Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review: Jefferson Airplane's 'Flight Log: (1966-1976)'

The record industry may still be struggling, but reissues of classic albums certainly seem to be arriving with vigor. Even some of the odder compilations have started receiving sonic upgrades. HD Tracks recently issued the U.K. editions of The Rolling Stones’ Big Hits albums as high-def FLAC files (they never even made it to CD). Now BGO is issuing the Western CD debut of Flight Log (1966-1976), the most eccentric comp by one of the most eccentric—and the best—San Fran psych group: Jefferson Airplane. Well, this 1977 double album is credited to the Airplane, but that’s a bit of a misnomer. The first disc is mostly devoted to that band, but the second checks in on the various projects the individual band members got up to following Jefferson Airplane’s early ‘70s dissolution. There are selections from Jefferson Starship, Grace Slick solo, Grace Slick with Paul Kantner, Hot Tuna, and Jorma Kaukonen’s Quah.

The song choices are unusual, passing over most of the popular favorites collected previously on The Worst of Jefferson Airplane for folkier album cuts that present the Airplane as a less punky band than they really were. The post-Airplane tracks are oddballs, too. There’s nothing from the Starship’s breakthrough Red Octopus (and thankfully, this set appeared years before rubbish like “We Built This City” or “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” could have made the running). Rather we get a gritty workout from Hot Tuna that allows Kaukonen room to show off his superior finger-picking skills: the guy was a good electric guitar player, but an absolute dynamo on acoustic. There’s also Jefferson Starship’s magical “Have You Seen the Stars Tonight”, some Slick histrionics on “Silver Spoon”, her more conventionally pretty “¿Come Again? Toucan”, and Quah’s lovely baroque folk “Genesis”. The booklet reproduces Patrick Snyder’s vivid original liner notes, as well as a priceless shot of the band dolled up as lounge lizards.

I love the idea of compilations like this getting second airings. A lot of listeners used such collections as gateways into the catalogues of their favorite bands, so they pack maximum nostalgia value. I’d personally love to see Good Vibrations: The Best of The Beach Boys (1975), The Beatles’ Rarities (1980), and Monkee Flips (1984) dragged out of the basement and into the mastering booth. Flight Log is a nice start, though.

Get Flight Log (1966-1976) at Amazon.com here.
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