L.A. in the mid '60s was a boundless place. In that hothouse environment Ed Cassidy (drums), Randy California (guitar), Jay Ferguson (vocals) and Mark Andes (bass) came together as the progressive Red Roosters. It didn't last. '66 found Cassidy and California playing in NY, soaking up influences and riding the vibe. But that didn't last either. The following year they were back on the left coast and reunited with their Red Rooster partners for Spirits Rebellious. It was shortened to Spirit a few months later.
Ed Cassidy was an interesting character. He had been a working musician longer than the other group members had been alive. In fact, he was old enough to be their father. In fact again, he later married California's mom. So this became a family that played together (see below). Finally, in an era of long hair, Cassidy had a cleanly shaved head.
There was also the notable addition of John Locke on keyboards. Locke came from a Jazz background and aside from heading the John Locke Trio he was also a founding member of the New World Jazz Company.
Early on this band actually tried to merge Rock and Jazz. "Fresh Garbage" started out like a Rock song (with lead singer Jay Ferguson's quirky lyrics) then stopped for a Trad- Jazz solo. When that was done it was back to the Rock song. They followed this pattern on a couple of songs. With Randy California on guitar and John Locke on keyboards. Spirit had the talent but the concept was flawed. That's why their best remembered songs were straight-ahead Rockers ("I Got A Line On You" & "Mr. Skin").
California went on to a totally uninspired and completely neglected solo career. Ferguson had a two hit solo career with "Thunder Island" and the good timing "Shakedown Cruise." That was after tanking in the under appreciated Jo Jo Gunne (name taken from a Chuck Berry song-guess their influences). Andes faired best of all. After a brief stint in the wimp-pop Firefall he managed to land a gig in the '80s Heart line-up.
While "The Family That Plays Together" and "Clear" are better, Spirit's self-titled debut is something to hear. There's the woeful dirge of "Mechanical World" and Ferguson's wistful Rocker "Fresh Garbage." Nice ode to the late '60s "anything is possible" attitude.
Spirit's best album "The Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus" with "Mr. Skin" came very near the end of the line but shows the group at its most creative. "Time Circle" compilation covers the essential Spirit.