Artist: Marty Balin
Album: Good Memories: Celebrating 50 Years of Jefferson Airplane & Jefferson Starship
Label: MVD Audio
Release Date: 01/15/2016
The silver-tongued devil who indelibly impressed sexy love songs on our brains and loins in the ’60s and ’70s has reprised two CDs worth of classic Jefferson Airplane/Starship works, offering a fresh, 2016 take on the cream of San Francisco’s psychedelic crop.
Balin, whose voice apparently remains unchanged in 40 years, has stripped the harder edges from the Airplane/Starship electric-guitar and acid-head classics without turning them to mush. Starting Disc 1 off with the title cut, a lookback original, “Good Memories” Balin tips his hat to bandmates Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Paul Kantner, Skip Spence/Spencer Dryden and “Old Grace Slick,” who formed the seminal group which made the Haight, the Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom destinations for hippies and music fans of all stripes.
The other 23 songs are Balin’s personal interpretations of Jefferson “Whomever” songs, many of which Balin himself wrote or co-wrote, including the iconic “Miracles,” “Comin’ Back to Me” and “It’s No Secret,” which are all 100% Balin. Today, one could probably populate San Francisco entirely with children conceived to “Miracles.”
When we interviewed Balin a month ago, he described his frustration with over-long guitar solos in the Airplane’s live performances; you won’t find any such self-indulgence here. Balin’s years of performing these classics (and a few deep cuts), are re-interpretations and reworkings of national treasures by the artist who knows them best. You would have thought “Comin’ Back to Me” was already perfect, but the subtle changes in vocalization and the strings give the song even more depth than the original interpretation.
Maybe that’s the point: Balin, vibrant in his mid-70s, has the perspective to invest these wonderful songs with a universality which the words convey, and the wisdom to have lived and absorbed them. For those of us who grew up with the Jefferson Airplane or Starship, give this a serious listen: it’s for grownups.