An amazing post-Airplane, pre-Starship 'comeback' for Marty
Dave | United States | 05/21/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Marty Balin had grown fed up with Jefferson Airplane, the band that was basically his creation from the beginning, and he made it official in April of 1971 that he'd indeed left the group. Afterward, Marty got involved with a band called Grootna--he produced their lone, self-titled album from 1972, although he's not credited with actually playing or singing on the album. He did subsequently sing with Grootna for a while, prior to them being dropped by their record label, Columbia.
From the dissolution of Grootna arose the formation of Bodacious D.F. Not counting Balin himself, the Bodacious D.F. lineup included two former Grootna members--guitarist Vic Smith and drummer Greg Dewey (or Dewey DaGreaze, as he's credited on the original album sleeve). Bodacious D.F.'s lone, self-titled album was released in 1973.
And it turns out that this album is not just good, but a downright stunning gem, and although it was a commercial bust, it's an essential 'missing link' in Balin's amazing career. Apart from the somewhat dippy "Roberta", which is still entertaining, all of the songs here are terrific, and the album sets the stage for the long-and-winding grooves of the subsequent Jefferson Starship classics "Caroline" and "Miracles".
"Bodacious D.F." is one of those great albums where it sounds like the band went in and did their thing without a lot of fuss, sounding very much like a live album by a band who's playing is absolutely on fire. As a result, the album is very cohesive with a sound that's consistent from track to track, and yet within that framework, and with the players being so flexible, there's still much variety to be found. Several of the tunes sail on past the 6 minute mark, but it's absolutely not a 'jam-band' album--the arrangements are carefully-considered, and it seems like there's barely a note out-of-place.
The three tracks that last for over 6 minutes are all triumphs. "Good Folks", written by a preacher Balin knew named Lonnie Talbot, has hair-raising dynamics, terrific chord changes, a great guitar line that appears near the start and is brilliantly resurrected on the fade, plus deftly-executed gospel-ized backing vocals that are perfectly-suited to the song's subject matter. Balin & Smith's "The Witcher" starts off with super quiet electric piano matched to what's supposed to be the sound of a train bell (perhaps created with a cymbal), before exploding into a red-hot, lustfully unhinged, horn-spiked R&B workout with Balin's thrilling on-the-edge vocals. As for Vic Smith's "Drivin' Me Crazy", it's a sweeping, expansive, heart-breakingly beautiful epic about longing for someone's affection even after they've moved on--the instrumental interplay is marvelous, and Balin, of course, handles it masterfully, wringing every last drop of emotion out of it; it's simply one of the best love songs ever recorded.
The album-closing "Twixt Two Worlds" is a riffy, wah-wah fortified gem. And there are a couple of less-epic tunes that are well-placed in the track sequence and excellent in their own right, including the uptempo album-opener "Drifting" with its crafty modulations; and the laidback, somewhat defeatist groove tune "Second Hand Information". Marty had sung "Drifting" with the Airplane shortly before leaving them, as well as with the Airplane-spinoff band Hot Tuna whom he teamed up with briefly around the same time.
Unfortunately, this CD issue on Acadia Records leaves some to be desired. For starters, the list price is ultra-high, which is typical of their releases; for those of us in the US, this disc isn't even an import, and yet the list price is still a whopping $25.99. On top of that, there are some sound quality issues, most glaringly on "Drivin' Me Crazy"--notice near the beginning where the left channel keeps dropping out to varying degrees, which is disastrously distracting; I'm not sure if there was a problem with the source tape, or if the person preparing this album for CD was spacing out temporarily, but this dropping out does NOT occur on RCA's vinyl release from 1973, and it's a real shame to hear it here, although mercifully, it doesn't run throughout the entire song. In compensation, the liner note booklet is excellent, if a tad bit inaccurate and/or marred by typos, featuring extensive information including commentary from Balin himself, plus an excellent quasi-recreation of the original vinyl album's gatefold sleeve.
So, I still recommend this CD despite its shortcomings (try to get it for about half of the list price though), although, if you're turntable-ready, an original vinyl copy is also desirable. As for the album itself, it's simply a hands-down must-have."
What the Airplane could have been!
Bruce Birnberg | New Jersey USA | 07/17/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ah, Bodacious DF on a CD...i must be getting old.
But if you haven't heard this album, you haven't heard how Marty Balin should have been featured in the Jefferson Airplane. Balin's enormous talent shines thru on this excellent example of SanFran rock...dare i say, better than the Airplane.
One of the Best Unknown, Underrated Albums Ever
Mark S. Smith | Polk City, FL United States | 07/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the best most unknown, underrated rock albums that came from the San Franciso scene. Marty's voice is excellent, and the songs are well crafted and, well, FUN. It has a sense of humor that so much rock and roll lacks. This is a tremedous precursor to the softer love songs that Marty eventually brought to the Top 10 with Jefferson Starship, as well as his own solo career. I wore it out on vinyl a couple of times, and when I stopped playing records I thought this would be lost forever. I looked for it for years and I am elated that I finally found it on CD. If you have any affinity for JA, JS, or Marty Balin then this is a CD you don't want to miss."