"PERRO"CDとJEFFERSON STARSHIP DVD "Soiled Dove 2003"のレビュー
Sunday, November 1st, 2009
3:54 pm Paul Kantner on Planet Earth and Beyond
Beginning with Jefferson Airplane Takes Off (1966), Paul Kantner has been a main motor behind a series of interrelatedmusical congregations that keep alive an often unlikely legacy. While the names of the ensembles change, one, two, threeor more of the original Jefferson Airplane members keep coming together to record music that sometimes soars as highas Paul Kantner’s celestial visions. Or, sometimes, as in the last “official” Airplane reunion in 1989, Kantner, Grace Slick,Marty Balin, Jack Casady, and Jorma Kaukonen can sound like anarchic bumper cars bouncing into, off of, and away fromeach other?a situation not all that different from the days when their creative direction revolved around which malemember Grace Slick was sleeping with. Pun intended.
After Blows Against the Empire (1970), Paul Kantner became the ringmaster of most of the post-Airplane projects, notincluding, of course, Hot Tuna and the Starship of the “We Built This City” era. Through the years, when Kantner hasbeen center stage, the sound is unmistakably led by his full-throated imagery of stars, mountains, aliens, and dreams.With and without his most famous partners, Grace Slick, Marty Balin, and David Freiberg, Kantner’s expansive lyrics areusually voiced by rock and roll choirs supported by guitar and keyboard legends from the Airplane family who don’t mindtravelling with Paul into science-fiction, sociological commentary, political manifestos, and Eastern religion.
One of the most underappreciated of these projects was the August 1983 Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra, analbum I had only heard once at a friend’s house in the old vinyl format. For years, I’d been watching for the CD releasebut somehow missed the 2005 re-mastered edition. Finally, after ordering a now rare copy from the Japanese-basedPERRO Records?a label named after this album?I can now attest that Planet Earth is an unusual nugget collectors shouldseek out if Jefferson Starship is a band you either simply admire or, as with many a Kantner fan, adore.
While the album is described as a solo effort, this rather inconsistent and often fragmentary collection takes its namefrom a group of musicians that worked on albums for Graham Nash, David Crosby, and Mickey Hart. One highlight, "Mountain Song," co-written by Kantner and Jerry Garcia, was dedicated "to David C, Jerry G, Graham N, Grace S,David F, Billy K and Mickey H and to one summer when all of our schedules almost didn't conflict." Another standout,“Circle of Fire," was recorded originally for the
Jefferson Starship album, Winds of Change and features the lineup of JS at the time?Kantner, Grace Slick (who providesa healthy body of vocal here), Scott Mathews, Mickey Thomas, and David Freiberg. Airplane alum Jack Casady providesbass for the entire album along with Craig Chaquico (lead guitar), Pete Sears (piano), and Aynsley Dunbar (drums). Guestperformers included producer Ron Nagle (piano), Ronnie Montrose (lead guitar on the album’s low-point, "(She Is A)Telepath") and Flo & Eddie, not to mention Kantner and Slick’s daughter China singing a very nursery-rimish“Declaration of Independence.” Oh, and baby Alexander Kantner as well burbling some coos for "Underground."Altogether, this is a rock and roll orchestra indeed.
Admittedly, Planet Earth can be a confusing experience if the listener doesn’t know the context. In many ways, PERRO isa sequel to Blows Against the Empire, even carrying the sub-title “"The Empire Blows Back." The music was designed asthe “soundtrack” to a Paul Kantner SF novel in which a San Francisco band develops telepathic abilities which attractsthe attention of U.S. government agencies. The band escapes to the Australian outback where they set up a new life?well, you can find out about the book at?
"Welcome to PERRO ? Chapter One From the novel "Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra” by Paul Kantner".
However, even if you know the background, PERRO isn’t an obvious concept album as some of the material is etherealinstrumentals that don’t carry any plot. Some songs are short fragments that don’t explain much either?who is thisLilith in “Lilith’s Song” anyway? On it’s own, PERRO doesn’t really add up to the sum of all its parts, but rather thelistener can choose which of the parts that suit their tastes. For example, you don’t need lyrics to go on theinstrumental trip of "Transubstantiation: Part I: Esperanto / Part II: Science Friction." The introductory track, “PlanetEarth Rock and Roll Orchestra” is as alive and embracing as any of Kantner’s anthems along with its reprise concludingthe album, “Let’s Go.” Few Jefferson Starship projects were ever first to last track gold, so PERRO is in good company?even if it is difficult to find. More on that below?suffice it to say for now JA/S fans shouldn’t miss hearing “Circle ofFire” and “The Mountain Song”?as worthy of any songs anthologized on all those “best of” collections. Perhaps not ashot as “Ride the Tiger,” but certainly a step above most of Spitfire and Earth.
Speaking of “The Mountain Song,” that was the first offering on the DVD of Jefferson Starship Live at Soiled Dovereleased On April 7, 2009, an acoustic set filmed in 2003. It’s not a real JS concert in the sense of there being anyoriginal members on stage beyond Kantner himself. Instead, this stripped-down band?with no drummer?featured Kantner’s touring ensemble of Slick Aguilar (lead guitar), Chris Smith (keyboards), and as good as stand-in for Grace Slick as youcan find, Gospel-flavored vocalist Diana Mangano. This club date was more evocative of the Airplane than Starship withKantner and Mangano belting out “Wooden Ships,” “White Rabbit,” “Somebody to Love,” and “Ballad of Me and You andPooneil.” Kantner’s first Starship outing, 1970’s Blows Against the Empire, is represented by “The Baby Tree” and mostof the starship high jacking suite. The rest of the concert is mainly pleasant folk ballads held together by Kantner’sflowing rhythm guitars and Mangano’s soaring, wailing Slick imitations.
On one level, this concert makes this old Airplane/Starship lover yearn for a more full-blown Kantner extravaganza, buton another it’s good to hear a more folk/rock setting, taking Kantner back to the roots of his original band. It’ssometimes a bit disconcerting to hear “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love” sung by a different lady without drummerDanny Baldwin to back her, but then again this concert took place in a more intimate atmosphere than some Areana orstadium, making this performance certainly something special for those who were there and a rather gentle, surprisingexperience for those of us who wish we had been. PERRO and this live performance are very different animals, togethershowing the spectrum of Paul Kantner’s musical and philosophical interests.
The live DVD is available from a wide variety of outlets?however, the few remaining copies of Planet Earth Rock and RollOrchestra can only be found via Masahiro Yoshida’s Japanese PERRO label. Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org