Jefferson Starship: Craig Chaquico, Paul Kantner (vocals, guitar); David Freiberg (vocals, keyboards, bass); John Barbata (vocals, drums, percussion); Marty Balin, Grace Slick (vocals); Papa John Creach (violin); Pete Sears (keyboards, bass).
This 1979 compilation culls the hit singles and strongest album tracks from Jefferson Starship's four elemental-titled albums of the 1970s: 1974's Dragon Fly (evoking air), the 1975 number one smash Red Octopus (water), 1976's Spitfire (fire), and the more obviously titled Earth from 1978. These albums saw the Jefferson Starship hit-making machine at its peak, so this collection is a fine entrance for those new to the band's '70s material. It's a remarkably democratic set; tracks are selected evenly from Dragon Fly (three), Red Octopus (three), Spitfire (two), and Earth (three), and are divided fairly equitably among lead vocalists: Marty Balin (six), Grace Slick (four), and Paul Kantner/group (two). In the course of listening, it becomes obvious how strongly Balin's increasing MOR sensibilities were guiding the group's path as the decade progressed: By the end, he was singing all the radio hits. The Top 40 hits -- "Miracles," "With Your Love," "Count on Me," and "Runaway" -- are, of course, all included, as are a few of the group's more ambitious efforts: the sweeping soundscape "St. Charles," the heartfelt poetry of "Caroline," and the remarkable Grace Slick meditation on aging, "Hyperdrive." Unfortunately, owing to needless space considerations, some of the cuts are edited for length: "Miracles" is snipped from its seven-minute original to the 3:30 radio edit, and a minute is hacked from both "Runaway" and "Hyperdrive." The one unreleased track included, 1978's "Light the Sky on Fire," is an entirely forgettable Marty Balin vehicle with misplaced horns and a Pete Townsend-esque keyboard riff. Gold, as a compilation, doesn't adequately showcase the instrumental talents of lead guitarist Craig Chaquico, drummer John Barbata, fiddler Papa John Creach, or bassists/keyboardists Pete Sears and David Freiberg; nevertheless, it sits nicely as an overview of the group's multifaceted work in the second half of the decade. ~ Joseph McCombs
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