“Bark” came from 1971. Marty Balin had left the band, so the band went on to create this record showing how important he was.
Let’s be clear: this isn’t exactly terrible. It’s just the work of two completely separate bands without a binding theme, and where they’ve forgotten what made them great. There’s Grace Slick’s band, anthemic, ranting, and forgetting about the beautiful subtlety of her voice, screeching out propaganda (somewhat ironically, the best song is about exactly that). And there’s a version of Hot Tuna, the band that Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady had created.
On the Grace side, there’s “Crazy Miranda:” “Crazy Miranda lives on propaganda, she believes anything she reads.” That aged exceptionally well, I’m sorry to say. There are several stabs at anthems, and even a bid for a Weimar sound. On most of these, ALL instruments are turned ALL the way up. There’s none of that wonderful space that the Airplane did so well. The sound is muddy, plodding, and boring. There isn’t a tease, there isn’t a surprise.
On the Jorma side, there’s some stuff that sounded good, probably sounded much better live. The best song on the album, “Pretty As You Feel,” is the only one that allows of any subtlety or dynamics, also features Carlos Santana, so maybe they were on their best behavior for the guest.
I am absolutely stunned to learn that this album hit #11 on the Billboard chart, higher than “Volunteers,” higher than Grace and Paul Kantner’s “Blows Against the Empire.”
I’ve had this album since probably 1980 or so. I know I paid little for it, and just a few years after its release, it was absolutely not regarded as a good album. The cover is appalling (lacking the paper bag with the JA logo, after the fashion of A&P supermarkets), and it certainly challenges you to buy the album. It gets a listen on very rare occasions; nearly all other JA albums are better, so why would I spend the time? It spent several years in my garage, which is where many records went to die. They would sit there for several years, and if I never brought them back into the house and played them, they would be sent to the library sale. Somehow, this one and “Long John Silver” got back into the house, but I think it was just the completist in me.