Tent of Miracles

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Tent of Miracles is one of the best Spirit albums by the trio version of the act, the Randy California/Ed Cassidy ensemble which carried on with the name. This time the third member is bassist Mike Nile, and the album works because Nile gets to be more than a sideman, he actually contributes as the original group did, with results that are most satisfying. Tent of Miracles is a wonderful album title, and the disc opens with Ed Cassidy's jungle drumbeat instrumental "Borderline," typical of the band's bold 1990s sound. More serious and refined than the Mercury records releases in the mid-'70s, decades on the road touring, along with having those highly experimental albums behind them, make this a very musical and mature chapter. "Zandu" is your Randy California "Kahauna Dream"-style exotic guitar with its mechanical metallic stomp, a song similar to but lighter than Roxy Music's "Manifesto." California's co-write with stepdad Ed Cassidy, "Stuttgart Says Good-bye," is "Eight Miles High" gone tribal and expands the theme. This 1990 album has an inadvertent concept which is a delight to the legion of Spirit fans who cared enough to seek it out. The title track is an eerie "I Want Candy" redux with the real stunner being that it is a Mike Nile original, a major contribution from a Spirit member not originally part of the group. The almost six minutes mesmerize and are everything Spirit was ever about. It follows in the dreamy quagmire that is "Stuttgart Says Good-Bye" and the earlier "Love From Here" style. "Love From Here" has elements of the later 1994 track "One By One," a Randy California original which outdoes the excellent "Love From Here," providing insight that the late singer/songwriter was in a groove and in a good creative state, despite lack of major label support for his latter-day efforts. The band actually becoming a full unit with serious contributions from the bass player adds a cohesion missing from some of the '70s work. Mike Nile's originals not only keep pace with Randy California, they seem to give Randy and this version of the band focus. The final of the dozen songs, Nile's "Deep in This Land" holds to the theme and sound of the title track, as well as Nile's other originals, "Old Black Magic," "Ship of Fools," and the tune all three bandmembers composed, "Imaginary Mask." "Tent of Miracles" holds many secrets and is that extension of The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus that California was seeking for so many years.

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