Book Review: On Track… Spirit

Spirit is one of those bands that rarely gets its due. Co-led by supremely gifted drummer Ed Cassidy and his stepson Randy California (so named by Jimi Hendrix), the group scored a number of hits singles, most notably the ahead-of-its-time 1968 classic “I Got a Line On You.” The band’s body of work is well-regarded for adventurousness and inventiveness. Yet they’re too often overlooked or forgotten entirely by many.

Happily, the prolific Rev. Keith A Gordon sold the publishers at Sonic Bond on the idea of a Spirit compendium for their popular and extensive On Track series. With the tagline “Every Album, Every Song,” the series delivers just that: books that explore artists’ complete bodies of work from a sociological, musical and critical perspective.

Gordon’s writing style lends itself well to the format. The conversational tone of his prose coupled with his expertise and general feel for the music means that On Track… Spirit can serve equally as well as an enjoyable start-to-finish read and as a resource when a given song is heard or otherwise brought to mind.

The group’s catalog is extensive, including more than a dozen studio albums and an even longer list of live releases. Because the series’ format focuses on individual songs – albeit all of ‘em – those live releases are given a somewhat cursory treatment, but that’s by design. That said, Gordon devotes a dozen pages to providing reader/listeners with his critical take on which albums are worthwhile. He does the same for outside projects like California’s solo albums. And the whole thing is deftly placed into historical perspective through the author’s backgrounder on The Rising Sons and California’s work with Hendrix.

A 14-page glossy section in the softcover book’s middle serves up some wonderfully vivid photos; many are in full color. That’s something of a rarity in today’s budget publishing world. But Gordon has sourced some excellent images, both from his own collection and from those of colleagues. The 130pp book wraps up with useful and well-annotated appendix, buying guide and links to further resources. A very well put together volume, On Track… Spirit makes it clear (ha) that the good Reverend’s approach to this kind of project is ideally suited for the series.