VH1 Behind The Music: Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship Collection (2000)

Kronomyth 14.5: BE HIND, REWIND. Combining the pieces of the crashed Airplane and fallen Starship has always been fool’s work, so who better for the job than MTV/VH1? The truth is that no one can reconcile Alice, Jane & Sara, no matter how you build the backstory. And using Grace Slick as the linchpin is nonsense; logo maybe, but structurally speaking she was only one spokesperson in a moving wheel. If I sound grumpy, it’s because the band’s hits were such soulless endeavors. Without Paul Kantner’s islands of integrity to rest at, you’re just swimming in starshit for sixty minutes. By album’s end, you’re left wondering if the original Airplane was anything more than psychedelic stylemongering, given how ingeniously they adapted to the soft rock of the 70s and the studio rock of the 80s. The reason people make compilations like this isn’t to tell a story but to sell records. A single-disc compilation that includes “Somebody To Love,” “White Rabbit,” “Miracles” AND “We Built This City” would be nigh irresistible to most rock radio listeners, they reckon. But it’s a Frankenstein’s monster they’re selling, with the head of a psychedelic 60s band, the hairy chest of a 70s rock band and the butt of a thousand jokes about the 80s. Here’s the story the way I tell it: the Airplane was high from the beginning and crashed after the 60s; Kantner, Slick and (eventually) Balin crawled from the wreckage and started their own commercial airline in the 70s; that airline got bought out by a corporation in the 80s and Grace Slick was hired as their spokesmodel. The first book in the trilogy, Jefferson Airplane, is the only interesting one, so better to buy a compilation that digs deeper into tracks like “Lather” and “The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil.”

The Songs
1. Somebody To Love (Darby Slick) (2:57)
2. White Rabbit (Grace Slick) (2:32)
3. Comin’ Back To Me (Marty Balin) (5:20)
4. Embryonic Journey (Jorma Kaukonen) (1:52)
5. Crown of Creation (Paul Kantner) (2:53)
6. Volunteers (Marty Balin/Paul Kantner) (2:02)
7. Miracles (Marty Balin) (6:51)
8. With Your Love (Marty Balin/Joey Covington/Vic Smith) (3:34)
9. Count On Me (Jesse Barish) (3:14)
10. Runaway (N.Q. Dewey) (5:21)
11. Jane (David Freiberg/Jim McPherson/Paul Kantner/Craig Chaquico) (4:11)
12. Be My Lady (Pete Sears/Jeannette Sears) (3:50)
13. No Way Out (Peter Wolf/Ina Wolf) (4:22)
14. We Built This City (Bernie Taupin/Martin Page/Dennis Lambert/Peter Wolf) (4:53)
15. Sara (Ina Wolf/Peter Wolf) (4:51)
16. Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now (Diane Warren/Albert Hammond) (4:29)
17. It’s Not Over (‘Til It’s Over) (Robbie Nevil/John Van Tongeren/Phil Galdston) (4:18)
18. It’s Not Enough (Martin Page/Tommy Funderbunk) (4:51)

The Players
Audio restoration by Bill Lacey, digital transfers by Mike Harty. The collection was compiled by Bill Thompson and Paul Williams and produced by Paul Williams. I have no earthly idea what that production would have involved, other than calling for “more Starship” in a loud and insistent voice.

The Plastic
Released on CD on September 12, 2000 in the US (BMG/RCA, 67969-2). Album design by JRJ Associates Inc., with liner notes by Michael Hill.

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