1986 was a banner year for Arista records with some ridiculous percentage of their releases going gold; if memory serves, it was around 85 percent. Carly Simon's resurrection that was Coming Around Again -- a VH1 special and inclusion on a soundtrack did the trick for her, while Whitney Houston's version of "The Greatest Love of All" continued that diva's supremacy. Unfortunately, the K.B.C. Band got lost in the shuffle, despite Boston producer John Boylan's presence (he produced the aforementioned Carly Simon record as well), but this one-off was an admirable project by exiled Jefferson Starship members Marty Balin and Paul Kantner, along with their Jefferson Airplane comrade Jack Casady. The album sounds better with age, Marty Balin taking a 1975 tune, "Sayonara," and giving it the rock edge missing from much of his solo work, as well as his beautiful soft rock performances with Jefferson Starship. K.B.C. Band is the missing link between Jefferson Airplane and what became the Starship. It's the Jefferson Airplane without Grace Slick, Mark Aguilar accepting the mantle from Jorma Kaukonen and Craig Chaquico. Aguilar's presence stretches into the new millennium, giving him a longer time with Balin and Kantner than his predecessors. "It's Not You, It's Not Me" gives Marty Balin that opportunity to sing on a natural progression from the days of the Jefferson Airplane to what Grace Slick and Mickey Thomas were doing on "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now." The difference is that No Protection, released around the same point in time, had Narada Michael Walden giving the techno/industrial sound of Starship the commercial edge. This album, though, is the genuine article. David Evan and Gene Hart's "Hold Me" is a beautiful ballad à la what Jesse Barish brought to the Marty Balin catalog, and Paul Kantner does an unusually commercial job on the very interesting "Mariel." Not only have Kantner and Balin settled their differences, they co-write three tracks, find strong outside material, and, more often than not here, deliver the goods. If "Dream Motorcycle" seems a bit indulgent, "No More Heartaches" rocks with authority, proving again this was the true direction the Jefferson Starship should have taken around the time they found Freedom at Point Zero. As if to make a statement about Grace Slick's Welcome to the Wrecking Ball album from six years earlier, Slick Aguilar and Tim Gorman write "Wrecking Crew" for Marty Balin to sing, and it is definitely fun. Gorman was keyboard player with the Who and the Spinners, but found a home with the latter-day Jefferson Starship in the '90s. Engineer from Baron Von Tollbooth and a prestigious blues producer in his own right, Jim Gaines co-produces most of the album with the band. Gene Hart and David Evan come up with another winner in "When Love Comes," one of two songs to get production help from Boylan. A 12" single of "It's Not You, It's Not Me" produced by John Boylan, Jim Gaines, and KBC preceded the album, while "America" also got the 12" single treatment, including lyrics. It became the album's most recognizable song, garnering MTV airplay and becoming a fixture in future Jefferson Starship shows, but it just wasn't enough to sell this really fine project. Had the band stayed on Arista for a few more albums, the Jefferson Airplane 1989 reunion might've had a better chance. As it is, this album has more sparkle and charm. The LP has a fascinating Jefferson Airplane family-tree poster showing all the branches of their musical tree. If you peek inside the cardboard, they actually printed imagery in the album sleeve without making it a gatefold. If Arista wasn't so busy being successful with other artists, this excellent recording might've had a fighting chance.
by Joe Viglione