by Grace Slick


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Manhole was the last of the experimental Jefferson Airplane, and Grace Slick's first official solo album. While Bark and Long John Silver, the final stages of the original Airplane, displayed the excessive psychedelic nature of the musicians within the confines of their group format, Blows Against the Empire, Sunfighter, and Baron Von Tollbooth and the Chrome Nun allowed for total artistic expression. Manhole concluded this phase with 1974's other release, the Jefferson Starship's Dragonfly. By taking the name from Paul Kantner's Blows Against the Empire solo project, Dragonfly began the renewed focus on commercial FM which would turn into Top 40 airplay. Manhole is the antithesis of that aim, but is itself a striking picture of Grace Slick as the debutante turned hippy being as musically radical as possible. To the kids who think she's the cool singer on the mechanical Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now, Manhole is an alien concoction, but it works on many levels as great head music. The title track itself is almost 15-and-a-half minutes of orchestrated underground rock with Craig Chaquico on lead guitar; Jack Casady on bass, along with Ron Carter; voices from David Crosby, David Freiberg, Slick and Paul Kantner; mandolin by Peter Kaukonen; and a 42-piece orchestra (51, if you include the fragments of the Airplane/Starship onboard). It's fun stuff, but looking back one wonders how they maintained a distribution deal for Grunt records with R.C.A., the material being so far from commercial. The title track has a left-hand piano part which "was stolen from an improvisation by Ivan Wing", Slick's father, and the epic is rife with Spanish/English by the singer, translated in the booklet with Slick's "phonetic Spanish spelling." Again, this is total underground excess, but it is actually more than listenable than it looks on paper, and for fans, it has the serious/eccentric nature of this woman who emerged as a big, big star due to her quirky personality having the talent to back it up. Attacks on the government and Clive Davis in the elaborate booklet only prove all involved were not out to make friends, but songs like "Come Again? Toucan" are compelling and intriguing, more so than some of what would constitute 1981's Welcome to the Wrecking Ball, which contained more elements of guitarist Scott Zito than the star. On Manhole, the music is wonderfully dense, macabre, exhilarating, and totally out there. This is a great portion of music from the lead singer of one of America's great music groups. Maybe David Freiberg's "It's Only Music" deserved to be on an Airplane project or solo LP of his own, but it sounds great and works. "Better Lying Down" is Grace Slick and Pete Sears re-writing Janis Joplin's "Turtle Blues," a nice change of pace from the heavy instrumental backing of the other tracks. Slick is in great voice, and reflecting on the album years after it was recorded, the conclusion is that Manhole has much to offer fans. Compare this to Deep Space -- recorded live at the Hollywood House of Blues in the 1990s to see the difference between capturing the time and trying to recapture the magic. Despite the eye toward success and the more serious nature of that later project, it just doesn't have the charm of this artifact from the glory days. It's also a far cry from the 1980s, when Slick returned with three more solo outings: Dreams, Welcome to the Wrecking Ball, and Software, projects which differ vastly from Manhole. The hard rock of Wrecking Ball and the synths and post-Kantner Starship feel of producer Peter Wolf's collaborations on Software show a woman dabbling with other rock formats. Put those three discs in a boxed set with Manhole, and you have true culture shock from a major counterculture figure. Manhole is orchestrated psychedelia at its finest with the voice from "White Rabbit" stretching that concept across two sides.

Product Details

Release Date: 04/05/2011
Label: Floating World
UPC: 0805772609525
catalogNumber: 7260952

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Grace Slick   Primary Artist,Piano,Rhythm Guitar,Vocals
Ron Carter   Bass
Paul Kantner   Rhythm Guitar,Vocals,12-string Guitar
Peter Kaukonen   Bass,Mandolin
Craig Chaquico   Guitar
Eric Allen   Percussion
Clive Anstee   Celli
John Barbata   Percussion,Drums
Stan Barrett   Percussion
Jack Casady   Bass
David Crosby   Vocals
Alan Dalziel   Celli
Gary Duncan   Guitar
Jack Ellory   Flute
Kenneth Essex   Viola
Robin Firman   Celli
David Freiberg   Organ,Bass,Guitar,Percussion,Piano,Rhythm Guitar,Vocals,12-string Bass Guitar
Hans Geiger   Violin
John Georgiadis   Violin,Concert Master
Alan Hakin   Percussion
Michael Laird   Trumpet
Chris Laurence   String Bass
Iain MacDonald   Bagpipes
Angus MacKay   Bagpipes
Dennis McConnell   Violin
Andrew McGavin   French Horn
Robin McGee   String Bass
Harold Nash   Bass Trumpet
Seeder Pears   Bass
Raymond Premru   Bass Trumpet
Paul Scherman   Violin
David Snell   Harp
John Underwood   Viola
George Whiting   Trumpet
Carlos Villa   Violin
Tom Duncan   Bagpipes
Jack Greenstone   Violin
Calum Innes   Bagpipes
Keith Marjarom   String Bass
Bram Martin   Celli
Angus McTavish   Bagpipes
James Merrett   String Bass
Bernard Monshin   Violin
Fred Parrington   Violin
John Ronayne   Violin
Alan Traverse   Violin
William Stewart   Bagpipes
Chris Taylor   Flute
Alex Taylor   Viola
Douglas Moore   French Horn
Terence Emery   Percussion
Frank Reidy   Bass Clarinet
Peter Harvey   Bass Trombone
James Davis   Violin
Michael Jones   Violin
John Couling   Viola
Jack Scott   Bagpipes
Cohn Graham   Bagpipes
Timothy Walker   Guitar
Terence Macdonagh   Oboe
Phillip Hill   Oboe

Technical Credits

Grace Slick   Composer,Lyricist,Producer
Robert Hunter   Composer,Lyricist
Pete Sears   Composer
Paul Kantner   Composer,Lyricist,Producer
Peter Kaukonen   Lyricist
Mallory Earl   Engineer
David Freiberg   Composer,Producer
Keith Grant   Producer,Engineer
Bob Matthews   Engineer
Steven Schuster   Producer,Orchestration
Jeff Tamarkin   Liner Notes
Valerie Clausen   Engineer

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