Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus

He was a teenaged guitar hero, played the first legato-shred solo James – a.k.a. young Jimi Hendrix. Yet today, few remember the late Randy California or his vastly underrated band, Spirit. Let’s change that.

Along with keyboardist Jay Ferguson (“Thunder Island”), bassist Mark Andes (Heart), and stepfather, Ed, on drums, Randy helped create 1970’s Sardonicus, a post-Beatles gem. “Love Has Found a Way” displays wicked psychedelic riffs within a pop context – the players were surely listening to Abbey Road. Randy’s hippie ballad “Nature’s Way” reflects the earthy Topanga Canyon scene in Los Angeles, while “Mr. Skin” finds Spirit in the groove of Sly & the Family Stone.

For Randy’s shred moment, fire up “Street Worm.” After a stereo-panned fuzz solo, the guitarist explodes with high-speed, modal legato runs, years before Allan Holdsworth and Joe Satriani – it’s an historic moment in guitardom. For more goodies, this set includes studio bonus tracks and cuts from two ’70 shows. The live cut “Fresh Garbage” reminds us just how funky this band was. We lost Randy California in ’97, but his wild-ass Strat mojo will live forever.

This article originally appeared in VG’s March 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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