Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Great Society with Grace Slick

While this short-lived group only released one single ("Somebody to Love") during its career, after Grace's fame with the Jefferson Airplane, a couple more releases appeared with live cuts from shows at the Matrix. I do not have the CD that combines two albums, but just one piece of vinyl and it has some great items on it!

Formed by Grace's then husband Jerry on drums and his brother Darby on guitar, they also included David Minor on guitar and Bard DuPont on bass. While not nearly as strong musically as the Airplane, this group mined similar styles and obviously also had a folk background.

The record that I have opens with the classic folk tune "Sally Go Round the Roses" which proves just how powerful Grace's voice already was, while the song itself has a nice, hypnotic, psychedelic feel, with some quiet keyboards and a raga-rock solo. More forceful vocals in the pretty "Didn't Think So" and the riff-laden "Grimly Forming", a song that LA's Salvation Army covered in the early 80's at the beginning of the local garage revival. The embryonic version of "Somebody to Love" isn't nearly as fully formed - or as rockin' - as the Airplane's later hit, but it does show that Grace had the essential elements all there and just needed the group that would pull it all together. "Father Bruce" is a relatively unremarkable but fun ode to Lenny Bruce and they cover Dylan with his "Outlaw Blues". There is something about "Often As I May" that I find captivatingly exquisite - a spine-tingling and superb vocal delivery by Grace, sexy lyrics and a driving, dynamic performance from the group. For whatever reason, one of my favorite tunes from Grace. On the other hand, "Arbitration", while not bad, is fairly undistinguished and sung by David (I believe), whose voice is competent but nothing special. The final track is an even more psychedelic "White Rabbit", intro'd by what I assume is sometimes 6th member Peter van Gelder's saxophone which does then lead into the tune that and basic arrangement that we all know and love.

As I said, not as instrumentally or harmonically mature as the Airplane was even at its inspection, the Great Society nonetheless had some fine songs and Grace is a wonder for the ears. Worth checking out!