Classic Rock Review

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Randy California Kapt. Kopter and the (Fabulous) Twirly Birds (1972)


Review If you’re here, then you know. Just pull out your credit card while you read this.

First, the Jimi thing. Randy California may have influenced him, rather than vice versa. In “Jimi Hendrix Electric Gypsy”, we read about how a young California runaway played in a band with Hendrix for a little while. His name was Randy Wolfe. Since there were two Randy’s in the band, Jimi called them Randy Texas and Randy California.

The latter went on to form Spirit with Ed Cassidy. Shortly after Jimi’s death, Randy C. turned solo, letting his guitar playing burn more than it had in the jazzier Spirit.

His first solo album, “Kaptain Kopter and the Fabulous Twirly Birds”, is as devout a testament to Hendrix’s music as has ever been waxed. Mind you, it isn’t a _great_ album. Randy never did get very good at being a front-man. And the crew obviously toked up and decided to fiddle with every dial on the mixing board, not always to enjoyable effect. In fact, much of the album sounds like it’s being played through blown tweeters–the joke being that they’ll save us the trouble, I suppose. But check out his cover of “Day Tripper.”

It is very much in the same vein as the Jimi version on the Radio One cd. “Devil” is an affecting acid ballad, I guess you’d call it. “Downer” is a cacophany of guitar noise–heavy, man! “Things Yet To Come” is a long, simple tone poem for bass line and wah-wah, very early 70’s, very groovy, very hard to get out of your head. And he hits an opposite field upper deck home run with another Beatles cover, “Rain”.

It starts off with a silly country-rock riff which gets progressively more manic. This collapses into a hideous laugh, and the song gets in gear, in earnest. California overdubs himself VERY druggy lead, and letting fly with some jimi-ish glissandi, screeching and swooping over the song.

This is the song that the Rolling Stone reviewer was probably thinking of when he called the album a “mega-watt garage bomb.” To make the Hendrix tribute more obvious, Randy brought in Noel Redding to play bass, under the name “Clit McTorius.” One listen to this and you’ll immediately catch velvet pants, fringed leathers, American flag headband, the whole trippy works. The cd has kind of a half-baked feel to it, but the well-done parts are well done indeed. Any chance to buy this out of print cd is to be seized immediately.

Review Musician’s musician and guitarist extraordinaire for Spirit, Randy California and friends outdid themselves for his first solo album, Kapt Kopter and the (Fabulous) Twirly Birds (1972).
Twirly Birds probably flew high over most heads at the time, no doubt one of the reasons it was a one-off. It’s an excursion into “hardest rock” territory similar to Randy Holden’s Population II (1969) and pre-dating Robin Trower’s high-strung second try, Bridge of Sighs (1974).

Twirly Birds is intriguing. Each song is chaotic yet danceable. Layered with his guitars left, right and center, with two drummers at times, weaving twenty-minute-plus jams into five or six minute studio productions, all is as tight as possible without the whole ball of springs flying apart.

Randy’s vocals are impressionistic, sounding like a sly yet strung-out Jimi Hendrix. The three R. California songs trail the Cream however: Devil being Badge; Downer coming off like Crossroads; Rainbow out to out-balls Jack Bruce (“She ain’t no lady or no wife, just a little girl to set me free…”).

Except for these and two bonus songs (of which the instrumental Rebel is the most precious) the rest are covers, rebranded like only Randy California did or could.
No purer cover of the Beatles’ Day Tripper exists. One can imagine the Beatles performing their masterpiece wearing matching suits and grinning throughout, but not so Randy’s version where “taking the easy way out” is no joke.

James Brown’s I Don’t Want Nobody becomes a down-and-dirty rock anthem (“I don’t want nobody to give me nothin’. Open up the door, baby. Let me get it my-self!”), but oh, so, hard-driving, you believe Randy is alpha male heart and soul.

On CD, this 2010 version sounds better than the LP, to be played loud over and over without fatigue. You can search and search elsewhere for a sonic distillation, 80-proof like this one, and come up empty. This was Randy California at his self-produced best, peaking like a rainbow after the breakup of the original Spirit.

January 7, 2014 Posted by | Randy California Kapt. Kopter and the (Fabulous) Twirly Birds | , | Leave a comment