Sea Dream

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Spirit spent four years as a rock quintet, followed by a quarter-century of being a format for showcasing guitarist, singer, and songwriter Randy California. The major labels lost interest by the mid-'80s, but California continued to perform and to make numerous recordings in his own studio until his death by drowning at the start of 1997. Cosmic Smile, released in 2000, was the first posthumous album to be drawn from his archives, and Sea Dream, the second, marks (according to Mick Skidmore, who assembled it) the beginning of a series of further ones. At first glance, the title seems unfortunate to the point of being in bad taste, yet Skidmore writes that "Sea Dream is not meant to portray some dark fascination with the macabre but was used because one of the unreleased projects that Randy had been working on at one point was a 'spiritual' album entitled Sea Dream." Skidmore re-creates this proposed album on the second disc here with a largely instrumental "Sea Dream Suite" as well as other material that reflects on California's interest in Eastern religion. The first disc, on the other hand, contains a variety of songs chosen because they had a familiar, Spirit-like sound. That sound is rooted in California's warm electric guitar playing. Still, these recordings, most of them quieter and more melodic than much of Spirit's hard-rocking repertoire, seem a bit more like California solo work than band recordings, despite the presence of longtime Spirit drummer Ed Cassidy and backup keyboard player Scott Monahan on many of them. Although sometimes taken from low-fidelity cassettes, the tracks are, for the most part, anything but unfinished performances. (Skidmore notes that he sometimes chose one from among dozens of takes.) California is well represented on what should just be among the earliest of many albums to come.

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