Jefferson Airplane - Long John Silver (Great Album US 1972)

Jumat, 26 Oktober 2012

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1971 was a year of major upheaval for Jefferson Airplane. Grace Slick and Paul Kantner had begun a relationship during 1970 and on January 25, 1971 their daughter China Wing Kantner was born. Grace's divorce from her first husband had come through shortly before this, but she and Kantner agreed that they did not wish to marry.

In March 1971, Airplane's founder and co-lead singer Marty Balin decided to officially leave the band after months of isolation from the others. Although he had remained part of the band's live performances after the band's creative direction shifted from the brooding love songs that he specialized in, an emerging drinking problem, compounded by the evolution of the polarized Kantner/Slick and Kaukonen/Casady cliques, had finally left him the odd-man-out. He had also been deeply affected by the death of his friend Janis Joplin and began to pursue a healthier lifestyle; Balin's study of yoga and new teetotaler lifestyle further distanced him from the other members of the group, whose prodigious drug intake continued unabated. This further complicated the recording of their long-overdue follow-up to Volunteers, as Balin had recently completed several new songs, including "Emergency" and the elongated R&B-infused "You Wear Your Dresses Too Short" (both of which would later see the light of day on archival releases).

On May 13, 1971, Grace Slick was injured in a near-fatal automobile crash when her car slammed into a wall in a tunnel near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Her recuperation took several months, which forced Jefferson Airplane to cancel most of their concert and touring commitments for 1971.

The band still managed studio dates during 1971. Their next LP Bark (whose cover featured a dead fish wrapped in an A&P-style grocery bag) was issued in September 1971 as the inaugural release on the band's Grunt Records vanity label. Although it was the final album owed to RCA under the band's existing contract, manager Bill Thompson eventually struck a deal with the company to distribute Grunt.

The single lifted from the LP, "Pretty As You Feel", was excerpted from a longer jam featuring Carlos Santana and featured lead vocals by Joey Covington, the song's composer. It was the last Jefferson Airplane single to place on the US singles chart, peaking at #60.

By this time, creative and personal tensions within the group were becoming a major factor. Even with the departure of Balin, the creative & personal divisions between Slick and Kantner on the one side and Kaukonen and Casady on the other persisted. (Jorma Kaukonen's song, "Third Week In The Chelsea," from Bark, chronicles the thoughts he was himself having about leaving the band). These problems were exacerbated by escalating drug use – namely Slick's alcoholism – which caused the Airplane to become increasingly unreliable in their live commitments and led to some chaotic situations at concerts. By the beginning of 1972 it was evident to most people close to the group that Jefferson Airplane was teetering upon collapse.

The band held together long enough to record one more LP, Long John Silver, which was begun in April 1972 and released in July. It was clearly a rather desultory effort from this once-great group, since by this time the various members were far more engaged with their various solo projects -- Hot Tuna, for instance, had released a second (electric) LP during 1971, which proved even more successful than its predecessor, while the sessions for Bark were interspersed with Hot Tuna and Kantner/Slick duo sessions. Though still a nominal member of the band, Joey Covington had immersed himself in the production of his own album with Peter Kaukonen and Black Kangaroo on Grunt; consequently, John Barbata (formerly of The Turtles and CSNY) played on most of the album and continued on for the promotional tour that followed. The Long John Silver LP is notable mainly for its cover, which folded out into a humidor (presumably for the storage of marijuana).

With the formal departure of Covington and addition of Kantner's old friend David Freiberg on vocals, Jefferson Airplane began a tour to promote the Long John Silver LP in the summer of 1972, their first concerts in over a year. This tour included a major free concert in Central Park that drew more than 50,000 people.

They returned to the West Coast in September, playing concerts in San Diego, Hollywood and Albuquerque, culminating in two shows at Winterland in San Francisco (September 21-22), both of which were recorded. At the end of the second show the group was joined on stage by Marty Balin, who sang lead vocals on the final song, "You Wear Your Dresses Too Short".

Although no official announcement was ever released, the Winterland shows proved to be the last live performances by Jefferson Airplane until their reunion in 1989. By the beginning of 1973 Casady and Kaukonen had left the group to concentrate on Hot Tuna and their recently acquired love of speed skating, which Freiberg had reluctantly taken up in an attempt to bolster group camaraderie. With Kantner and Slick, he would record the unsuccessful Baron Von Tollbooth and the Chrome Nun before the creation of their own Airplane offshoot, Jefferson Starship; both Kantner and Slick would record further solo albums.

Jefferson Airplane's second live album, Thirty Seconds Over Winterland was released in April 1973. It is now best remembered for its cover art, which depicts a squadron of flying toasters, a design that the band later alleged was plagiarized for the famous "After Dark" computer screensaver design.

In 1974, a collection of leftovers -- singles and B-sides, including "Mexico" and "Have You Seen The Saucers," as well as other non-album material -- was released as Early Flight, the last official Jefferson Airplane album.

The final Jefferson Airplane studio album — if their half-hearted 'reunion' from 1989 isn't (and really shouldn't be) counted — presented yet another alteration in the band's lineup. Not only would Long John Silver (1972) be the second project minus co-founder Marty Balin (vocals), who left after Volunteers (1969), but Joey Covington (drums) also split before the long-player was completed, forming his own combo, the short-lived Black Kangaroo. Covington contributes to a pair of Paul Kantner's (guitar/vocals) better offerings "Twilight Double Leader" and "Story of Jesus," while Hot Tuna kinsman Sammy Piazza (drums) lends a hand to Jorma Kaukonen's (guitar/vocals) whimsical "Trial by Fire." Eventually, Turtles' and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young percussionist John Barbata (drums) would fill the drummer's stool for the remainder of the Airplane's rapid descent. 

He would likewise make the transition alongside Kantner, Grace Slick (piano/vocals) and Papa John Creach (violin) into the brave new world of Jefferson Starship. Even more so than on their previous platter, Bark (1971), the material featured on Long John Silver rather blatantly exposes the two disparate factions to have emerged from the once unified Airplane. The Kaukonen/Jack Casady (bass) offshoot — à la Hot Tuna — and Kantner/Slick, whose Blows Against the Empire (1970) from two years earlier clearly pointed to the exceedingly cerebral approach evident on Slick's indistinct "Aerie (Gang of Eagles)" and "Easter?," or the mid-tempo meandering of Kantner's "Alexander the Medium." The edgy, blues-infused rocker "Milk Train" is one of the few standouts on Long John Silver, giving Creach a platform for his ever-adaptable and soaring fiddle. 

Quite possibly the heaviest selection on the package is the Slick/Kaukonen co-composition "Eat Starch Mom." Appropriately, it concludes the effort on a positive charge with the Airplane hitting on all cylinders before landing the craft (for all intents and purposes) the last time. When the LP hit store shelves in the summer of 1972, it became instantly notorious for the cover that transformed into a cigar (read: stash) box. The inner sleeve went as far as reproducing the image of tightly compressed domestic ganja, replete with sticks, seeds and stems.

01. "Long John Silver" (Jack Casady / Grace Slick) 
02. "Aerie (Gang of Eagles)" (Grace Slick) 
03. "Twilight Double Leader" (Paul Kantner) 
04. "Milk Train" (Papa John Creach / Grace Slick / Roger Spotts) 
05. "The Son of Jesus" (Paul Kantner) 
06. "Easter?" (Grace Slick) 
07. "Trial by Fire" (Jorma Kaukonen) 
08. "Alexander the Medium" (Paul Kantner) 
09. "Eat Starch Mom" (Jorma Kaukonen / Grace Slick) 

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