Greatest Hits - Live At The Fillmore

Jefferson Starship

CMC International Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I seem to remember seeing Grace Slick say in an interview that she refused to play live anymore because she didn't want to be a spectacle, or an image of an old person trying to be young. After hearing the last Jefferson Starship album Windows Of Heaven, I thought she just might have been on to something.

But I'm blindly allegiant to bands in that I'm willing to give them second, third... hell, even tenth chances. Enter the picture, from stage left: Greatest Hits - Live At The Fillmore, a show recorded in 1998, broadcast on New Year's 1999, and released on CD in late 1999. Everyone got that so far?

There are times when Jefferson Starship sounds like they are within a hair's width of recapturing the spaced-out glory of their early days, and there are other times where they sound like a nostalgia act desparately clinging to glories of the past. In the end, this disc paints a rather uneven picture of Paul Kantner and crew, and it is quickly relegated to the "for diehard fans only" file.

Singer Diana Mangano has possibly the toughest job in the whole act: trying to fill Grace Slick's shoes. There are a few times where she sounds like she's quite capable of doing just that - namely, on the version of "Somebody To Love" featured in this set. At other times, such as on "White Rabbit," Margano sounds like she just doesn't have the range necessary to pull off the vocal tricks that Slick became known for - even to the point where she sounds flat at times. But for the most part, Mangano seems to be the modern-day Donna Jean Godchaux when she was in the Grateful Dead - a pretty face, but for the most part, not a vital part of the band.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

That's kind of a shame, because Paul Kantner occasionally sounds like he's still living in an acid trip (though his amblings are nothing compared to the bullshit-laden rants that permeate Windows Of Heaven), while Marty Balin does the unthinkable by failing to give his own songs the justice they deserve. Balin plows through a half-assed version of "Miracles" that fails to live up to the magic that this song has had over the years. In Balin's defense, the song has been overplayed to the point where it's the only thing anyone knows from Jefferson Starship - but that doesn't mean he shouldn't show us why we should still care about this song.

The more magical moments on Greatest Hits - Live At The Fillmore come, ironically, from the songs you might not know unless you have followed the band since their days as Jefferson Airplane. Tracks like "Plastic Fantastic Lover," "Crown Of Creation," "Count On Me" and "Volunteers" - as well as a cover of "Wooden Ships" - all show that Jefferson Starship still knows how to turn on the magic. If only they had been able to do this throughout the bulk of the show.

Incidentally, the two songs taken from Windows Of Heaven - "The Light" and "Let Me Fly" - are not as horrendous as their studio counterparts, but they also don't stand out on this disc.

As long as there are people who wax ecstatic about the '60s and the Haight-Ashbury scene, there will be an audience for Jefferson Starship (or whatever the hell they choose to call themselves depending on what quadrant of Mars that Jupiter is in). But unless you feel you can't live without it, Greatest Hits - Live At The Fillmore isn't the must-own disc that sums up this band's vast career. Then again, it could have been much worse.

2000 Christopher Thelen and "The Daily Vault". All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of the record label, and is used for information purposes only.

Rating: C-

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of CMC International Records, and is used for informational purposes only.