The Jefferson Airplane returned to the studio after a two year absence and released the album Bark in September of 1971. Marty Balin and drummer Spencer Dryden had withdrawn from the group and Joey Covington and violinist Papa John Creach were now on board.
The Jefferson Airplane of the early 1970’s was not a focused group. The band’s main members were now traveling different musical paths. Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady were recording independently as Hot Tuna. Paul Kantner and Grace Slick were parents together and he had overseen the release of Blows Against The Empire. All this meant that Bark would be an average album. There was nothing terrible but neither did it have the brilliance of their sixties releases.
I’m sure that I purchased this album when it was released. I don’t know how many times I have actually listened to it but I am willing to bet it is under ten. I know that it has not left the shelf for as long as I can remember. Playing it earlier today was a re-introduction to its music.
Jorma Kaukonen filled much of the void left by Marty Balin’s exit. His “Feel So Good” has some nice guitar work and almost a funky feel to it. “Pretty As You Feel” has an odd vibe and travels in a bluesy direction that was representative of his work with Hot Tuna. “Third Week In The Chelsea” echoed the group’s chaotic situation of the time as it explored a band falling apart. “Wild Turkey,” however, would be one of his least creative contributions to an Airplane album.
Paul Kantner’s tracks just never take off. “When The Earth Moves Again,” “War Movie,” and the rocker “Rock and Roll Island” are competent but more was expected from him at this point in his career.
“Crazy Miranda” and “Law Man” find Grace Slick providing mature and mellow vocals to a couple of average tracks. At this point in her life she could literally sing the phone book and while these original songs are not that bad, she certainly rises above the material. Her third contribution, “Never Argue With A German If You’re Tired Or European Song” was hopefully meant to be amusing and it was, once.
Bark is mainly for the curious and while it will probably not offend anyone’s musical sensibilities, it pales next to their classic sixties output. If you are a Jefferson Airplane fan it is a filler album. As for me, it has been stuffed back in its bag and returned to the shelf.