Son of America


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Son of America Review

by William Ruhlmann

Archivist Mick Skidmore, assembling his fourth collection of largely unreleased Spirit recordings for the British Acadia label (following Sea Dream, Blues from the Soul, and Live from the Time Coast), "puts more of an emphasis on [bandleader Randy California's] songwriting abilities," as he reveals in his liner notes. In particular, California's political views come out on several of the songs, his views for the most part reliably left-wing, with the possible exception of "City of Angels," an acoustic ballad that sounds like it may have been written around the time of the Los Angeles riot of 1992. In the song, California laments the rise of gangs and sympathizes with the outnumbered police, while taking something of an anti-immigrant posture, noting that his grandparents came to the U.S. "through the front door," while later immigrants have overrun the country, arriving "through the backdoor." As Skidmore notes, this seems a change in attitude from the more critical view of the police expressed in California's '60s song "1984." Skidmore intersperses the songs with what are no doubt many guitar instrumental interludes to be found in California's archives, filling up the album's first disc to 79-plus minutes. The second disc runs just as long, but some of it may sound familiar to Spirit fans. The first archival Spirit album to be released after California's death, Cosmic Smile was compiled by Bruce Gary, and Skidmore presents what is essentially his version of that album on the second CD here, although most of the songs are presented in alternate or remixed form. This CD is billed as a "bonus disc," and indeed Acadia is charging only £1 more for the album than it does for its single-CD collections. But the U.S. list price is $24.95, so for Americans the "bonus" aspect of the set will be lost. Still, given that the poorly distributed Cosmic Smile sold fewer than 1,500 copies and is out of print, this album allows fans a second chance to acquire the material, another good bunch of California and Spirit songs consistent with the tracks on the first disc.

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