Jack Casady
Dream Factor


The news that a solo album by Jack Casady was about to be released - his first ever after a career spanning almost forty years ("Solo album from the founder member of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna", says the sticker on the CD cover) made me smile: even if he's never been widely cited as an influence (and among the greats only by Anthony Jackson, I think) Casady has been a very important figure for the development of the electric bass, an instrument on which he developed an unmistakable timbre - rubbery and metallic - and a style that was harmonically complex and highly dramatic. (Obviously, the perennial undervaluation of Jefferson Airplane by "trendy" writers has not exactly contributed to make his name familiar to kids.)
My enthusiasm was immediately tempered by a simple thought: Casady was never a writer, his task (and his greatness) being that of enriching the stylistically varied repertoire composed by Grace Slick, Paul Kantner and Jorma Kaukonen (an imaginary "Best Of" featuring only the Slick-penned songs by Jefferson Airplane could reverse some accepted wisdom about "greatness and miseries" of that era). So the crucial point about the new album was: who is the composer? And what about the players?
I'm really sorry to report that things went really badly - and I was obviously not expecting another Crown Of Creation or another Burgers! Casady wrote all the music (it's better not to think about the lyrics, written by a variety of hands), and the result - a generic mixture of country, rock and blues - is not that far from some mediocre "southern rock" groups from the mid-70s. Bass Player magazine has given this CD ample space - and with good reason: though the songs are what they are, the bass lines are never "generic", the release of the notes is superb, the only instrumental track - Outside - showing that the old horizons are so near. But the musicians who played at the sessions don't appear to be very involved: granted, Paul Barrere was never a genius, but here even the fake "slowhand" as portrayed by Doyle Bramhall II sounds good; competent but with no verve whatsoever are Steve Gorman and Gov't Mule's Matt Abts on drums; on Weight Of Sin Casady takes out of the closet the old Bass Balalaika from the Phosphorescent Rat days.
Sure, here the main problem is the music, not a lack of verve. But in recent times the collective project of the two The Deep End volumes by Gov't Mule and Clone, the brilliant duo recorded by Leo Kottke and by Phish bassist Mike Gordon - a duo that in some ways appeared to bring up-to-date the lesson from the old acoustic Hot Tuna - demonstrated that even within the confines of a nowadays static musical language there are still some margins left to play something that can generate real joy, if not enthusiasm. So?

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2003

CloudsandClocks.net | Aug. 26, 2003