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Jefferson Starship

Freedom at Point Zero

Review by Gary Hill

When Jefferson Starship released this album it was without long-time members Grace Slick and Marty Balin. Mickey Thomas was handling the vocals. This also introduced a more guitar crunch driven sound and heralded a new arena rock period for the group. It was also one of the strongest discs the band ever produced. There’s a new vitality and sound here and there are hit singles, but for the most part they are made without sacrificing the unique sonic identity of the band. I love Balin and Slick’s contribution to this band, but you can’t argue with the strength of this disc.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Jane
The tentative building introduction leads off in a nearly prog rock fashion. Then the guitar riff hits as the piano pounds away and we’re off. This is a hard edged, energetic jam that’s just plain killer. It may have been a hit, but it’s also a great song. They throw in just about everything to this song. We get a funky middle eight and a killer guitar solo. I can’t imagine a stronger start to the disc.
Lightning Rose
Sound effects start off here and then the music enters in a bouncy sort of motif that’s more in keep with the music from the group’s Octopus album. This is a gentle, hippie sort of rock sound. It might not be the powerhouse that “Jane” was, yet it lends a connection to the ensemble element that a lot of the group’s music has. A wall of alternating vocals and some tasty instrumentation build this up into a great tune. We get some nice saxophone work on the disc and some more tasty guitar. 
Things To Come
Bass starts this off and it’s got a lot more rock and roll feel to it. As they shift out into the song proper it becomes classic Jefferson Starship. The group always had such a great command of multiple layers of vocals and sounds coming in here and there and this wall of sound approach is all over this song, as well. We get some tasty keyboards on this, too. There’s also a great instrumental section.
Awakening

The sounds of a storm bring this in. Dramatic and powerful keyboards enter and a sense of majesty with them. Guitar and other instruments join and this gets an arena rock gone prog gone really potent texture. When it moves out to the slow moving guitar line this is made even more effective – and progressive rock like. They crescendo to end the extended introduction. Then it moves out to a ballad-like structure and begins building in a gradual way. They power it up a bit more again for the chorus section. In some ways this reminds me a lot of Kansas – right down to the lyrics. This is an incredible piece of music and one of the highlights of the disc. We get a great keyboard interlude. Vocals come in over the top of this and they build it out into a keyboard dominated ballad structure. The main modes of the song are ramped up as they carry it forward and this is so powerful it’s scary. The powerhouse guitar solo segment later is amazing.

 

Girl With The Hungry Eyes
I love the lines, “I like to travel at the speed of light / Albert says I can’t, but I can.” For those who don’t get the connection the “Albert” mentioned here is Einstein who said that travel at the speed of light wasn’t possible. The vocal arrangement on this is real star. Musically this is a fairly average pop rock tune, but the layers of vocals and the cool tongue in cheek sci-fi mélange of lyrics elevate it beyond the mediocre. They do include quite a tasty guitar solo.
Just The Same
A killer dramatic prog rock meets hard edged near metal sound begins this. They work it out into another jam that has some similarities to “Jane.” You might hear traces of bands like Journey on this, but the overall tone is far more powerful than any hit making machine. There’s a great prog rock meets 1960’s rock section in the middle of this that’s a great touch. They drop it way down to atmosphere for a short time after this and then return to the main song section with a renewed vitality. There’s a sense of majesty and drama to this and it’s another highlight of the album.
Rock Music
This is the clunker on the disc. It’s not bad, but it’s just extremely generic. I could picture this being done by REO really easily. The rest of the album puts this to shame. I suppose the title should cue you into the fact that this is going be trite, but whatever. It’s got some energy; I’ll say that for it. 
Fading Lady Light
An anthemic ballad, this is also rather generic. Still, the soulful vocal arrangement keeps it from being a full on failure.
Freedom At Point Zero
Here’s another number that does a great job of merging the harder edged crunchy sound this album introduced with a more classic Jefferson Starship sound. Once again the vocal arrangement really stands out, but there are some great riffs going on here, too.
 
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