Better Generation

Marty Balin

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Better Generation Review

by Joe Viglione

A truly great artist like Marty Balin deserves so much more than what the record labels who issued his solo work gave him -- and all the good intentions of CD Review magazine founder Wayne Green could not stop the politics of his upstart label from getting in the way of important art. It's a pity because these songs are much better than what you hear from the cold and sterile environment of Green's brand new recording facility used to track most of this disc. The first album cut in the barn in New Hampshire was a tribute to Scott Joplin, and Marty Balin's Better Generation was the second. The late Jimmy Miller always said to use a studio that doesn't need to have the bugs ironed out, and that wisdom rings so true on Better Generation, an album of good music recorded at an inadequate facility. The album deals with GWE (Green With Envy, a terrible name for the short-lived label) emerged from Balin's negotiations with producer Jimmy Miller. Miller very much wanted to produce Balin, and in 1988 a deal was struck with Mission Control Studios (no relation to the company that handles the Jefferson Starship, also, coincidentally, called Mission Control). New Kids on the Block were recording with studio owners the Jonzun Crew and the brothers Jonzun kindly opened the doors to this project -- it was the investor with Jimmy Miller's company who completely dropped the ball. Three years elapsed between the Miller talks and the creation of this album. The songs are there; "Green Light," "Better Generation," "Skydiver," "Treading Water," and "See the Light" are all very workable. "See the Light" is very Jefferson Airplane and, with better production values, had the potential to be another Balin classic. Kerry Kearney's guitar lines are wonderful and Marty Balin is in great voice. Modern Lovers backup singer Ellie Marshall and Kirshner/CBS vocalist Didi Stewart were brought to the sessions, and Marty Balin was thrilled at the prospect of these two great Boston ladies (both with records on CBS at different points in time) singing on Better Generation. His wife, Karen Deal, squashed that immediately, wanting to keep the vocals on the album coming strictly from the musicians. The tragedy of it all -- the new version of "It's No Secret" could have been produced by the late Jimmy Miller, could have had the great Didi Stewart and Ellie Marshall on vocals, could have been a new masterpiece. This is a record and an artist with terrific heart -- both held back by politics of a new label, new studio, and other forces at play. As stated, it is a real heartbreaker. "Summer of Love" was on the original demo tapes Balin sent out prior to the album deal, a version tracked before the reunion of the Jefferson Airplane on CBS. "Mercy of the Moon," perhaps the best recorded track, is from those tapes and features Willie Weeks on bass. What GWE should have done was just release the demos; they were and still are excellent. The song "Even Though" kind of sums it up. A great melody, wonderful performance from the band, music clouded by the new "digital studio" falling apart around them. Some of the songs were remixed at Blue Jay Studios in Carlisle, MA, a world-class facility, but it was a case of too little too late -- the entire disc should have been tracked where the third Joe Perry Project album was born. Writer and Jefferson Airplane biographer Jeff Tamarkin accurately wrote of this disc: "His smooth-as-silk voice as inviting as ever, Balin showcases new material and remakes a couple of Airplane favorites on this 1991 recording." That he does, but the album could have been so much more -- as stated -- great songs, great performances, so much potential. Go find the demos.

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