The band never sounded better or rocked harder. . .
R. Baxendale II | 09/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After 1978's Earth, which contained the hits "Runaway" and "Count on Me," Grace Slick, Marty Balin, and John Barbata left Jefferson Starship. Paul Kantner immediately brought in former Journey drummer Aynsley Dunbar and singer Mickey Thomas to record Freedom at Point Zero, the first Airplane/Starship LP without female vocals. "Jane" was the record's Top 20 hit, but the album's real gems are "Rock Music" and "Girl with Hungry Eyes." Freedom, in my opinion, is the Starship's high watermark; I don't think the band ever rocked harder or sounded better."
BEST JEFFERSON STARSHIP ALBUM
James T. Mott | O'Fallon, MO USA | 08/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wow! This album still floors me. The songwriting is top notch. All the wheels were turning during the writing and recording of this album. I do wish an official concert album of this tour would be released. Mickey Thomas had just joined the band and Paul Kantner wrote some brilliant songs. Most notable are The Awakening, Lightning Rose, Girl With the Hungry Eyes and the title track.
If you are a fan, don't hesitate. This album is great. Includes the hits, Jane and Rock Music. Big 5 stars!"
JS reinvented itself, successfully
R. Josef | New Haven, CT United States | 11/10/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"During the tour for the "Earth" album, Grace Slick's personal problems caused a major crash for Jefferson Starship. She left after the tour; singer Marty Balin bailed out after recording one more single; and drummer John Barbata was in a car crash that knocked him out of action.
Although the Starship was left for dead after that, the group recruited a new singer, Mickey Thomas, ex-Journey drummer Aynsley Dunbar, and a new producer, Ron Nevison. The resulting music was a stunning change, sounding like it had been recorded by an entirely different band.
The group had been getting fed up with the MOR pop sound that Balin had brough to the group. "FaPZ" was the band's return to solid rock and roll, the "rockiest" effort from the Jefferson crew since "Volunteers". Nevison brought a highly layered, polished, but not overly slick sound. Heavier, well played guitars were the dominant sound in the mix. Dunbar's playing far surpassed Barbata's, and acoustic guitars and keyboards were used in excellent supporting roles.
Balin had relied heavily on outside compostions, but for the first time since "Red Octopus", the songs were all co-written by band members. Although not a concept album, the lyrical themes by either rhythm guitarist/vocalist Paul Kantner or Jeannette Sears (wife of bassist/keyboardist Pete Sears) are mostly sci-fi and fantasy imagery, uplifting and otherworldly. Pete and Jeannette come up with two songs. One, the lengthy ballad "Awakening", is similar melodically to "Dragonfly"'s "Hyperdrive", but more guitar-centered. "Fading Lady Light", co-composed with Mark Unobsky (one of Pete's colleagues from his old band, Copperhead), is more bluesy, well-suited to Thomas's voice.
Jeannette also helped lead guitarist Craig Chaquico with his two contributions. "Just the Same" is a faster version of "Awakening", with both acoustic and electric guitars driving the song. "Rock Music" sounds more like something Thomas might have done with his old band, the Elvin Bishop Group than a JS song. A Southern rock styled boogie rocker, it is fun, if out of place.
After being almost inaudible on "Earth", Paul Kantner comes back with four of his own songs and helps with a fifth. "Things to Come" and the title track are strong rockers with his usual surreal sci-fi lyrics. "Lightning Rose" introduces a recurring character with a track that is a combination of folk and arena rock. The second single, "The Girl With the Hungry Eyes" is reminiscent of the Cars, of all people, with staccato synthesizer and a very Elllot Easton-esque guitar solo. Very catchy, but it wasn't a big hit.
On the other hand, keyboardist/bassist/vocalist David Freiberg contributed his last, and best, song to the Starship, with "Jane". Co-written with Jim McPherson (another member of Copperhead) with a little help from Craig and Paul, this is a strong pop-rocker with an infectious keyboard hook and a great vocal from Thomas. It was almost as big a hit as anything from "Earth", reestablishing the popularity of JS.
Thomas is considered to be the ruination of JS by many old guard fans, but he is a terrific singer with a great range, whether singing solo or in harmony with Paul. The key here is that the band provided him with great material, which wasn't always the case later.
The band lost some fans of the group's adult contemporary sound as well as some fans of the band's more traditional "Jefferson" sound provided by Kantner, Balin and Slick. However, the album got a lot of airplay on the rising format of album oriented radio and some college radio play, so they picked up a lot of new fans to compensate.
The group's songwriting would go downhill during the 80's, but here, the band delivered a powerhouse of a rock album, with smart lyrics and an accessible, but not dumb, sound. The best from this era in JS's long history.