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4.6 out of 5 stars20
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 10 January 2001
Recorded in 1970, Paul Kantner's "Blows against the Empire" epitomises the best of American West coast "Hippy" music. Nominally by "Jefferson Starship" this album expands the themes of many Jefferson Airplane albums of anti-establishmentism and postulates the theory of escaping from authority in a space craft. Recorded in an era when musicians guested (offically or unofficially) on each others albums, the musicians read like a "who's who" of San Fransico muscians of the time. They include such notables as Jerry Garcia, Graham Nash & David Crosby plus many others. The album starts with the rather angry "Mau Mau (Amerikon)" which sets the scene of defiance and escape, through the more hopeful "The Baby Tree", "Let's Go Together", "A Child is Coming" and "Sunrise". The story continues with the optimistic "Hijack", "Home" and "Have You Seen The Stars Tonite" and ends with the superb "Starship" wich features some virtuoso lead guitar by Jerry Garcia. The album is held together by the excellent piano playing and vocals of the supremely talented Grace Slick. In my opinion, it's almost unbeleivable that Jefferson Starship never again rose to these hights, descending in various guises to become the "pop" band Starship. I suppose we all grow older and lose the certainty and commitment of youth! Luckily this album lives on and I would recommend it to any latterday wouldbe hippies!
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on 16 September 2005
First of all, acknowlegements for the use of part of a line from Starship written by Kantner, Slick, Balin and Blackman. In the liner notes, Paul Kantner tells of how he wrote to Robert Heinlein to ask permission to use some of his ideas in the project to which Heinlein replied with some astonishment that his ideas had been used many times before but only Kantner had written for permission.
Secondly, Amazon has the tracklist wrong to the extent that the radio slots for the album are at the end and not the beginning.
Thirdly, I do not want to duplicate my review of the first CD release of this album which can be found on Amazon's pages and which I pretty much stand by today.
Fourthly, I think that this remastering is truly excellent. I say this first and foremost because of the sound. The first time around sounds dark and murky in comparison but here the sound is pristine revealing much more in the process and giving the vocals a lot nore clarity in particular. And, if you never knew why Paul Kantner appreciated Grace Slick's vocals so much you sure do here. Listen to the bonus track of her demo version of Sunrise it is astounding. The Garcia contributions also benefit enormously from the remastering and it makes one wonder how awesome he would have become as a pedal steel guitar player if he had chosen that particular route had he not preferred to go back to the regular (sic) guitar. All of the instruments and vocals are greatly improved.
Next the bonus tracks. Although they do not add per se to the original album as new songs they certainly elaborate on their development. Let's Go Together is presented with alternative lyrics but after several plays I must confess to preferring the original album. I could be getting old and conservative I guess which may account for that. The two demos, Sunrise and Hijack show how the album versions evolved and the remaining two SFX and Starship are valubale too but in different ways. I can only speculate as to whether Garcia and Hart actually called the track SFX but the first thing that came to mind was San Francisco International as in airport or perhaps Space Station. Regardless the effects are great and particularly so on headphones. Finally the live version of Starship is particularly welcome if only because it is an official live version very reminiscent to my ears, of the sound on Bless It's Pointed Little Head. It certainly is a positive indication of what the sound might be if the whole thing were performed live. There are two secret tracks, which Amazon had listed as the first two tracks of Radio Spots for the album which i find cute but also a liitle sad as reminders of the gestation of the Starship from the Airplane but otherwise do not detract from the overall excellence.
Finally the packagaging. Reproducing the original booklet is a nice plus although at my age and with glasses it is a little hard to read. Thank the deity it is not a mini-disc version. But again it is really nice to have and also I really enjoyed the liner notes. Not to do down Jeff Tamarkin, who did a sterling job on the other albums, these liner notes are a little more in keeping with the times in which the album was recorded. More like a insider orientation with subjective aspects, they are a little more rebellious and open and esoteric.
All in all I really really think that this album has stood the test of time even though popular music has changed so much. Releasing it at this time with it's conjunction of the second major diaster of the Bush presidency (three if you count Iraq) may be accidental but it does draw on some parallels with it's original release during the closing years of the Vietnam war. However, the anti-war movement is more divided and muted now than it was then. I was struck by the irony of the line Amerika hates her crazies as I dropped my teenage daughter off at school this morning (what sort of music do you call this she asked as she got into the car)when conformity is the order of the day in the new millenium.
Finally I have to mention the artwork which always impresses me.
FIVE STARS PLUS (please Amazon - just this once can I give it 6 stars?)
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on 9 July 2004
I must admit to a long standing fondness for this album. I originally owned it on incredibly crackly vinyl and played it to death when I was 17. Now that I'm regrettably more mature I'm happy to stand by my youthful opinion of it. The Airplane were bombastic, and the later Starship bland but this sits happily somewhere in between. Of course the whole premise of the lyrics is absurd - most of Kanters lyrics are - but what saves it is the great playing and it's relaxed charm and humour. I urge you to give it a listen and drift away into sci fi heaven circa 1970 (Apollo and all)
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on 20 December 2003
Every time I play this CD it's always from start to finish without interruptions. Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Jerry Garcia and a host of others have produced one of the greatest piece's of music I have had the pleasure to listen to. The playing is perfect and tracks 5-10 merge together as one majestic song with all the instruments swirling and coming together to form music at it's most beautiful. I hear the stars calling.......
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on 20 April 2009
The Jefferson Airplane of Grace Slick and Paul Kantner were one of the most influent rock group of the '60s and '70s.
This album is one of the best Jefferson's work, they mix the music, the acid rock, the political ideas and the wonderful voice of Grace Slick (probably in her last big "flight").
The album is full of friends (Garcia, Kreutzman, Hart; Kaukonen, Casady, Covington; David Freiberg; Crosby and Nash) from the bay that help with nostalgic and utopistic return to the ideals of the communes.
The music is an anthem of "peace and love era" and the '70s space age with a wonderful and delicate mix beetwen acid rock and folk.
The CD is well done with a nice booklet, the sound is clear and good with no distortion, fluent and very nice to listen.
With the first Jerry Garcia album is the last acid rock experiment.
Wondeful.
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on 20 February 2011
A groundbreaker when it first appeared and still a challenge. A high water mark of hippie culture - philosophically crass, sweetly romantic and musically impeccable. Remastering adds depth and clarity, and the extra material is genuinely informative.
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on 16 April 2012
Having reached the magic 60, I am revisiting the lost vinyl and cassettes of my youth. One line that has haunted me for years is "have you seen the stars tonight", I think of it every time I see the night sky, and I always wanted to go on A deck and look at them. Having searched vinyl and charity shops for years Google gave me amazon and they located the LP (now CD of course) whose name I forgot (and which I don't think I ever actually owned!) in a few clicks. I can't wait to hear it again after nearly 40 years, especially with the excellent reviews about sound quality etc on this page. Thanks amazon (in advance) for making finding and buying so easy.
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on 2 March 2014
I have this album in the original vinyl. I bought it eons ago, I loved it then and I still do. I now have a digital copy although it seems not to be on Spotify and Napster for some reason. Its great whatever others say about Airplane v Starship and Hippy culture etc this is a lovely album that reminds me of my youth - a land far far away!
Now I can put it on and remember those happy days before life butted in. Oh and I would "go up on A deck" if asked!
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on 27 May 2013
Interesting that this particular album is almost the only album from these guys not on iTunes! I wonder if Steve Jobs banned it as too anarchical in content?
The dates quoted have come and gone, making the songs even more anachronistic, but the songs have a beauty and lyricism that is hard to ignore. 'Have you seen the stars tonight' is timeless and the harmonies are beautiful.
Worth every penny.
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on 28 February 2015
This is a classic album of it's time. Slightly bonkers concept (starship stuff) but after the rather long and abrasive opener, it is beautifully melodic and uplifting, with great contributions from Grace Slick (piano and vocals), Jack Cassidy (awesome deep bass), and Jerry Garcia (guitar and banjo).
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