Jefferson Airplane: Long John Silver (1972)

[Kronomyth 9.0]
The last Jefferson Airplane album. After you played it, the album converted into a “cigar” box and the band converted into a jukebox.

Rolling Stone ripped this a new one on its release, but I never read Rolling Stone. Bark didn’t bite in my book; it was eclectic, sure, but adventurous too. Long John Silver is the last adventure of the Jefferson Airplane. The album cover was designed to shock: it converted into a box to store your weed. The music is also designed to shock: “Easter,” “Son of Jesus,” “Eat Starch Mom.” If you haven’t been offended by Grace Slick already, I can’t imagine being offended now. I felt that Bark showed a band moving in different directions, while LJS is the same band expending the last of its increasingly directionless energy. The record does make a strong case for bringing Papa John Creach on board, as his violin mixes sweetly with the rest of the band and gives the songs a strange, spectral and almost elegiac quality. It had become clear, however, that Slick/Kantner and Kaukoken/Casady had split into separate factions. Kaukoken’s “Trial By Fire” and Kantner’s “Alexander The Medium,” for example, sound like the work of different bands. Slick and Kantner had grown long in the tooth by this stage, writing meandering protest songs and science-fiction fairy tales that felt like Hawkwind transported to an alternate, acoustic universe. As unfocused as it is, LJS is seldom less than interesting. The opening pair of tracks, “Long John Silver” and “Aerie,” are fearless in their freedom and artfully conceived in spots. You’ll find exciting instrumental passages, thought-provoking themes and blows against the establishment—in other words, the same ingredients that are synonymous with the best of Jefferson Airplane. What you won’t find on here is a hit single or definitive moment in the history of the Airplane, making it one of the least essential (if not the least essential) album from the original group. But even a bad Jefferson Airplane album is better than most things, including nearly all of the Jefferson Starship albums that came after.

Original LP Version
A1. Long John Silver (Jack Casady/Grace Slick)
A2. Aerie (Gang of Eagles) (Grace Slick)
A3. Twilight Double Leader (Paul Kantner)
A4. Milk Train (Papa John Creach/Grace Slick/Roger Spotts)
A5. The Son of Jesus (Paul Kantner)
B1. Easter? (Grace Slick)
B2. Trial By Fire (Jorma Kaukonen)
B3. Alexander The Medium (Paul Kantner)
B4. Eat Starch Mom (Jorma Kaukonen/Grace Slick)

Arranged by Jefferson Airplane.

The Players
John “Goatee” Barbata (drums, tambourine and “against the grain” stubble scratching), Jack Casady (bass), Papa John Creach (violin), Paul Kantner (rhythm guitar and vocals), Jorma Kaukonen (lead guitar and vocals), Grace Slick (piano and vocals) with Joey Covington (drums on A3/A5), Sammy Piazza (drums on B2). Produced by Jefferson Airplane; production coordination by Pay “Maurice The Magnificent” Ierace; engineered by Don Gooch; special thanks to Steve Barncard.

The Pictures
Album concept & design by Pacific Eye & Ear. Illustrations by Bob Tanenbaum, Propella Rotini. Photography by Bruce Kinch.

The Plastic
Released on elpee, 8-track and reel-to-reel tape on July 20, 1972 in the US and the UK (Grunt, FTR/P8FT/EGPA-1007) and Germany (Grunt, 26.21175) with cigar box cover and lyrics innersleeve; reached #20 on the US charts (RIAA certified gold on January 4, 1973) and #30 on the UK charts. 8-track features different track listing. Also released on elpee in 1972 in Japan (Grunt, RCA-6040) in single-sleeve cover.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 2005 in Japan (RCA, BVCM-37631).
  2. Re-packaged with Volunteers and Bark on 3CD in 2011 (RCA, 85431).
  3. Re-packaged with Bark on 2-for-1 remastered compact disc in 2013 in the UK (Beat Gos On, BGOCD1122).
  4. Re-issued on remastered compact disc in 2013 in the US (Culture Factory) and on November 13 ,2013 in Japan (Vivid Sound, VSCD-9152).

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