Friday, 26 June 2020

"Long John Silver/Thirty Seconds Over Winterland" by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE – July 1972 (Studio) and April 1973 (Live) LPs on Grunt Records (USA and UK) featuring Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen, Papa John Creach and John Barbata with Guest Drummers Joey Covington and Sammy Piazza on the Studio Album and Guest Vocalist David Freiberg on the Live LP (27 March 2020 UK Esoteric Recordings Reissue – 2LPs onto 2CDs (No Bonuses) – Ben Wiseman Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Trial By Fire..."

Jefferson Airplane's seventh and final studio album (as JA) "Long John Silver" was US released in late July 1972 on their own Grunt Records with a 7-track live reminder of their August/September 1972 US 'Silver' tour captured on "Thirty Minutes Over Winterland" – released April 1973. Both albums (minus any bonus material) are gathered here by England's Esoteric Recordings with New Remasters from original Grunt Records tapes in another typically exemplary reissue.

"Silver" charted well at home - peaking at No. 20 but only made No. 30 in the UK LP charts at the beginning of September 1972 and for only one week. "Winterland" pushed it to No. 53 in America in April 1973 but failed to ignite any real interest in Blighty where the band was seen as something of a 60ts spent force. And that's where this reissue comes in.

Typically rated in music guides as 5 out of 10 type-material from the classic line-up pens of Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Jack Casady, Papa John Creach and Jorma Kaukonen - Esoteric wants you to reconsider. Like most fans at the time, I liked the elaborate and clever packaging for both records but wasn't too fussed on the music in the actual grooves. And I didn't start listening again until I heard Craig Chaquico's incendiary lead guitar playing on December 1974's "Dragon Fly" LP when it was featured by Bob Harris on 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' - by which time the group was now the newly-named Jefferson Starship.

Maybe I missed something, Esoteric say. And having honestly not heard these platters in over 45 years and with these new remasters - the dapper English reissue lads may have something of a point (in places). Let's get to the cigar-box and the flying clock-toasters...

UK released 27 March 2020 - "Long John Silver/Thirty Seconds Over Winterland" by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE on Esoteric Recordings QECLEC22707 (Barcode 5013929480780) offers two albums from 1972 and 1973 newly Remastered onto 2CDs (no bonus tracks) that plays out as follows:

CD1 (42:19 minutes):
1. Long John Silver [Side 1]
2. Aerie (Gang Of Eagles)
3. Twilight Double Leader
4. Milk Train
5. The Son Of Jesus
6. Easter? [Side 2]
7. Trial By Fire
8. Alexander The Medium
9. Eat Starch Mom
Tracks 1 to 9 are their seventh studio album "Long John Silver" - released July 1972 in the USA on Grunt Records FTR-1007 and August 1972 in the UK on Grunt Records with the same catalogue number. Produced and Arranged by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE - it peaked at No. 20 in the USA and No. 30 in the UK.

CD2 (37:48 minutes):
1. Have You Seen The Saucers? [Side 1]
2. Feel So Good
3. Crown of Creation
4. When The Earth Moves Again [Side 2]
5. Milk Train
6. Trial By Fire
7. Twilight Double Leader
Tracks 1 to 7 are the live album "Thirty Seconds Over Winterland" - released April 1973 in the USA on Grunt Records BFL-1-0147 and April 1973 in the UK on Grunt Records FTR 0147. Produced by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE - it peaked at No. 53 in the USA (didn't chart UK) and the band featured David Freiberg on Vocals as well as the "Long John Silver" line-up of Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen, Papa Jon Creach and John Barbata.

The three-flaps foldout card digipak feels substantial and it includes the artwork for both LPs spread across the digipak and 20-page booklet. You get '9 Fine Blends Of Fragrant Weed' artwork that came with original copies of the elaborately packaged 'Silver', the JA cigars inner and band photos, the lyrics to both sets, the fat man cartoon for the live Winterland set, period photos and the marijuana pictured on the original vinyl has even been repro'd beneath each see-through CD tray. It's nicely done and toped of with new liner notes from MIKE METTLER called "Oh, I Think That's Something You Might Have Missed!"

For sure JA fans may lament that the extended concert versions which appeared on the "Last Flight" 2CD reissue in 2007 would have complemented the live CD here and there was room to place some of the tracks too. But I think the New Remasters by BEN WISEMAN from original Grunt Records tapes more than makes up for any omissions. Both of these forgotten LPs feel alive and kicking anew - especially the studio set which is way better than I remember it. Let's get to the music...

The deliberately muddy production of "Long John Silver" combined with Slick's vocals feeling like they're in some adjacent hotel room lends the rollicking song about a man who's like a clock that needs no winding a sort of ramshackle magnificence. The same doomy vibe permeates Slick's "Aerie (Gang Of Eagles)" but this time the guitar work feels plodding. Creach and his violin come into the fore on "Twilight Double Leader" - the treated guitars now with more punch. "I just want to ride it some of the time..." Slick howls on "Milk Train" which feels like a rage at drugs taking much of her body and getting close to relieving her of most of her mind too. It's angry and one of the LP's better full-frontals.

The tirade continues with two attacks on organised religion - "The Son Of Jesus" and "Easter?" where JA speculate that Jesus may have had a daughter and Pope John should stop talking in a language no one understands or wants (Latin). The acoustic opening of "Trial By Fire" sounds great on this Remaster - Jorma Kaukonen making his vocal and songwriting presence seen for the first time. Love that sloppy guitar too and that final solo as he attacks some judgemental jerk with "...don't try to tell me just who I am when you don't know yourself..." Kantner sounds unconvincing on "Alexander The Medium" - another JA tune that threatens to be great but never quite gets there. It ends on the guitar riffage of "Eat Starch Mom" where Grace rants at men and their machines and their dumb statements.

The Live LP opens with a performance of "Have You Seen The Saucers?" from San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom taped in September 1972, the band sounding more coherent than they did on the studio album. They give it some Lou Reed Rock 'n' Roll Animal guitar groove in the eleven and half minutes of "Feel So Good" - Creach and crew stretching out in what feels like a really good Grateful Dead jam. The August 1972 Chicago Auditorium crowd roars their approval for "Crown of Creation”. They give it some Rock 'n' Roll on "Milk Train" - guitar and violin doing battle. Even better is "Trial By Fire" - five minutes of moving on out to the highway - Kaukonen adding some Allman Brothers cool to proceedings with his slinky groove. And it ends with a stretched out "Twilight Double Leader" - five and half minutes of guitars and combined vocals.

Both platters and their congested kind of Rock are of course period pieces now and you wouldn't say either album deserves more than five out of ten in 2020. But this reissue has done their forgotten grooves proud. Wings on clock toasters - well of course there are...

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