Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Jefferson Airplane Flies Again

There are two tremendous new releases of live Jefferson Airplane material that warrant your attention. They are both on the Charly label out of Europe. The first is At The Family Dog Ballroom. Recorded in September of 1969 in San Francisco, this recording showcases the band during what I consider their best period - following their landmark Volunteers album and before the rancor that split them up fully took hold. The band is unbelievably tight and the musical side of things just shine with Jorma and Jack at the height of their improv powers, and Grace, Paul and Marty singing their hearts out. The material is heavy on Volunteers including some rarely played songs like “The Farm” and “Good Shepherd” and a powerful “Wooden Ships.” For collectors the most interesting thing might be the 20 minute freeform jam that ends the CD and features Jerry Garcia wailing away with the band. The sound is crisp and the packaging is really nice with great liner notes. This is essential.

Slightly less essential, but still quite a nice addition for Airplane fanatics is Last Flight which captures the bands final concert at San Francisco’s Winterland on September 22, 1972. Taken from the same source material as the bands great 30 Seconds Over Winterland album, this 2 CD set includes the entire show featuring the post-Balin band with Papa John Creach on fiddle and a ton of material from their final albums. A very interesting setlist showcases some very strong playing by the entire band and great versions of “When The Earth Moves Again,” “Trial By Fire,” “Feels So Good” and many other never-heard songs. The Airplane remain one of the most sophisticated and politically charged bands of the 1960’s and their mystique seems to just grow with the years.

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