After the high experimentation of 1975's double LP Spirit of '76 comes a single album from that same year, and, next to 1990's Tent of Miracles, it is the most focused of the Spirit trio albums as led by Randy California. Barry Keene is again the bassist prior to Mark Andes coming to the party for the Farther Along semi-reunion in 1976. All of side one works extremely well, from "Holy Man" to "Family" and everything in between. The tunes have more pop substance than some of California's other wandering minstrel etchings, and the band sounds more full than the three-piece unit that they declare on the album jacket. Rather than re-create more songs that Jimi Hendrix covered, which was becoming a trend on Spirit outings, California and company do a mesmerizing version of the Beatles' "Yesterday" that clocks in at one minute, 58 seconds. "Magic Fairy Princess" is a good title to lead off side two, as it is a very magical side. California's production work is top notch, sounding not unlike John Lennon's "Mind Games," with much high end on the drums and all sorts of density to the mix. As Spirit of '76 is one of this pared-down band's most satisfying gambles, Son of Spirit brings it together -- it's the kind of chapter to the story that Ian Anderson would develop for Jethro Tull, very musical, and shying from the commercial side of things. Definitely for the fans, and for those hardcore Spirit fans who are out there, the acoustics and precise vocals are a treat. "Circle" is a superb work of art and a beautiful statement. As Tent of Miracles combines the old format of the original group within the three-piece ensemble, Son of Spirit is very much like a successful spinoff à la Jo Jo Gunne or Firefall. Had they gone out on the road booked as Son of Spirit, it may have opened doors closed by the perception of the group being on the oldies/classic rock circuit. This album is refreshingly new, exciting, and a direction that deserved far more attention than it received. AMG.
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