Review – Randy California & Spirit – The Euro-American Years – by John Wenlock-Smith

This reissue may be a tad obscure to some, especially as it has been some 23 years since Randy California died in the pacific ocean whilst rescuing his son Quinn from a riptide near his mother’s home in Hawaii, Quinn Survived by sadly Randy did not and passed away at the age of 45.

Randy lived a very eventful and colourful life and he left a wealth of recordings, many of which are only now seeing the light of day thanks to the incredible efforts of Mick Skidmore, who painstakingly strives to keep Randy’s memory and legacy alive through the work of the The Randy Craig Wolfe Trust. Mick has gone to extraordinary lengths to bring several albums up to a good level of fidelity.

These include ‘Spirit – Live From The Time Coast’, ‘Spirit – Two Side Of A Rainbow – Live At The Rainbow’ and ‘Spirit – Tent of Miracles’, all of which have surfaced in the past few years, massively overhauled and much expanded with unreleased and live cuts (often in the form of complete shows). Take the extensive booklets and photographs, all of which add to this latest collection of 6 CDs (including almost 3 discs of previously unavailable / unheard live recordings of both Spirit and the Randy California Band recorded between the years 1979 to 1983) and make it a most welcome addition to that growing vault of releases.

The thing that becomes clear very rapidly is that this was a difficult time for Randy, and he struggled to find his niche and a genre in which his undeniable talents could be best shown. This fascinating set includes early demos from 1979 in London, the whole ‘Euro-American’ album and ‘Shattered Dreams’ live EP and tracks from the Potato Land project, portrayed through live recordings made in both the UK, Europe and the USA. This material is often excellent, sometimes patchy but always worth a listen and this comprehensive set is an excellent and accessible way in which to trawl through this particular period of Randy’s Career.

The sound is generally particularly good, there are occasional lapses but, generally, this is all perfectly listenable, you can certainly hear significant snatches of Randy’s brilliance when he gets to stretch out or really let fly. You hear this especially on the longer live tracks where he can really play to his strengths, confident in the backing his fellow musicians create for him to work from.  

The sets fall as such, Disc 1 and 2 – The Euro American album, Demos and Shattered Dream EP and Unreleased Tracks. Disc 3 is Spirit Live in 1980/1981 at various venues in both Europe and the US on what were essentially Promo tours for the Potato Land album that had been released by Beggars Banquet.

Disc 4 is more demos and also soundboard recordings of a festival show at Ayr in Scotland from October 1979 supporting Ian Gillan of Deep Purple fame. This show is an attempt at a harder sound that works very well. Disc 5 is a show from Spirit taken from Greensboro North Carolina in 1981 and this is the 3 piece version really giving a fantastic performance with three lengthier tracks at the end really giving them a chance to shine.

The Final disc (disc 6) is The Randy California Band live at the Reading Festival in 1982 and from the Glastonbury Festival in 1982, both being soundboard recordings

This set is very extensive and will keep you happy for many hours, as the entire set lasts for just short of 9 hours, with each disc coming out at 79 plus minutes per disc, so it is a value packed set and, although there is some duplication, there is enough variation to still make this set worthwhile.

Personally I applaud the efforts of both Mick Skidmore and Mark and Vicky Powell of Esoteric for bringing this remarkable time capsule to the table. I just hope that they have a reissue for the fabulous ‘Restless’ album (that has been out of print for many years) lined up, for that was another remarkable album that was widely ignored by the record buying public and is surely due for re-evaluation once again.

This a reissue that I can certainly recommend to fans of Spirit, psychedelic rock or simply good, strong music with some fabulous playing, Randy was truly a unique musician as this excellent boxset testifies wonderfully. 

Disc 1 Kingsway Demos 1979, You stole my Heart 4:43,California Man 4:12, Thinking Of You 2:58, Song For Laura 5:05, Magic Wand LA Sessions 1981 Reeling IN The Night3:33,Lani By The Sea3:43,Shattered Dream Long 45 Mix 5:38,Rock Of Ages 2:13, Magic Wand 3:32.Original Euro American Album 1982 Toy Guns 2:56, This Is The End (Unedited)2:57, Mon Ami (Unedited) 2:44, Rude Reaction 3:22,Calling You 3:11,Wild Thing 4:02,Easy Love (12@ Mix)3:39, Fearless Leader 4:24,Five In The Morning 3:01 Skull And Crossbones 5:31, Breakout 2:28 Post Euro American Track recorded Abbey Road 1982 Man At War 2:13, Write You A Letter 3:10.

Disc 2 Hand Guns 2:44,Come On Woman 3:18,Trouble In Mind 6:54, Cabin De Telephone5:51, Shane 3:56, All along The Watchtower 2:57 (UK EP Release),Don’t Bother Me 5:02,Brittany 3:47, Downer 3:19, Second Child 4:57,Man At War 4:29.Killer Weed 4:27,Radio Man AKA Same Old Naturally 2:56, Superchild 4:23 Run To Your Lover 3:42, Love’s Not A Game 4:41, Love Is War 2:31,Childhoods End 6:01,Ove3rloaded Ships Sink 4:06.

Disc 3 Spirit Live Various Venues 1980 and 1981, 1984 3:29,Turn To The Right 3:53,Five In The Morning 3;59,Hungry Driver 8:19, I Want Somebody 2:12, Give A Life Take A Life 3:40,Hey Joe 6:45 German 12 Inch Single, Shattered Dreams 9:19, So Little Time To Fly 3:33,Fish Fry Road 4:07, Magic Wand 10:31,Come On Woman 4:02, Breakout 5:02,Downer 3:37, Song For Laura 4:21, Wild Thing 3:53.

Disc 4 Grossscher Herrscher (German Language version Of Fearless Leader 4:27, His Spirit Is Travelling On 3:53, PT 109 1:26,Whispers From Heaven 3:35, Trying To Get Closer To You 3:26, Since She’s Gone 2:51, Past Love 4:07,Stepping Son 3:30,Otter In The Sea 3:56, California Man 3:10, Childhoods End 3:39, Randy California Band Soundboard Tape Ayr Scotland October 22nd 1979 Downer 6:32,You Stole My Heart 5:41, Move On Up 5:10, California Man 5:06, Rebels Flight 6:30, Breakout $:10,Song For Laura 6 55.

Disc 5 Spirit Louis Rock City South, Greensboro April 3rd 1981 1984 4:00, Turn To The Right 3:43, Animal Zoo 3:15,Magic Wand 7:16,Nature’s Way 3:20, Five In The Morning 3:05 So Little Time To Fly 3:35, Mr. Skin 3:00, Come On Woman3:53,All The Same 10:35, I Got A Line On You 2:45, Fish Fry Road 4:07,Wild Thing 7:09, Like A Rolling Stone 8:55, Come And Get It (Magic Spirit) 6:22.

Disc 6 Randy California Band Reading Festival Board Tape 1982 Second Child 5:55,Downer 3:25 Man At War 4:24, Like A Rolling Stone 6:26, All Along The Watchtower 3:31, Come On Woman 3:58, Natures Way 3:16,Killer Weed 6:36, Run To Your Lover 3:14,I Got A Line On You 2:42, Song For Laura 5:13<Wild Thing 5:10 Glastonbury  Festival 1982  Partial Soundboard Tape Hand Guns 2:57,Lisa 5:24,Don’t Bother Me 5:47,Rebel On Attack 3:12, Killer Weed 8:25.

Released 28th August 2020

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