[Review] Paul Kantner/Grace Slick: Sunfighter (1971)

The album that proves being born with a Silver Spoon in your mouth isn’t always a good thing.

Kronomyth 2.0: Mommy was a witch, Daddy was a wolf.

I don’t believe rock & roll is inherently evil, but any album that opens with a cannibal feast, well, that’s some pretty obvious evil. Sunfighter is a rejection of the light. Grace Slick’s opening “Silver Spoon” makes Shakespeare’s witches sound like candy stripers. Paul Kantner shape-shifts into wolf form for “When I Was A Boy I Watched The Wolves” and “Holding Together.” You knew that Grace and Paul weren’t going to get the Good Housekeeping seal of approval as new parents, yet they seem hell bent on stirring the cauldron with these songs. You don’t have to look any further than “Look At The Wood” to see where they stand in the battle of good and evil.

I enjoyed Blows Against The Empire a lot. Bark too. Surely, the bite of “Silver Spoon” is worse than its bark. The rest of the record, however, lacks the strong concept of the one and the strong material of the other. Initially, I thought this might be a concept album, which took me down strange avenues. Years ago, an irritable reader pointed out that I was lost in my review (and basically told me where I could go). Maybe I’ve never forgiven Sunfighter for making me feel foolish. I returned here wanting to find something good to say about this record, convinced that, after their last record together, Paul Kantner and Grace Slick were taking the Airplane to new heights of social consciousness. Instead, this is a dark album that feels like outtakes from their last two efforts.

Empire sang of a brighter future, Sunfighter sings of a savage, supernatural present. Maybe they were trying to fashion new gods for a new world, or reviving the old gods to replace the fat, happy, American gods of hearth and hopeful optimism. Or maybe I’m just drifting off into strange waters again, on due course for a second comeuppance. Given the amount of talent involved, Sunfighter should have more to show for itself. Kantner and Slick are incapable of not being interesting; they’re also capable of being better than this.

Original LP Version

A1. Silver Spoon (Grace Slick) (5:40)
A2. Diana – Part 1 (Grace Slick/Paul Kantner) (0:52)
A3. Sunfighter (Paul Kantner) (3:50)
A4. Titanic (Phill Sawyer) (2:25)
A5. Look At The Wood (Grace Slick/Paul Kantner) (2:08)
A6. When I Was A Boy I Watched The Wolves (Grace Slick/Paul Kantner) (4:59)
B1. Million (Paul Kantner) (4:02)
B2. China (Grace Slick) (3:17)
B3. Earth Mother (Jack Traylor) (3:16)
B4. Diana – Part 2 (Grace Slick/Paul Kantner) (1:01)
B5. Universal Copernican Mumbles (Pat Gleeson/John Vierra/Paul Kantner) (2:03)
B6. Holding Together (Grace Slick/Paul Kantner) (7:40)

Original 8-track version
A1. Silver Spoon
A2. Look at the Wood
A3. Titanic
B1. Diana
B2. Sunfighter
B3. When I Was a Boy I Watched the Wolves
C1. Million
C2. China
C3. Earth Mother
D1. Diana 2
D2. Universal Copernican Mumbles
D3. Holding Together

The Players

Paul Kantner (vocals, rhythm guitar), Grace Slick (vocals, piano) with Jack Casady (bass on A1/B2), Craig Chaquico (lead guitar on B3), Joey Covington (drums on A1/A3/B2/B6), Papa John Creach (violin on A1/B3), David Crosby (vocals & tambourine on A5, vocals on A6/B4), Spencer Dryden (drums on B3), Jerry Garcia (guitar on A6/B1/B6), Pat Gleeson (Moog & piano on B5), Edwin Hawkins Singers (vocals on A3), Jorma Kaukonen (lead guitar on A5), Peter Kaukonen (guitar on A3, mandolin on B6), Bill Laudner (vocals on B1), Graham Nash (ARP synthesizer on A5, vocals on A6/B4), Phill Sawyer (sound effects on A4), Steven Schuster (flute on A1, flute, saxophone & horn arrangement on A3, saxophone & horn arrangement on B2) ,Shelley Silverman (drums on A6), Tower of Power: Greg Adams, Mic Gillette (horns on A3/B2), Jack Traylor (guitar & vocals on B3), John Vierra (synthesizer & keyboards on B5), Chris Wing (drums on B2). Produced by Paul Kantner, Grace Slick; engineered by Pat Ieraci (Maurice the Miracle Man); tru engine hearing by Phill Sawyer.

The Pictures

Cover and booklet assistance by Acy Lehman. Lights inside by Mary Ann Mayer, Joan Chase. Booklet assistance by Gary Blackman.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track  in December 1971 in the US and the UK (Grunt, FTR/P8FT-1002) and Japan (RCA, SRA-5534) with gatefold cover and lyrics booklet; reached #89 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the US (RCA, AYL1-4385).
  2. Re-issued on elpee and compact disc in April 1989 in the UK (Essential, ESS 001).
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc on July 29, 1997 in the US (RCA, 67421).

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