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California Blues Redux

Review By Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck
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  Randy California gave the ultimate sacrifice, his own life to save another. In 1997 Randy and his son went body surfing and ran into an uncooperative ocean. Randy saved his son from certain death but paid the price with his own life. This is unfortunate but as with any artist that leaves behind a legacy and unfinished work, his legend continues to live on and grow with the passing of time.
Audio Fidelity and their focused reissue program has released a real gem called California Blues Redux. This was the newest Spirit release in 1996 simply titled California Blues prior to Randy's untimely passing.

Mick Skidmore worked on un-producing the source tapes by editing, remixing, and finally remastering all the tracks and now we have a finished product to enjoy. This is a great album. I never heard the original version so there is nothing for me to draw comparisons. I do know this is a fine recording and stylistically it reflects what differentiated Spirit from everyone else. Randy California was a good vocalist and a superb guitar player, one of the very best of his day and certainly, he would have continued to develop had he lived. His vocals were similar to that of Steve Miller and coincidentally the music was reflective as well, with a heavy emphasis on the blues. The bonus tracks and live bonus disc illustrate this nicely, particularly with simplistic solos like the closer on the first disc "Kind And Gentle Life" where Randy plays some great acoustic slide and a smokin' live version of "Red House" (disc 2), complete with screaming ear piercing solos, gobs of blues driven rock, and psychedelic runs.
The extensive liner notes by Mick Skidmore tell the story quite well with interesting details of the original sessions and his process in bringing this track-by-track redux version to life. I must say he did an excellent job, it sounds like a new release to these ears.

Standouts on the studio disc include the title track, which features Rachel Andes, daughter of guitar player and member of Spirit Matt Andes. Rachel was only 15 years old at the time but sported an incredibly gifted set of pipes that Randy loved. Her sweet sounds are found interlaced throughout this classic session. The cover of "Crossroads" is exceptional; they really make it their own, sounding unlike a version by Cream or Clapton for instance, making everything they did, original or a cover, very distinctive and unique. "Sugar Mama" is a real treat; a blues burner that features Randy's all-star cast, this time with Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger. This track is special because you get the best of both worlds - Randy in one channel and Robbie in the other. The track burns with the passion and fire of the blues.

These are but a few highlights of a set that is packed with great music. In total, you get 28 tracks on the two discs. California Blues Redux is a brilliant celebration of the work and influence of Randy California and the uniqueness of his band Spirit. This one is real keeper so do not miss it!




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