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Jefferson Starship - Sweeter Than Honey (Incomplete)

Winterland (San Francisco, CA), 11/08/1975

Music Video Jefferson Starship
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Recorded after the monumentally successful Red Octopus album release, but prior to 1976's Spitfire album, this Jefferson Starship concert captures the band performing a diverse set before a hometown audience. With singer Marty Balin back in the fold, the group again contained the three primary vocalists from the Jefferson Airplane, now supported by vocalist, keyboardist, part-time bassist, and ex-Quicksilver Messenger Service member David Frieberg; the young guitar prodigy Craig Chaquico; and the superb rhythm section of bassist/pianist Pete Sears and drummer Johnny Barbata. The group was riding high on the multi-platinum Red Octopus album and was arguably at a new peak of popularity.

This set is not only represented by material from the early Jefferson Starship albums and a couple of Jefferson Airplane classics, but interestingly features live performances of material from Grace Slick's first solo album plus two of the best tracks Marty Balin recorded with his post-Jefferson Airplane project, Bodacious D F.

The recording begins in progress, with the group wrapping up Vic Smith's "Drivin' Me Crazy," the most infectious track from the obscure Bodacious D F album. This sweeping, heart-breaking song about longing for lost love serves as a perfect vehicle for Balin's romantically emotive vocals. An extended version of the Jerry Gallup/Craig Chaquico composition, "That's For Sure" follows, clocking in at nearly twice the length of the studio recording featured on the 1974 Jefferson Starship album, Dragonfly. With barrelhouse piano support from Sears, Grace Slick next takes over with a very bawdy take on "Better Lying Down," a track from her first solo album, Manhole.

In a rare instance of drummer Johnny Barbata fronting the band, they next deliver "Big City," the song he co-wrote with ex-Canned Heat guitarist Joel Scott Hill and original Flying Burrito Brothers bassist Chris Etheridge. Here Barbata handles lead vocals on a song soon to be recorded for the group's next album, Spitfire. Returning to Dragonfly material, David Frieberg next fronts the band on "Come To Life," a song containing words by the Grateful Dead's lyricist extraordinaire, Robert Hunter.

A second taste of the rare Bodacious D F material is next with "The Witcher." Beginning introspectively, this becomes an explosive R&B workout featuring Balin's lustfully unhinged vocals. Dipping back even further, the group next tackles one of Kantner's early sci-fi classics, "Have You Seen The Saucers." Sandwiched in the middle of this Jefferson Airplane number is an extended and pummeling bass solo courtesy of Pete Sears. This leads up to a raucous take of "White Rabbit," one of Grace Slick's signature songs. The recording concludes with the first taste of Red Octopus material. Craig Chaquico's "Sweeter Than Honey" clearly shows the band heading in a straightforward rock direction, which would capture the attention of a new legion of fans, while alienating older fans that preferred more thought provoking lyrics and the more experimental sound of the Airplane. This leads into a drum solo by Johnny Barbata, prior to the tape stock running out.

With all three Airplane vocalists again on board and a wealth of diverse material in the group's touring repertoire, the Jefferson Starship was arguably nearing its peak around this time. With personnel as well as musical changes again in store as the 1970s wore on, the group would rarely be this engaging again and this recording, although not without it's flaws, represents the Jefferson Starship nearing the end of their golden era.