Artists | Issues | CD Reviews | Interviews | Concert Reviews | DVD/Video Reviews | Book Reviews | Who We Are | Staff | Home
 

Paul Kantner, Grace Slick & David Freiberg

Baron Von Tollbooth & The Chrome Nun

Review by Gary Hill

I generally wouldn't consider Jefferson Airplane or Jefferson Starship to be progressive rock, although they both have prog tendencies at times. This side project (more about that in a moment) is proggier than either of those bands, and I feel really fits, particularly for the time. Therefore I've landed this under that heading.

This set was released in 1973, post Airplane, but before Starship. It featured not only the three musicians credited in the title from the Airplane, but had a whole host of guests. Those guests included Airplane members John Barbara, Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen and Papa John Creach. David Crosby is alos one of the guests on the disc. The Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart also contributed to it. Craig Caquico, who would later be part of Jefferson Starship is included, as well. There are other notable guests (including The Pointer Sisters), but for the purposes of this review, we'll leave it at that and let you have some discoveries as you check out this set.

All in all, I would say that this really quite a great set. It does a great job of merging the Airplane sound with what would later be a Starship sound. Yet, it brings a lot more progressive rock than either of those bands would suggest. This new remaster sounds great and includes a nice booklet to complete the package.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 3. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
Ballad of the Chrome Nun
A piano and guitar melody lead this thing out of the gate. As it kicks into the song proper Slick's vocals come in over the top. This has a good energy and groove to it. This tune works through some cool shifts and changes as it continues. David Crosby provides the lead vocals on this number.
Fat
This cut definitely feels a lot like the kind of thing that would later become a staple sound for Jefferson Starship. It really is a perfect transition between the Airplane and Starship eras. I dig the countrified guitar work on the piece.
Flowers of the Night
Now, this song is perhaps closer to the Jefferson Airplane end of the spectrum. It's a classy tune that combines psychedelia with a roots music element. This is folk rock taken to a hard rocking, proggy apex. It really grows as it continues.
Walkin'
I dig the rocking energy of this thing. There are a lot of hints of bluegrass built into it. The guitar soloing that runs throughout much of the tune is all class, too. This is another tune that feels like a proggy middle ground between the sounds of the Airplane and Starship.
Your Mind Has Left Your Body
This opens rather ambient and grows gradually into one of the most purely prog passages of the set. There is a trippy, psychedelic edge to it. This becomes a pretty amazing musical journey. The jam band kind of thing is on display in a lot of ways, Yet, this is also packed full of prog and some roots music elements.
Across the Board

Here we have a tune that feels a lot like middle ground between the Airplane and Starship eras. In fact, in some ways the melody makes me think of "Show Me" from the Airplane. They definitely take this into some seriously proggy zones that that other cut never goes into. This has some real proggy exploration. I love the dramatic second movement on this thing.

Harp Tree Lament
A mellower, jazzy kind of jam, this has a lot of jazz in the mix. There are some spacey elements at play, too.
White Boy (Transcaucasian Airmachine Blues)

Dramatic, trippy atmospherics bring this number into being. A folk guitar-based arrangement joins to bring the piece forward. There is a psychedelic edge, calling back to the Airplane days, as the vocals join and the atmospherics drop away. It's shocking that this piece is less than four-and-a-half minutes because it plays like a real prog rock epic, with various movements and themes built into it. It's really a masterpiece and a highlight of the set.

Fishman
Turn the Airplane into a psychedelic prog band with space rock elements and you will have this song. It's a killer number that really evolves and flies as it continues. It's trippy, dramatic and powerful. It's another standout piece.
Sketches of China
A mellower tune, this has a real folk music vibe to it. While I like this, I think that "Fishman" might have been a stronger closer. Even better would have been to trade it with "White Boy," making that epic the final song on the disc. Still, the jam band vibe of this works well, and I dig the guitar soloing on it.
 
Return to the
Paul Kantner, Grace Slick & David Freiberg Artist Page
Return to the
Jefferson Starship Artist Page
Artists Directory
 
Google

   Creative Commons License
   This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

    © 2020 Music Street Journal                                                                           Site design and programming by Studio Fyra, Inc./Beetcafe.com