By the late Seventies, times were hard for the psychedelic rock band Spirit. Though their earlier records had garnered much critical acclaim and modest commercial success, a breakup and the wandering spirit of frontman Randy California had marked the end of the classic lineup. California’s solo career had not quite panned out, either; thus, after a brief hiatus, he reformed the band. Spirit Two Sides Of A Rainbow captures the group in concert on March 18, 1978, at the Rainbow Theatre in London.
This concert highlighted a UK and European promotional tour for their album Future Games, an otherwise forgettable album. Yet this power trio lineup, featuring California, drummer Ed Cassidy, and new guitarist Larry “Fuzzy” Knight, proved to be a potent live act, one not afraid to unleash its blues-rock druthers. Indeed, this is a band that wants to rock, and rock they do. Though the recordings here are a bit on the rough side, and the band occasionally sloppy, it’s clear that this incarnation of the band had something special.
Considering that the musical underground in London at the time favored short blasts of punk-rock energy, it’s amazing that Spirit would have Alternative TV and The Police as their opening acts—or that the audience would eat it all up. While one might not hear much of the classic Spirit, what they do offer is just as thrilling. For a three-piece, they manage to get really heavy. They offer some fantastic blues-rock jamming at the beginning with “Rainbow Jam Electric Jam” and then a return to the theme during the encore. New and older original songs such as “1984,” “Hollywood Dream,” “I Got A Line On You” and “Animal Zoo” positively sparkle. There’s an eighteen-minute extended drum solo entitled “All The Same.” There are no less than five covers here; two Dylan covers, “Like A Rolling Stone” and “All Along The Watchtower,” clock in at eight minutes each, two Jimi Hendrix covers, “Hey Joe” and “Stone Free,” and an absolutely fun cover of “Wild Thing” closes the set. Interestingly enough, the one song that feels absolutely out of place is their signature hit, “Nature’s Way,” as its delicate, soft, and wistful nature doesn’t seem to fit the otherwise heavy vibe of the night.
California and the band so thoroughly enjoyed the show that they decided to release it as a live album. Unfortunately, when they listened to the live recording, they were horrified at how muddy and rough they sounded. Thus, California would take the songs into the studio and sweeten them up, resulting in the live album Live Spirit, offered in its entirety here. The songs have been noticeably sweetened to the point of not even sounding live at all, with “Nature’s Way” sounding nothing like the live recording. (Then again, some questions exist as to whether or not the album’s recordings came from the London show, and have been repackaged as being recorded elsewhere.)
Unfortunately, Spirit would break up shortly after they finished this touring cycle, but would reconvene on and off over the next decade and a half, until California’s tragic death in 1997 after saving his son from drowning. Two Sides Of A Rainbow offers a delightfully raw document of a highly underrated talent giving 110% at a low point in their career, showing just how dedicated California was to his muse.
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