4 out of 5 Stars!
Red Octopus is the album that finally put Jefferson Airplane/Starship/Whatever back in the spotlight. Having both the wonderful Grace Slick and Marty Balin (who returned to the group full time) behind the microphone for the ’75 release, along with Paul Kantner and the revamped line-up of musicians, Red Octopus made the vocal sound of “Airplane” relevant again.
Although I was never an avid fan of the huge (and heavily edited) hit single “Miracles,” feeling it a bit too “adult contemporary” for my tastes, I still savored the vocal interplay between Slick and Balin, and through the years, eventually grew to love the lengthier album version. I was also pleased to hear some high-caliber songwriting from Slick—indeed, the album contains “Fast Buck Freddie,” which Slick co-wrote with guitarist Craig Chaquico, “Play On Love,” a collaboration between Slick and bassist/keyboardist Pete Sears, and Slick’s own “Ai Garimasu (There Is Love),” with all three becoming some of my favorite “Grace songs” of the band’s career. Besides the aforesaid “Miracles,” the Balin-fronted tracks “Sweeter Than Honey” and “Tumblin'” were also fine slices of melodic rock, while “There Will Be Love” and “I Want to See Another World,” where the group’s trademarked “gang vocals” come into play, are also quite commendable.
In truth, however, I could have easily done without the pair of instrumentals (“Git Fiddler” and “Sandalphon”) appearing on the album—with Jefferson Starship having numerous songwriters in its line-up and two dynamic lead singers in the form of Slick and Balin, one would think the band might have whipped up some additional vocal tunes to further showcase their talents and satisfy fans of the crooning duo. After all, the male/female vocal interplay is what made each album from Jefferson Airplane or Jefferson Starship so special, so why include two less-than-spectacular instrumentals and deprive the fans of additional Slick/Balin chemistry?
Regardless, with the revamped group hitting the big time thanks to Red Octopus, this insured its survival for many more years, despite numerous line-up changes and another name change/shortening that would eventually follow.