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Archive for the ‘Jefferson Airplane’ Category

[ATTENDED: December 8, 2016] Jefferson Starship

2016-12-08-20-07-51I had no interest in seeing Jefferson Starship, but they were opening for Blue Oyster Cult and, heck I love White Rabbit, so why not check them out.

This incarnation of Jefferson Starship is pretty hilarious because the only person in the band who was in the band when they were Jefferson Starship is guitarist David Freiberg (vocals, guitar) (almost–the drummer has a tenure there too, see below).  It’s particularly amusing because Freiberg was in Jefferson Airplane for their final tour, and then they broke up.  When Jefferson Starship began a couple years later, he was a part of the band until they went on hiatus in 1985.  But when Paul Kantner reunited the band in 1993, Freiberg wasn’t included (apparently because Freiberg didn’t leave immediately when Starship formed, like Kantner did).  They made up in 2006 and Freiberg and Kantner had been touring as Jefferson Starship.  Kantner died earlier this year, so Freiberg is the only person connected with the original band left.

Interestingly, he left when Jefferson Starship became Starship, (but not as quickly as Kantner) because he didn’t like the direction the band was going (and Grace Slick considered him “dead weight”).  So he didn’t do “We Built This City.”  However, Donny Baldwin, the drummer at our show played with Jefferson Starship for two years (when Freiberg was there, too) in the 1980s and moved on to Starship and DID play on “We Built This City.”  When they reunited, they had a different drummer, but Baldwin came back in 2008.  So, when they play “We Built This City,” and they do, the drummer is the only one who was responsible for it in the first place.  Crazy.

Incidentally, Freiberg more or less left because of “We Built This City.”  According to Wikipedia: He became frustrated with the sessions because all the keyboard work in the studio was being done by Peter Wolf (lead singer of the J. Giels Band who had played on the sessions for Nuclear Furniture and briefly joined the band on the road for the follow-up tour) and keyboards were the instrument Freiberg was supposed to be playing.  He left the band and the album (with “We Built This City” which was written by written by Bernie Taupin, Martin Page, Dennis Lambert, and Peter Wolf) was finished with the five remaining members.

2016-12-08-20-23-29How’s that for a convoluted history. (more…)

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tsugeSOUNDTRACK: MOPS-“White Rabbit” (1968).

mopsAfter totally grooving on The Mops’ songs in yesterday’s post I decided I had to check out their cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.”

And, boy do I love it.  It came from their debut album Psychedelic Sound in Japan which was released in 1968 (“White Rabbit” came out in 1967).   The album also includes covers of “Somebody to Love” by Jefferson Airplane, “Light My Fire” by The Doors and two songs by The Animals.  They received much press for being the “first psychedelic band” in Japan, and performed with elaborate light shows.

Lead singer Hiromitsu Suzuki really nails all the notes (even if he doesn’t quite nail all the words), but I especially enjoy the instrumentation they employ–the violin is an interesting addition.  And the way the instruments are separated in headphones (all drums in the right ear?) is really psychedelic.

It is really a trippy version (“Somebody to Love” is pretty fine too, especially when the really buzzy guitar kicks in about half way through).

Trash Market

Tadao Tsuge is a Japanese cartoonist considered “one of alternative manga’s cult stars.”  He has been making cartoons since 1959 and has contributed to all manner of Japanese publications.

What seems to set him apart from other cartoonists (according to the interviews and such that fill out the book) is that Tadao grew up in the slums of Tokyo and is willing to write about them.  He also worked for many many years at a blood bank (one that paid people for their blood).  It was there, amid the terrible conditions, that he believes he contracted hepatitis.

The amazing thing to me while reading these six cartoons (which I assume are only a tiny fraction Tadao’s total output, but I’m not sure) is that I had no idea when they were written–they have a timelessness that is really amazing.  So when I finally flipped back to the front and saw that the first story was written in 1968, I was blown away. (more…)

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jun9SOUNDTRACK: FOXYGEN-We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic (2013).

foxyI had no idea this was Foxygen’s third album (they have a new album out this week as well).  I had only heard of this because of NPR.  And I was delighted with the band’s utterly retro feel and sound–so much retro that it is almost too much.  But they do it with such flair that it works.  Indeed, the whole feeling of this album is one of sampling all of recent music history–with elements thrown in haphazardly (but effectively) and really celebrating a whole 60s/70s vibe with a sprinkling of modern technology.

“In the Darkness” is a 2 minute piano heavy track with horns, big swelling vocals chorals and all kinds of joy.  “No Destruction” though is where the retro sound really shines.  Sounding like a Velvet Underground track with a sweeter singer (who is no less blase).  Except that the chorus rises into a glorious hippie happiness.  It also features funny lines like the deadpan, “There’s no need to be an assshole you’re not in Brooklyn anymore.”

“On Blue Mountain” opens with a kind of Flaming Lips vibe (deep morphing voices counting down), but Sam France has a much higher pitched voice as he sings the slow intro.  Once the song kicks in faster, the real hippy vibe (combined with some Rolling Stones and some girlie backing vocals) kick in.  There’s even a big friendly chorus (that reminds me of “Suspicious Minds”).  After almost 4 minutes, the song shifts gears entirely into a raucous sing along  (with what sounds like a children’s choir).

After the manic intensity of “Mountain,” “San Francisco” emerges as a sweet delicate flute filled hippie song.  This was the first song I heard by them and I loved it immediately–the simple melody, the delicate (funny) female responses, the swelling strings. it was delightful.  “Bowling Trophies” is a weird little less than two-minute instrumental that leads to the glorious “Shuggie.”  “Shuggie” is the least hippie song on the album and screams more of a kind of French disco pop, with some wonderful lyrics.  The chorus is just a rollicking good time and the wah wah synth solo is terrific.  At three and a half minutes the song is just way too short, although it seems that anything that last longer than 4 minutes will shift gears into something else eventually anyway.

“Oh Yeah” brings in a staggered kind of sound, with some interesting breaks and stops.  It also inserts some doo-wop into it.  I love how the end once again shifts gears into a “freak out” with a wild guitar solo and fast drums.  The title song is fuzzy and distorted (the vocals are nearly inaudible).  It’s fast paced but still very retro sounding (Jefferson Airplane?) except for the modern electronic and guitar breaks.  And of course, the last minute is entirely different from the rest of the song, as well.

The album ends with “Oh No 2,” a five-minute track that begins as a slow swelling almost soundtrack song.  Indeed, when the spoken word part (“I was standing on the bed, birds were landing on my head”) emerges later on, it comes close to The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which is not a bad thing), including the piano outro (with slightly out of tune voice).

This whole album could just be an obnoxious rip off of old timey sounds, but instead it’s more like a fun reference point for those who know the music and just a fun good time for those who don’t.  And at something like 35 minutes, it never overstays its welcome.

[READ: September 17, 2014] “The Bad Graft”

This year’s Summer Fiction issue of the New Yorker was subtitled Love Stories.  In addition to all of the shorter pieces that were included in this issue, there were also four fiction contributions.

This was the final story in this issue and, sadly for me, it was the one I liked least.  It has three sections: I. Germination; II. Emergence; III. Establishment.  And while I enjoyed (mostly) section I., I really didn’t enjoy the turn the story took once it entered section II and the “plot” emerged.

The story opens with two young (actually not that young) lovers traveling towards Joshua Tree.  This couple is madly in love and are basically eloping.  Except, of course, that they don’t want to ever get married, so it is a symbolic elopement.  On their first date they had decided to run away together.  They left their homes in Pennsylvania more or less unannounced, took all their money and drove to the desert.

Andy and Angie, for that is what their names are, prepared well with Andy having, among other things a large knife (note to Chekovians).  After a few days they are startled to discover how expensive this road trip is.  But they are undaunted because they are in love.  Of course, they are also exhausted and perhaps a little on edge.

When they arrive at Joshua Tree, it is 106 degrees.  The park ranger informs them that they have arrived in time to see the yucca moths do their magic with the trees.  he calls it, the ‘pulse event.”  The entire range of Joshuas is in bloom and the moths are smitten.  This sounds exciting but it is also sad, as the Joshua Teees may be on the brink of extinction and this massive blossoming is like a distress call.

With all of this set up, it is a total surprise when half way through the section, the story informs is that “This is where the bad graft occurs.” (more…)

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jun9SOUNDTRACK: THE PEANUT BUTTER CONSPIRACY-“It’s a Happening Thing” (1967).

pncWho would have guessed that a band from 1967 would come up with a name that seems relevant in 2014 (what with all the peanut allergies).  But they didn’t have that on their minds when they named the band.

I’m not sure that I knew of this band (they are mentioned in this story–although I had heard of the Flamin’ Groovies, also mentioned), although by now they seem like an obvious touchstone.  Because this is a major hippie band.  Indeed, this song seems almost quintessentially hippie.  The title, obviously.  But also the (sixties) fuzzy guitar, the super funky bass, the group vocals (very Jefferson Airplane).  The wild solo with even more fuzz on the guitar.  I especially enjoy the descending vocal line at the end of the chorus.

It’s a fun song, although kind of forgettable (possibly because of the lyrics).  After the chorus, the most repeated line is “Love is the grooviest thing up til now in the world.”  Up til now?

A little research says that the production on their second album is less obviously hippie, but this seems to be their most notable song.

Peace Man.

[READ: September 17, 2014] “Here’s the Story”

This year’s Summer Fiction issue of the New Yorker was subtitled Love Stories.  In addition to all of the shorter pieces that were included in this issue, there were also four fiction contributions.

This story takes a look at an already extant story and finds a story beneath it.  I didn’t realize this until about two paragraphs from the end of the story when it all came clear.  And then in retrospect I realized that there were a lot of hints thrown into the story and either I should have figured that out or, more likely, Gilbert made the hints minor and casual so that, like me, a reader might realize what he or she missed at the end of the story.

I’m not going to give anything away about the story; however, at the end of this post I’m going to put some of the hints that made me tilt my head at the story which proved to pay off in the end).

But without that information, the story was compelling but also frustrating.  Gilbert starts out the story so that you know there will be a sad ending: “It ends with his right hand griping her left…the plane is on final approach.”  The two people, both married meet and think about having an affair.  Both of them are pretty unhappily married with children and living in California.  But the story is told as an impartial report: “we also know that seven weeks earlier the Los Angeles Dodgers played their final game of the season.” (more…)

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lp8SOUNDTRACK: CHASTITY BELT-“Black Sail” (2013).

noregerstChastity Belt are notorious for their band photo.  And the fact that their album is called No Regerts (sic).  By rights they should play ugly abrasive punk or something weird and edgy and probably a little scary.

So imagine the surprise when “Black Sail” opens and sounds like a Guster song–simple chords with a very catchy melody (it reminds me of a rawer version of “Architects and Engineers”).

Then the vocals come in and the singer sounds a bit like Jefferson Airplane-era Grace Slick–powerful but kind of slow.  It’s a very compelling mix.

Especially when things change in the chorus–a simple, pretty guitar riff leads us into the simple chorus “black sail, strong wind.”

The difference between the image and the music is so striking that i wonder if I’d have been as taken with the music with out the picture.  Was this a brilliant strategy or just a really bad idea (it has already made a list of unfortunate band photos).  You can decide for yourself, I’m including the picture at the end of the post.

And you can listen to the song on NPR or at their bandcamp site.

[READ: September 12, 2013] “Amaranth”

Amaranth is a 12-year-old girl who goes by the name Merry.  She is out driving with her father one night when he gets a call from his business partner.  Amaranth pretends to be asleep while her father goes to talk to the man.  But rather than a conversation, the partner, Otto, kills her dad.  And Amaranth saw the whole thing happen.

Amaranth is devastated.  But she is even more devastated when Otto starts coming around.  Like a remake of Hamlet, soon Otto and Amaranth’s mother are getting married.

Amaranth wants nothing to do with this; the rest of the story details the ways she rebels against the unpardonable acts.

First she begins starving herself.  She eats just enough to survive but her mother hates how thin she is getting. Eventually they send her to a place for girls with eating disorders.  She returns plumper, but with a new scheme.  This time her rebelliousness gets her put into a special hospital. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JUNE TABOR & OYSTERBAND-“Bonnie Bunch of Roses” (2011).

Two artists that I have heard of for years but who I have never really listened to. This was described in the NPR music review as something The Decemberists might sing.  And indeed, it has a very Decemberists feel to it (which makes sense as this is a traditional song and, evidently, Tabor has been a master of this style for years.  ( I had no idea her voice was so deep–it adds a nice level of malice to this song about Napoleon.

The band is tight as they play this rollicking, dark shanty and Tabor’s voice is haunting (do I detect a similar style to Linda Thompson?) as she sings these lyrics of loss.  The music builds and builds as the song reaches its climax, but what’s neat is that Tabor never really changes her tone.  She is matter of fact, despite how sinister the music becomes.  It’s a very cool song.

I did some research and found out that tabor and the Oysterband got together in 1990 for the album Freedom and Rain, which was a collection of traditional songs as well as covers of Richard Thompson, The Velvet Underground, The Pogues, and Jefferson Airplane (I can’t believe that album is pretty well out of print–it sounds amazing).  This collaboration is more or less a follow-up, with more traditional songs and covers of PJ Harvey, Joy Division and others.

I’m really looking forward to listening to this disc and to what will certainly be the triumphant re-release of their first disc collaboration quite soon.

[READ: September 14, 2011] Storm Warning

Book Nine in the 39 Clues series made me feel like a kid again.  I started reading it when I got home from work and I stayed up till way late in the night to finish it.  Unlike when I was a kid, though, I am really suffering for staying up so late last night.

Storm Warning was written by Linda Sue Park, the first woman to write in the series.  And, appropriately, this is a very female-centered book.  We learn a lot about Nellie (finally, her story is explained!), the story focuses somewhat more on Amy than on Dan, there’s more evilness from Isabel Kabra, but most importantly, the clues lead them to two important women in history. 

They head down to the Caribbean–although they are undecided about whether to go to the Bahamas or Jamaica (Dan wants to go to the Bahamas to go to the greatest water park in the world: Oceanus–which is really the Atlantis Water Park) but Amy believes the answer is in Jamaica.  Dan convinces her and they decide to go to the Bahamas and the water park for a few hours of fun.  But the crazy thing is that before they even bought their tickets to the Bahamas, Nellie went into the bathroom and Dan received a message that the Holts were on their way to the Bahamas too.  Could Nellie be ratting them out?

On the flight down, they grill her about what’s going on.  But what happens is that for the first time in the series, we get into Nellie’s head.  Not completely, but we get to hear her thoughts.  So we know that she’s still hiding some truths, but she reveals that she has been working for Mr McIntyre and reporting to him about all of the family’s moves.  She was well paid for her services and she knew that there would be danger, but she had no idea exactly what the kids would be getting up to.  Dan and Amy are stunned.  They are betrayed and furious.  [I have to say I think they totally overreacted–Nellie saved their asses many many times along the way].  They agree to let Nellie come along with them but they’re not going to share any plans with her. (more…)

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black-holeSOUNDTRACK: BLACK MOUNTAIN–In the Future (2008).

black-mountainAn ironically titled disc, surely.  Black Mountain is a Vancouver-based band that specializes in 70’s era psychedelia with a heavy dose of Black Sabbath.  Yet, like Dungen or other bands that tread this “revivalist” style, they don’t mimic the sound..they definitely sound contemporary, but the vibes of the 70s are constant.

Black Mountain features two singers: Stephen McBean and Amanda Webber.  Webber’s voice in particular harkens back to an amalgamation of Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane, Nancy Wilson and the collective voice of Fleetwood Mac. McBean sounds like several singers of the era too.

“Stormy High” opens the album with the best Black Sabbath riff that Sabbath never wrote.  It sounds like something straight out of Sabotage.  “Angels” slows things down into a kind of Bad Company vibe, complete with trippy 70s keyboards in the middle of the song.  “Wucan” sounds more contemporary (the vocals in particular remind me of something, but I can’t place it) and “Stay Free” is a nice acoustic ballad.  “Queens Will Play” gives Webber the spotlight and the song in particular sounds like a wonderfully creepy take on Fleetwood Mac.

Although some of the songs are longish (6-8 minute), most of them are fairly brief.  Except, of course, for the 16 minute “Bright Lights”.  I think it’s fair to say that 8 minutes could be cut off of this song and it would still be great.  The middle riff-tastic part is really fantastic, but the opening and the noodley keyboard solo could easily be lopped off.

The disc also came with a bonus disc of 3 songs.  Each one adds to the mythos of this fascinating band.  I’m curious about their debut release as well.

[READ: November 8, 2008] Black Hole

My friend Andrew loaned me this book.  I had recently read an interview with Charles Burns in The Believer (and more abou that in a moment), which excerpted this book.  It looked really good, but then I promptly forgot about it.  And Andrew filled in the gap for me.

Charles Burns’ work appears in astonishingly diverse places.  I know him mostly because he is the cover heavy-metalartist for The Believer, (his interview in that magazine is pretty great) and his been since its inception. But I also know him from the early 80s when he was an artist with Heavy Metal magazine–when I did a search for this magazine, this was one of the results, and I distinctly remember it being in my magazine collection (gosh, some 25 years ago?). (more…)

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