Thursday, March 23, 2006

"Breaking away" with PERRO

For Jefferson Airheads, the great “lost” album has been Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra (or PERRO, as it’s come to be known). This follow-up to Paul Kantner’s classic 1970 sci-fi rock & roll opus Blows Against the Empire sneaked into record stores in 1983, and then quickly dropped out of sight. There was no CD reissue, and for more than two decades, it’s been a bitch to find. On the Jefferson Airplane/Starship newsgroups and e-lists, fans occasionally reported finding an unopened, shrink-wrapped PERRO in a bin of vinyl “cut outs”; a few offered poor audiotape copies of the LP. Someone briefly sold horrible CD bootlegs via eBay in 2000. Then a couple of years ago, this time with Kantner’s endorsement, a PERRO CD was offered online, but it was just another dismal direct-from-vinyl transfer.

Well, now someone’s finally done it right, and PERRO exists as an “authorized” limited-edition CD that features a glorious mix never heard before. Under Paul Kantner’s auspices, these guys took the original master tapes — not the vinyl master, with the very top and lowest frequencies chopped — and carefully transferred them to CD format. This new, first-time-truly-on-CD Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra is available online only, not in stores, right here.

Why this album has gone 23 years without an “official” CD release from RCA/Sony/BMG remains a mystery to me. After all, they’ve remastered and reissued most of the old Airplane-Starship family of LPs, including Blows Against the Empire, over and over for some 17 years. I’ll admit, PERRO’s not as good as Blows, but it kicks the shit out of most Jefferson Starship releases from that period. The title track opens the album majestically with that wall of voices that Kantner’s known for. From there, it soars through fun instrumentals and sound effects, nice vocals from Grace Slick, the wonderful “Mountain Song” that Paul wrote with Jerry Garcia, some cute vocalizing from Paul and Grace’s daughter China (then 11 years old), and cleverly winds back to the title track before the album’s exhilarating and charming finish.

Like Blows before it, PERRO is a Paul Kantner “solo album” that showcases many songwriters and musicians, including most of Jefferson Starship’s 1983 line-up plus Airplane bassist Jack Casady, guitarist Ronnie Montrose, vocalists Flo & Eddie (aka the Turtles’ Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan), and others. But Kantner’s always in the driver’s seat. PERRO is his baby, a musical sci-fi soul mate to Blows in which Paul and his crew fight the State and escape to the stars. It’s a terrific rock and roll romp. And it’s never sounded finer.


At 6:57 PM, Blogger freeman said...

Cool, I'm glad to see that this is available again.

Portions of it have been available through music trading circles for years. I have some of it in mp3 format. I'm pretty sure that Jorma Kaukonen (sp?) of Hot Tuna and other members of the Grateful Dead were involved as well.

I still don't have a copy of Blows Against the Empire. Now that it has been brought to my attention, I may have to change that pretty soon.

At 6:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you finally got your copy and liked it! Like yourself, I was impressed with the quality of the recording and the liners that came with the CD. This was way overdue. Interestingly enough, I think PERRO was originally created in the wrong time. It seems much more relevant to today than it did back in '83 (I was actually managing a record store in northern Virginia between overseas gigs), when it hit the shelves.
Like yourself, I can't see why it took so long to get it back into the light of day, but this seems to be the case with tons of albums from that time period. I talked with Larry Fast a couple of years ago about an album he had worked on for Passport called "Intergalactic Touring Band" and it was stuck in limbo, like PERRO. Sure would be nice to rescue some of these like PERRO was rescued!

At 11:07 PM, Blogger Anonymous Woman said...

Did they fix the temporary drop out in sound in the middle of the last song?

It was in the LP recording itself. At least both records and both tapes that i have...


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