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Randy California

& Spirit - The Euro-American Years: 1979-1983

Review by Gary Hill

This is the latest in a series of releases featuring the late Randy California and his band Spirit. This one is a six CD set that includes quite a bit of unreleased music, rarities and more. It is a safe bet that this will appeal most to the hardcore fans. The thing about Randy California is that he was an amazing guitar player. His vocals never won me over as much as his guitar work did, though. Still, there is plenty to like here. Each CD is included in a cardboard sleeve. There is a nice booklet included, and it all comes encased in a cardboard clamshell box. A couple notes need to be made here. First, I have put this one under Randy California's name because of the way it is credited. The line between California and Spirit seems a tenuous one, though. Secondly, I've done my best to replicate the way the CDs and songs are listed on the back of the box. That probably won't translate well in the online version, but will be better in the book of the issue.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 2. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1:
                
Kingsway Studios, London
                            
Demos October 1979
                      
You Stole My Heart

I dig the mainstream rock sound of this cut. The introduction is a little long, but once the vocals join, we get a real tasty 70s rock sound at play. There are some shifts and changes built into this piece. The guitar solo movement on this thing is on fire. Randy California was always one of the greats, and that really gets proven here.

California Man
There is a bit of a Bachman Turner Overdrive element to this, but it's blended with the California rock sound you expect from Spirit.
Thinking Of You
Combine the sound of the last couple tunes with some hints of the Beach Boys. Add in some classy melodic guitar fills. You are now in the general zone of this track, but that probably doesn't account for the lush keyboard layer over the top.
Song For Laura
A harder rocking and energized number, I love the guitar work on this thing. The instrumental movement on this is so classy and cool. Of course, the song has great guitar, but don't ignore the bass work. It's tasty.
Magic Wand: LA Sessions 1981
                     
Reeling In The Night
         
released on French-only Euro American album

This song has a more polished vibe than the previous tracks. It definitely feels like the kind of stuff you expect to hear from Spirit.

Lani By The Sea
The sound quality on this doesn't seem as good. The track has a cool jam rock does psychedelia element to it. The vocal hooks are pretty catchy.
Shattered Dreams
                         
longer mix of free 45 with UK edition of Euro American

The rhythm section brings this into being with some definite hints of funk music built into the mix. The cut works out from there to a cool kind of number that reminds me just a little of The Doors, but it's still entirely California and Spirit. I really like this song a lot. In fact, I'd consider it a highlight of this first disc. It has great 70s rock and some hints of prog in the mix.

Rock Of Ages
                  
released on French-only Euro American album

This is a lot fiercer. The song really has some smoking hot guitar work built into it.

Magic Wand
                               
longer mix of free 45 with UK edition of Euro American

Hard rock and some Beach Boys elements are blended on this number. It has a bit of a trippy, driving jam rock sound. I can make out some hints of things like The Allman Brothers. The whole tune just works well in a jam band kind of way.

Original Euro American Album
                
Produced by Randy California and Steve Solars
                            
Released 1982
                  
Toy Guns

Cheesy sounding keyboards bring this song into being. It works out to more of a standard Spirit sound from there.

This Is The End
I like the energetic and hook-laden sound of this number. It's a fun cut that somehow reminds me just a little of Gary Wilson.
Mon Ami
This melodic rock tune is an entertaining one. It's nothing greatly unexpected, but it works well.
Rude Reaction
Now, this tune is sublime. It's got a lot more energy and drive. It reminds me a little of what you might get if you mixed Jefferson Starship with Spirit. It's so strong. In fact, this is one of the highlights of this first disc.
Calling You
I dig the slide guitar on this tune. There is a bit of a blues rock edge to it. Yet it's still a jam band sort of 70s rock song, too.
Wild Thing
Here we get a cool rocking cover of this old Troggs song. I like this version quite a lot. It has a lot of the meat on its bones that you'd expect, but it also has that Spirit texture and edge. The closing instrumental segment is classy.
Easy Love
This is edgy, rather raw and really rocking. It is rough around the edges, but has its charms. The keyboard bit doesn't feel like it really fits here to me.
Fearless Leader
More of a soaring, jam band kind of number, this has almost a space rock edge in some ways. The keyboards later almost bring some hints of prog rock. The guitar solo just explodes out later with a lot passion, and as the keys join that prog thing is intensified.
Five In The Morning
The chorus on this is catchy and accessible yet the song in general has some rather unusual edges. The guitar sounds and textures are unusual, and the cut has a real late 70s rock sound to it. It reminds me of something April Wine might have done.
Skull and Crossbones
Here we get another hard rocker that makes me think of April Wine in some ways. It gets screaming hot and has some killer slide guitar soloing.
Breakout
This is a mean sounding tune that really rocks. It's decidedly Randy California, but an intriguing angle on the sound.
Post Euro American Track
                   
Recorded UK, 1982
                     
Man At War

This is another hard rocking number. It's not a big change, but it works well.

Recorded Abbey Road, London 1983
                      
Write You a Letter

There are a lot of keyboards on this piece. Those keys seem a little dated in sound, but the cut works well.

Disc 2
                      
Hand Guns
                      
renamed single edit

I love the soft rock sound of this cut. This is another version of the song that was called "Toy Guns" on the last CD. I like this one better, though. It has a real 1970s vibe and some cool hooks and changes.

Come On Woman
This is more of a mainstream rocker with melodic elements. It's solid, but not a standout by any means.
Trouble In Mind
I really like some of the melodic parts of this quite a bit. The track has some interesting turns and some tasty guitar work and riffs. There are some cool jam band meets space rock moments later.
Cabin De Telephone
There is some funk built into this. I love the effect of pre-echo on the vocals. This tune is a classy number that's among the best music of the set. It has a science fiction based, almost space rock element to it. Yet the Spirit driving rock sound is at the heart of the tune.
Shane
I like the hard-edged riffing on this number. The track really shines on the guitar presence more than anything else. That's not to say that it's a bad tune, just that the rest of it doesn't really stand out.
All Along The Watchtower
                                
UK EP release

I dig the hard rocking, almost metallic guitar on this number. Many of the vocals are mostly spoken on this, and it's a cool rendition of the track.  I have never heard a version this tune quite like this, and much of it is set in a sparse arrangement despite that fierce guitar at the beginning. Some parts of this almost make me think of what you might get if you merged The Doors with Hawkwind.

Don't Bother Me
This is a powerhouse stomper that really screams out with passion. The guitar work is on fire.
Brittany
This is just more of a straight-ahead rocking tune. It's a fun cut that works well.
Downer
I love the guitar riffing on this smoking hot rocker. This instrumental has some particularly potent guitar work, and given the rest of the music here, that says a lot.
Second Child
This cut has a metallic edge to it. It's more of an almost punky screamer.
Man At War
Here's another version of a song from the first disc.
Killer Weed
There is a cool, psychedelia meets metal sound to this number.
Radio Man (AKA Same Old Naturally)
I wouldn't consider this tune to be all that special, but it's a pretty solid number that feels a bit like The Guess Who or BTO.
Superchild
This is definitely a step up from the last one. The soaring kind of 70s rock on display here is so classy. The hooks are strong and the music really works well.
Run To Your Lover
A straight rocker, this is another one that's cut from similar clothe as the music of April Wine, but there is also a bit of a Jimi Hendrix edge to it, too.
Love's Not A Game
A pretty basic rocker, this is good, but nothing all that spectacular or special.
Love Is War
There is a funky edge to this tune.
Childhood's End
This is a rather raw tune in terms of the production values, but not to the point of feeling like a "bad" recording. It's just not at the level of the rest here. The song itself benefits from an intriguing hard rock sound (again, Jefferson Starship is not a bad comparison), powerful female supporting vocals and some fierce guitar work.
Overloaded Ships Sink
                        
previously unreleased

The recording on this is a bit rough. The track leans on echoey, spacey, jam band textures. It's rather wandering and freeform in nature.

Disc 3
                   
Spirit Live various venues 1980 and 1981
                            
1984

This live number powers in with a cool rocking sound that has some great keyboard textures in it. As the bass drives in the tune takes on a real 1980s vibe.

Turn To The Right
I like the guitar arrangement on this song. It's a driving rocker that has both blues rock and more experimental concepts in the mix. The bass gets a chance to shine on the tune.
Five In The Morning
There is a heavy, nearly metallic guitar mode at the heart of this number. There is a shouted "hey," section on this that definitely goes on too long. I would say that the number is not really all that special, once you get past the cool sound.
Hungry Driver
This tune has some weird psychedelic meets jam band concepts behind it. I'm also reminded of very early heavy metal in some ways. The instrumental movement that starts this runs nearly three-minutes. Vocals come after that. The number continues to shift and change from there.
I Want Somebody
This high energy rocker works pretty well. It has some pretty crazed moments built into it. Alt that said, it's not really a standout.
Give a Life, Take a Life
                        
previously unreleased

A mellower and more melodic number this is another that feels more like an "also ran." The jamming section later in the track is definitely a step up, though.

Hey Joe
                 
Released as German 12 inch single
We heard "All Along the Watchtower" before. Here is another song that Jimi Hendrix made famous. This is a intriguing version of the cut. Parts of it rock out rather like the Hendrix version, while others land in a mellower, subtler arrangement. This is classy in all its various incarnations.
Shattered Dreams
A live version of a track we heard on the second disc, I really like this a lot. It captures a lot of the moods and magic of the studio version, but also manages to infuse some added magic and vitality. I love the guitar soloing on this thing, and there is a lot of it.
So Little Time To Fly
This comes in with a more straight-ahead blues rock texture.
Fish Fry Road
The cool hard rocking groove on this tune is so tasty. The guitar solo section on this has these intense layers of sound that seem to swirl around one in another in great ways via the effects. The tune is one of the strongest on this third disc.
Magic Wand
I really dig the instrumental section that brings this in. A martial rhythm section serves as the backdrop while the guitar weaves patterns of sound. Eventually the cut works to the vocal section. The soaring jam later is all class, too. I think I like this live take better than the studio version we heard earlier.
Come On Woman
While not a big change, this hard rocker is driving and gets literally screaming at times.
Breakout
The bass brings this into being with a lot of style. It's fast paced and cool, and it holds the track with little help for more than half-a-minute. The cut works out from there to a more full band approach. It has a fierce, almost punky vibe to it.
Downer
There is some killer neo-classical guitar soloing built into this stomper. That guitar work really elevates this thing.
Song For Laura
A fierce and fiery screamer, this thing really rocks.
Wild Thing
Here we get a live version of the Troggs tune. This has a gritty, raw texture to it. I love the sound of the bass on this.
Disc 4
                
Grosser Herrscher

                       

German language of Fearless Leader

I dig the little bits of keyboards that come over the top of this as the main musical concept works outward. As the song builds it gets into almost prog rocking zones. The soaring space rock keyboards are a great touch.

His Spirit is Travelling On
                        
(unreleased)

A much mellower number, this has sort of trippy ballad approach at its core. There is a definite space rock meets psychedelic and folk music edge to it.

PT109
Intricate and pretty, this is an acoustic guitar solo.
Whispers from Heaven
There is a dreamy kind of psychedelic vibe built into this piece. It gets pretty soaring later, but remains acoustic guitar based as it does.
Trying to Get Closer to You
More of a driving rocker, this works well. It's pretty mainstream sounding.
Since She's Gone
A rather blues rocking sound is on display as this comes out of the gate. This tune has a quirky kind of eccentricity to it.
Past Love

This is more of a folk meets psychedelic rocker. It has a real poppy rock vibe to it.

Stepping Son
A cool rocking jam, this thing drives with style and class. I love the guitar solo of the piece. This is one of the highlights of the disc for sure.
Otter in the Sea
This has a more eccentric, artsy kind of vibe. There is some echoey guitar at the heart of it. The vocals are quirky, and the tune is strange, but oddly compelling.
California Man
A more mainstream tune, this rocker is a fun one. It has great energy and hooks. This version of the song is stronger than the version on the first CD, I think.
Childhood's End
A stripped down arrangement is on display here. It's just guitar and vocals. It works pretty well.
Randy California Band
                      
Board Tape live at The Pavillion

            

Ayr, Scotland, 22nd October 1979
                   
Downer

This live recording is pretty strong. The guitar soloing on the cut is on fire. The tune has a rather psychedelic vibe, but that guitar solo takes it into neo-classical zones.

You Stole My Heart
Another mainstream rocker, this live telling works well.
Move On Up
More driving and hard rocking, this cut is classy.
California Man
This rocker has a punky edge to it. It is driving and tastefully raw.
Rebel's Flight
Another hard rocker, this is soaring and quirky.
Breakout
The opening of this song is pretty crazed. There is a punky edge to this, but also a bit of a Jimi Hendrix element.
Song for Laura
This driving rocker is energetic, but a bit on the chaotic and eclectic side.
Disc 5
                    
Spirit, Louies Rock City South, Greensboro, South Carolina, April 3rd, 1981
                  
Previously unreleased
                 
1984

After a short introduction, this powers in with an almost heavy metal texture. The cut drives out from there with style.

Turn to the Right
This hard edged rocker works well in this live telling.
Animal Zoo
I love the hooks on this tune. It's one of the highlights of this live show.
Magic Wand
The full psychedelic treatment that brings in is classic. It works to more of a mainstream hard rocking treatment to continue. The tripped out section mid-track is so cool. It has a definite Hendrix vibe.
Nature's Way
Here get one of Spirit's big hits. It might be obvious, but I've always loved this tune. This live version really manages to convey the magic and charm of the tune. It's a highlight of this show.
Five in the Morning
A harder rocking tune, this is more of an "also ran" type piece, but it's effective.
So Little Time to Fly
A more straight-ahead rocker, this is a strong cut. In fact, this is one of my favorites from this show.
Mr. Skin
Another hit from the band, this gets a strong live telling. It's a catchy rocker that really deserves its place as one of their best known numbers.
Come On Woman
This hard rocking tune gets a strong live telling here. It's not as good as some of the songs in this show, but still works pretty well.
All The Same
While overall this song isn't a huge change, it's turned into an epic ten-and-a-half-minute plus exploration, largely due to an extensive drum solo in the middle of the track.
I Got a Line on You
Spirit's other big hit, I've always been a big fan of this song. While this version works reasonably well, it's not as successful as the other hits here. It just seems to miss in terms of gelling at times. That said, the guitar solo is on fire.
(crowd applause into) Fish Fry Road
After an extended spoken introduction he rhythm section brings this in with a lot of drama and style.
Wild Thing
They put in a strong live rendition of the classic Troggs tune here. There is some extended stage banter at the end of this tune.
Like a Rolling Stone
Here they cover Bob Dylan. It is sort of exactly what you'd expect from a Spirit version of the song. That means it's a great tune. I really like it a lot.
Come and Get It (Magic Spirit)
This cut has some dramatic tones and hints of funk and magic. I mean that magic in a somewhat literal way in that the tune has an almost mystical feeling to it with some esoteric vibes. I really love the bass work and sound on this. This song is actually one of my favorites from this show.
Disc 6
Randy California Band, Reading Festival and Glastonbury Festival, 1982 (previously unreleased)
Reading Festival, England, June 18th, 1982
              
complete board tape
                     
Second Child

I dig the cool guitar jamming that starts this. It has some hints of blues guitar, but drenched in some echoey, psychedelic goodness. The track turns heavier and more metallic. The cut shifts to more of a mainstream hard rocking sound for the entrance of the vocals.

Downer
There is so much energy and cool groove built into this live performance. There is some killer guitar soloing built into it.
Man at War
This rocker has some real guitar hero style soloing mid-track. The bass has some cool sounds and moments, too.
Like a Rolling Stone
More electrified than the version on the previous disc, this one is solid, but not as strong as that one.
All Along the Watchtower
Now, this screaming hot take on Dylan comes across as closer to Hendrix' version and works really well. It's intense and fast-paced.
Come On Woman
Here we get another screaming hot stomper. This works particularly well. It has some great guitar work has sort of a BTO does Hendrix vibe to it.
Nature's Way
This rendition of the Spirit classic works better than the one on the previous disc.
Killer Weed
There is an extended spoken introduction to this cut that earns a parental advisory. A trippy hard rocking sound is on display here. The guitar solo has some psychotic moments that are very cool, and there is a tasty, almost funky edge to the bass line.
Run to Your Lover
This hard rocker isn't a huge change overall, but it has a section that turns to a nearly metal sound later. It's a solid tune.
I Got a Line On You
They put in a high energy performance of this Spirit classic here. It is strong, but feels a little sloppy at moments.
Song For Laura
This rendition of the tune seems to work pretty well, but not really standout.
Wild Thing
A raw, screaming hot version of the song, this is a scorcher.
Glastonbury Festival, England, August 12th, 1982
                         
partial board tape
                                
Hand Guns

This tune is fairly effective here, but it's not one of the best versions of it we get. I never noticed the Byrds kind of vibe on the song until this performance, though.

Lisa (unreleased song)
I am not as enthused about this track. It just feels a little too raw and sloppy to me. That said, I really like the bass guitar workout mid-track.
Don't Bother Me
This rocker isn't any big departure. The instrumental jam later in the tune really rocks, though.
Rebel on Attack (unreleased song)
Here we get another hard rocking tune that works well.
Killer Weed
I think this might be the most mainstream version of this ode to marijuana. I love the funk that shows up on the bass work in the extended instrumental movement later.
 
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