Cosmic Smile

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The first posthumous release from Spirit following the drowning death of its leader, Randy California, in 1997, Cosmic Smile is anything but a collection of leftovers. Though California regularly included original Spirit drummer Ed Cassidy in the group's performances and recordings, and encouraged the occasional appearance of former band members, Spirit was, in essence, his flag of convenience from the mid-'70s on. These studio tracks, recorded between 1990 and 1995, sometimes feature California alone, playing all instruments. They are all new, previously unreleased compositions from what is said to be an extensive archive. That's no surprise, since California and Spirit had trouble getting their material out through the major record labels after the group's first blush of success. One can easily imagine California writing and recording regularly without having the means to release his work. Anyone familiar with his previous material will recognize the music here. It is more often acoustic and introspective than some of Spirit's previous recordings, but it still has at its core California's melodic, yet stinging guitar work, his expressive singing, and lyrical concerns that range from romance to politics to spirituality. A couple of instrumentals, the melodic "Wave" and the harder rocking "Can't Sit Down (Livin' on Love)" testify to the guitarist's abilities. "Cosmic Smile is the first of many proposed installments from the vaults," notes annotator Mick Skidmore, and if so Randy California's ongoing recorded legacy will be some small comfort for his tragic loss.

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