Spirit, Kaleidoscope, Chicago Transit Authority: Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica CA; Procol Harum, Santana, Blue Morning, Aum: Rose Palace, Pasadena CA

Spirit, Procol Play Concerts

GOOD GOLLY, what a weekend of rock ‘n’ roll!

On Friday night Spirit didn’t so much perform for its overflow audience at the Santa Monica Civic as make musical love to it. The result was, to understate it drastically, one of the most satisfying and all-around happy rock concerts in recent months.

The highlight of this Topanga-based group’s long set came at the conclusion of a long piece in which the stark and jagged ‘Mechanical World’ led into the joyously rocking ‘I Got A Line On You’. The latter song was received with nothing less than ecstasy, with people clapping along and dancing on their seats from its opening riff.

And Spirit really is something to see, hear and love. Behind an arsenal of electronic gadgets Randy California, whirling and dancing in accompaniment to the spiraling melodic lines and fuzz-tone avalanches he coaxes from his funny department-store guitar, is one of the best guitarists in rock.

The rest of the band is nearly as good. Drummer Cassidy, sort of an elfish Mr. Clean, and bassist Mark Andes constitute a wonderful rhythm section in which pianist John Locke, who’s usually inaudible, might be included. Singer Jay Ferguson plays some surprisingly good percussion and, in being infectiously exuberant, is the glue that binds audiences to the group.

Two other very good rock bands shared the Friday night bill with Spirit. Kaleidoscope, perennially the most underrated group in Los Angeles, was excellent, as usual.

The CTA, a swaggering seven-headed R ‘n’ B band that comes complete with brass, played such lovely, easily-grooved-to stuff at the beginning of its set that it can be forgiven for its closer, ‘Liberation’, which consisted mostly of loud and repetitive guitar-playing, some cheap and uncalled for psychedelia and a boring number of codas.

A splendid time was had by all Friday sight.

HAD SCENIC Sounds not been suffering from simultaneous lapses of judgment and taste the Procol Harum concert Saturday night might have been as great a knockout.

As for judgment, having Blue Morning and the Santana Blues Band on the same bill was, because the groups so resemble one another, a waste of time.

If there was one thing West coast rock doesn’t need, it is another over-poweringly loud and vulgar power trio that imitates Hendrix, which is exactly what it has gotten in Aum, from San Francisco.

Procol Harum is, despite its mystifying lack of an enormous American following, one of the world’s best rock ‘n’ roll groups, and their performance Saturday night was uplifting.

Perhaps the group’s main strength is singer Gary Brooker’s voice, which is able to climb a searing octave above what would seem its upper limit.

The group’s set opened with three rockers from its second album that was propelled mostly by B.J. Wilson’s viciously hard drumming and Brooker’s powerful yelling. ‘Crucifiction Lane’, from the group’s new album, was sung by guitarist Robbie Trower, who sounds considerably better live than on record.

The generally obnoxious audience was a bit too busy clanging tambourines or giggling at the light show’s Dracula sequence to be affected by the unthinkably beautiful ‘A Salty Dog’. But the group managed to recapture the teenies’ attention with the rocking ‘Cerdes’, which was followed by premature goodbyes and the group’s best-known number, ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’.

© John MendelssohnLos Angeles Times, 17 April 1969

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