Jefferson Airplane

Long John Silver

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The final Jefferson Airplane studio album -- if their half-hearted 'reunion' from 1989 isn't (and really shouldn't be) counted -- presented yet another alteration in the band's lineup. Not only would Long John Silver (1972) be the second project minus co-founder Marty Balin (vocals), who left after Volunteers (1969), but Joey Covington (drums) also split before the long-player was completed, forming his own combo, the short-lived Black Kangaroo. Covington contributes to a pair of Paul Kantner's (guitar/vocals) better offerings "Twilight Double Leader" and "The Son of Jesus," while Hot Tuna kinsman Sammy Piazza (drums) lends a hand to Jorma Kaukonen's (guitar/vocals) whimsical "Trial by Fire." Eventually, Turtles' and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young percussionist John Barbata (drums) would fill the drummer's stool for the remainder of the Airplane's rapid descent. He would likewise make the transition alongside Kantner, Grace Slick (piano/vocals) and Papa John Creach (violin) into the brave new world of Jefferson Starship. Even more so than on their previous platter, Bark (1971), the material featured on Long John Silver rather blatantly exposes the two disparate factions to have emerged from the once unified Airplane. The Kaukonen/Jack Casady (bass) offshoot -- à la Hot Tuna -- and Kantner/Slick, whose Blows Against the Empire (1970) from two years earlier clearly pointed to the exceedingly cerebral approach evident on Slick's indistinct "Aerie (Gang of Eagles)" and "Easter?," or the mid-tempo meandering of Kantner's "Alexander the Medium." The edgy, blues-infused rocker "Milk Train" is one of the few standouts on Long John Silver, giving Creach a platform for his ever-adaptable and soaring fiddle. Quite possibly the heaviest selection on the package is the Slick/Kaukonen co-composition "Eat Starch Mom." Appropriately, it concludes the effort on a positive charge with the Airplane hitting on all cylinders before landing the craft (for all intents and purposes) the last time. When the LP hit store shelves in the summer of 1972, it became instantly notorious for the cover that transformed into a cigar (read: stash) box. The inner sleeve went as far as reproducing the image of tightly compressed domestic ganja, replete with sticks, seeds and stems.

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