Jefferson Starship

Across the Sea of Suns

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Since Paul Kantner reorganized Jefferson Starship in 1991 following the demise of Starship, this is the most ambitious recording the band has undertaken. The unit, also featuring Kantner's long-term partner, Marty Balin, with whom he formed Jefferson Airplane in 1965, is a seasoned group also boasting guitarist Slick Aguilar, who has been with the principals since their 1985 manifestation as the KBC Band, and drummer Prairie Prince, who has been onboard since 1991. Diana Mangano has been handling the female vocals formerly essayed by Grace Slick since 1994, while keyboardist Chris Smith was added later. As demonstrated here, the band is a Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship repertory group who ranges around the musical history of the groups Kantner and Balin led in the 1960s and '70s. The bulk of this two-hour-plus double-CD live set, recorded mostly in clubs and theaters in June 2001, consists of material from the Jefferson Airplane albums Surrealistic Pillow and Volunteers and the Jefferson Starship albums Dragon Fly and Red Octopus. There are also obscure songs from the bands' catalogs, as well as numbers from Kantner and Balin's solo efforts. The versions are looser than the studio originals, and Balin's smooth tenor has acquired some grit as he approaches his 60th birthday. A sleeve sticker describes the album as the "first live release of many," but the Airplane/Starship never had quite the concert reputation (or repertoire) of their fellow San Franciscans the Grateful Dead, and this band is more of re-creation than the real thing, so it remains to be seen whether they can develop a similar audience for a series of live recordings, especially if those recordings are going to be new ones instead of vintage performances. This initial release reveals their approach to be competent and somewhat dated, not magical.

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