Esoteric [Release date: 27.03.20]
Bed fellows of the early ’70s, the Airplane’s last studio release for 17 years and a subsequent live album ensemble woozily in a heyday fade.
Where the ’60s releases were taped under the clock in Hollywood for RCA, Long John Silver was destined for the band’s own Grunt imprint. This meant it could be recorded in its native San Francisco, in its own time and without too much direct interaction – which suited its increasingly jaded members given how social distraction had pulled back their joint focus.
Somewhat overlooked in its day, it’s a better album with a few decades under its belt. While there is raggedness at times here, after the false start of its meandering titular opening track, ‘Silver’ spreads out a meld of trademark harmonised folk rock with blistering psych-imbued workouts, notably on closer ‘Eat Starch Mom’, overlaid by Grace Slick’s strident-to-angry vocal.
En route ‘Twilight Double Leader’, ‘Milk Train’ and ‘Alexander The Medium’ stand out, guitarists Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen (moonlighting from side project, Hot Tuna) and electric violin from ‘Papa’ John Creach assure a steady head of steam.
The 54-year old Creach comes to the fore on 1973′s Thirty Seconds Over Winterland. If ever there was a calling card for Jefferson Airplane as a live proposition, this was it.
Recorded in Chicago and at San Francisco’s Winterland venue, Creach’s interplay with the guitarists picks up to forge some thrilling standout moments in a consistently strong set that takes in former glories in ‘Have You Seen The Saucers’ and ‘When The Earth Moves Again’.
Its last hurrah released and going out with a bang (‘Silver’ was a tad faded but it was still no whimper), the Airplane strapped on jets and headed into the cosmos to ‘ride the tiger’ as Starship. ****
Review by Peter Muir
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