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Album Review

There has been no dearth of greatest-hits and best-of albums devoted to Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, and Starship, but this is the first one combining tracks from all three editions of the group that started in San Francisco in the mid-'60s and ended its run in the early '90s with entirely different personnel. The band continued to maintain the same basic elements for most of its run, the constants being a soaring male tenor (either Marty Balin or Mickey Thomas) and a stinging lead guitar (either Jorma Kaukonen or Craig Chaquico), even if its best-remembered sound was the icy, stentorian contralto of on-again, off-again member Grace Slick. To say that the elements held constant is not to say that the band continued to sound the same, but if you listen to the chronologically sequenced album through, you can hear the transition clearly. True to its title, the 35-track Hits contains all of the band's most successful singles, omitting only two of its Top 40 entries. All the big hits are here, from "Somebody to Love" through "Miracles" to "We Built This City," accounting for 18 of the tracks. The rest of the album is filled out with less-successful singles and album tracks that became band standards. As this list indicates, compiler Paul Williams is more interested in Jefferson Airplane than Jefferson Starship and Starship, which are represented exclusively by singles, and a more balanced portrait of the later ensembles might have been provided by including illuminating album tracks. But this is the best two-disc summary of a group that, despite dizzying personnel changes, maintained its commercial acumen for over 20 years.

Biography

Formed: 1965 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s

Jefferson Airplane was the first of the San Francisco psychedelic rock groups of the 1960s to achieve national recognition. Although the Grateful Dead ultimately proved more long-lived and popular, Jefferson Airplane defined the San Francisco sound in the 1960s, with the acid rock guitar playing of Jorma Kaukonen and the soaring twin vocals of Grace Slick and Marty Balin, scoring hit singles and looking out from the covers of national magazines. They epitomized the drug-taking hippie ethos as well...
Full bio