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Customer Review

on September 27, 2006
This, the 7th Jefferson Starship album, was the third to feature Mickey Thomas as the band's male lead vocalist. On this one, Grace Slick returned full time as co-lead singer and occasional lyricist. However, this album sounds significantly different than its two predecessors, the excellent "Freedom at Point Zero" and the somewhat weaker "Modern Times".

On "Freedom..", besides Thomas, the other key factor in the group's rejuvenation was the work of producer Ron Nevison. He provided a polished, forceful production sheen which complimented the group's sci-fi/fantasy lyrical visions and the powerhouse musicianship. "Modern Times" took a dip in the songwriting, but Nevison was able to compensate somewhat. On "Winds of Change", the band turned to Kevin Beamish, instead, who had produced REO Speedwagon's cheesey megasmash "Hi Infidelity."

The result is what one might expect. Beamish gives the group a more compressed sound which takes the edge off of the guitars and totally eviscerates Aynsley Dunbar's drums. Add to that the fact that Thomas's ultra high voice sounds a lot like Keven Cronin's to the untrained ear, and you've got an album that is indistinguinshable from REO in many places. Lead guitarist Craig Chaquico's two rockers, "Can't Find Love" and "Keep on Dreaming" and bassist/keyboardist Pete Sears' wimpy waltz "Be My Lady" (single #1) sound like weak "Hi Infidelity" outtakes. Sears' rocker "Quit Wasting Time" has a little bit more character, but only because Slick sings it as a duet with Thomas.

Still,all is not lost. The songwriting is more varied than on the previous two albums, which makes for more interesting moments elsewhere. Slick contributes some lyrics and the lead vocals to Chaquico's "Black Widow". It does sound like a reject from her heavy metal solo album "Welcome to the Wrecking Ball", but it did prove to be the best track in live performance. Sears' "I Will Stay" has a beautiful gospel melody and arrangement, perfect for Thomas's Southern rock background.

The title track is remniscent of the Moody Blues, with a swirling keyboard intro and cosmic lyrics sung forcefully by Thomas and Slick.

An odd choice for a second single, though. Finally, the decreasing profile of group founder/rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner is telling, but he contributes the two best songs on the album.His one lead vocal is on "I Came Back From the Jaws of the Dragon" (referring to surviving a cerebral hemorrhage), a passionate, anti-government folk rocker that recalls his Jefferson Airplane rabble rousing days. Finally, he co-writes with Slick "Out of Control", a catchy but crazy New Wave pounder in which Slick sings insanely about the madness of the world. Weird and wild, a welcome break from the generic sound of much of the album.

I'd like to see a remix of the album, removing Beamish's murky production influence. As it is, the album is undermined by its sound to a certain extent and is the least essential of the four JS/Thomas albums. Try "Freedom at Point Zero" first, and move on from there if that one grabs you.
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