Also the title of a Fleetwood Mac album from 1971, Mercury certainly let Randy California's ideas flow across a number of releases in the mid- to late-'70s, this particular release dated 1977. As with the best of California's work, there are flashes of inspiration and brilliance, the title track a perfect example of the upside. A collaboration with Kim Fowley entitled "Buried in My Brain" is California at his most self-indulgent. The effects and foundation for the song are good, but his vocals wander hither and yon. They don't get better on "Bionic Unit," also written with Fowley and co-engineer Blair Mooney. Connected by sound effects, the artist moves into his Jimi Hendrix mode, tracking Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower." Spirit, with California at the helm, continued to work this Hendrix connection, which certainly wasn't a bad thing. The expressive and creative guitar lines would have made an instrumental version of "All Along the Watchtower" a real treat. What happens instead is California having fun but not thinking in terms of Top 40 airplay as Dave Mason did to some limited success with this Dylan title. "Would You Believe" goes back to the great stuff Randy California is capable of. Not commercial, but original and inviting.
"Star Trek Dreaming" is exquisite, but a bit short, and side two is rife with excerpts from the Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk turns into his ex-girlfriend Dr. Lester. There are so many bits and pieces of Star Trek interspersed on side two it is a wonder that Paramount didn't sue. There are many thank yous on the back, to Dr. Demento (Randy California's ex-roommate), to backing vocalist Terry Anderson, but no credit to Gene Rodenberry. On one level, a major lawsuit would have been helpful, they could have yanked the Star Trek bits off, creating a collector's item and bringing some attention to this good, but not great, record. Randy California appears half-naked on the back cover, a blatant and egotistical move, almost claiming that he is Spirit. Keep in mind this came a year after the reunion known as Farther Along, which brought John Locke and Mark Andes back into the fold, along with his brother, Sprit contributor and Jo Jo Gunne member Matt Andes, but no Jay Ferguson. These 1970s Mercury albums, from 1975's sublime Spirit of '76 double LP and its same-year follow-up, Son of Spirit, to the aforementioned Farther Along, make good companion pieces to the work on Epic records that brought the group their initial fame. Randy California references his big FM hit "Nature's Way" on the beginning of the album as he does elsewhere in his career, while side two drifts off into some Star Trek dementia. "Freakout Frog" and "The Romulan Experience" are interesting, with bits of "All Along the Watchtower" thrown in for good measure. "Monkey See Monkey Do" could have been a great novelty hit...that is...on the planet Romulus. It's a fusion of nuttiness and pop that sounds inspired by drugs and a Dr. Demento program. Randy California's work with stepfather Ed Cassidy is unique and important, but they would have been better off calling some of the product Randy California solo, and that's what this is. There are some great moments here, "The Journey of Nomad" as the album closes, along with "Stars Are Love" and "Kahauna Dream," which open the album. Mr. California's obsessions with science fiction and the place of his untimely passing, Hawaii, are here on these grooves, two decades before his passing. AMG.
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