Prelude – Nothin’ To Hide

I love the intricate acoustic guitar as this gets underway. The vocals come in over the top with a real folk rock style. After this prelude part ends, the band kick out into a hard rocking jam that's trademark Spirit. It's classy, meaty and so cool.

Nature’s Way
This is one of the band's biggest hits. It's a safe bet you've heard this one. It has such a great sense of drama and style. There is a reason this song did well. It's just a great tune.
Animal Zoo
A bouncy kind of rocker, this tune is a lot of fun. It's always been a favorite of mine. It has some cool musical changes and textures. The vocal hooks are great. This is just an entertaining romp.
Love Has Found A Way
Trippy and weird, this is psychedelic and cool. It has some interesting tape effects and more in the mix.
Why Can’t I Be Free?
This cut is more of a folk song. It's solid, but not a standout.
Mr. Skin
This powerhouse pop rocker is so cool. It's another of the band's best known tracks. There is a jazzy edge to it, but it's very much psychedelically tinged pop rock at its core.
Space Child
I dig the trippy kind of space music vibe on this thing. It's spacey in the opening section. Then it drives out into a cool proggy, jazzy kind of arrangement from there.
When I Touch You
This is a pretty straightforward rocking tune with some hints of psychedelia in the mix. I like this, but it's not a standout.
Street Worm

Now, this is a powerhouse rocker. It's a real highlight. There is a proggy sort of riff driven section later in the track. This thing is on fire at times.

Life Has Just Begun
Another pretty standard Spirit rocker, this is good, but not a real standout.
Morning Will Come
I dig the energized groove of this cut. It has a rubbery kind of vibe, and the horns make me think of The Beatles' Rubber Soul era. This is definitely a standout.
Soldier
This is a dramatic and powerful tune. It has a slow moving and proggy vibe to it. I'm reminded of Procol Harum on this piece.
Bonus tracks
Rougher Road

I like this cool rocker quite a bit. While it's nothing Earth-shattering, I think it is stronger than at least a couple tracks that made the final cut for the main album. I really like the short jam section a lot.

Dirty Dan
This rocking instrumental is pretty classy stuff.
Animal Zoo Mono Mix
As you might guess, this is an alternate take on the song from the album proper.  I like this pretty well, but the instrumental section seems to lose something. It has more of an almost circus music meets country angle to it at times. Still, this is fun.
Morning Will Come Mono Mix
I think I like this one better in this format. There is an immediacy to it and perhaps a little more raw energy. It's a lot of fun. 
Red Light Roll On
There is an old-time rock and roll vibe to this thing. It's a killer rocker. There is a little skit mid-track that includes a dialog.
Love Has Found a Way
Just the backing track, this has a real jazzy space groove to it in this format. The tape effects take over for a time.
Street Worm
This is a driving hot jam. This instrumental mix is classy.
When I Touch You
This alternate version is an instrumental mix. It has some style, but isn't all that effective like this. Also the recording is a bit muddy.
Walking On My Feet
More of a folk rocker, this is not bad, but also nothing special.
Nature’s Way
I like this live performance of the classic song a lot. The recording has some issues, but the tune still stands tall.
CD TWO:
                   
Live at The Fillmore West, May 1970
                             
Sweet Stella Baby

Weird space-age noise brings this into being. They work out into an oddly off-kilter jam from there. This tune doesn't work that well for me, but it has its charms. The jam at the end is cool. That runs it into the next number.

1984
This is a classy tune. It has some dramatic moments. Some parts don't work as well as others do, but overall I like this jam. It does have some recording issues.
Country Echo
I dig the echoey country angles on this piece. Then again, both of those are in the title. This is a cool little instrumental.
Jealous
This is a blues rocking number that's quite cool. It's driving and tasty.
All The Same
While this song isn't all that special on its own, the instrumental section later in the track is purely on fire with some killer guitar work. There is a drum solo in the midst of this tune, too.
Fresh Garbage
Drums bring this into being, and they work out into a jam that has a lot of prog in the mix. It's a killer tune that comes so much territory with style.
It Shall Be
There is a classy, jazzy groove as this number works out. Unfortunately there is quite a bit of tape hiss on this.
Nothing To Hide (no prelude)
This is a fairly standard Spirit live tune. It's not bad, but also nothing special.
Ice
Now here we get something that's positively sublime. This is a spacey, trippy jazz styled jam. It's so cool. It's a cool instrumental.
Mr. Skin
Here we get a live take of the classic Spirit tune. This rocks out pretty well. It definitely does the song justice. There is an odd little section later that includes just "skin" repeated with little bursts of guitar. That seems an odd direction to take the track. That part eventually ends the piece.
Animal Zoo
The recording on this doesn't seem very good. It sounds distant and muddy. The performance is fine, but nothing all that special.
I’m Truckin’
This rocker is a little weird, but also fun. The recording is neither the best nor the worst on this live disc. I like the guitar soloing on this quite a bit. The alternate groove later along the road is cool.
So Little Time To Fly
I dig the energy and groove as this thing gets underway. There is more of a jazzy, proggy element at play here.
Fog
There is some pretty classy jamming here. This cut works through a number of shifts and changes. It has some proggy and jazzy parts. It also has some trippy ones.
Mechanical World (Boston Tea Party 11th October, 1969)
A drum solo makes up the more than the first five-minutes of this song. Of course, the track is almost 12-and-a-half minutes long, so that's less than half of the length. There is a slow and heavy sound to the number as it gets going from there. It doesn't work that well for me, though. I don't like the vocals on it, and the whole thing feels plodding in that section. When it intensifies and speeds up a little it works better, getting pretty trippy and exploratory. The cut gets back to the slow grind. I'm just not a fan of this one, although it does have a moment here and there that work better.
Dark Eyed Woman
I dig this hard rocking screamer. It's a lot of fun. It's a step up from that last number.
Uncle Jack
Here we get a soaring, driving Spirit rocker. This is a strong tune, but the recording is not the best.
 
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