Hmmm, here's what i think of them!
Manhole- never heard it, actually. I've read a lot about it but have never had the chance to hear it.
Bark- it actually took several listens for me to get into. While it's a shame Marty's out of the picture, that doesn't condemn the album for me. I think the energies are pretty mixed on it, a good equilibrium of Kantner-Slick-Kaukonen for the most part. I wish Creach had a bigger role on many of the songs! My initial feeling towards Bark was mainly that it was just boring- nothing stood out too much to me. The sound on many of the songs feel very airy and loose to me, like jam sessions. My favorite thing about Bark is how AWESOME Jorma does on it! He's awesome on everything else Airplane too, but his songs really tear on this album! I think 'Pretty as You Feel' is interesting, and as far as I know, the deep vocals are provided by Joey. 'Wild Turkey' is really amazing! It's like something from Tuna's 'First Pull Up...' album. 'Law Man' is a good one by Grace- her vocals are wonderful and Jorma's searing lead mix perfectly. I enjoyed 'Rock and Roll Island' (the intro reminded me of Eskimo Blue Day oddly) because it was a bit similar to a BLOWS concept, but it's definitely one of Paul's weaker contributions. 'Third Week' of course, is simply too warm and beautiful to be described accurately. I thought 'never argue with a german' was really bizarre, but a perfect example of Grace's sense of humor (making fun of Paul? Making fun of Amon Duul 2?) and it has a neat almost hip-hop sounding section at about 1:30 or so I think, and Grace's use of the Mellotron is really understated. 'Thunk' of course is not a normal song, but hey, Joey's vocals are neato and it's catchy. 'War movie' is another weak Kantner song in my opinion, although interesting, not comparable to Blows. In all, I think it's a good, atmospheric album, lead by Jorma and Grace mostly, with some weak Kantner material. But hell, at least the packaging was kick-ass!
Blows Against the Empire- I had heard a lot about it for awhile before I heard it. The concept sounded really groovy, and I've always really like Kantner's songs. The first piece I heard was actually the performance of 'Starship' in the middle of Pooneil on their Woodstock performance, and I got into reading the lyrics on the internet and I thought they were really neat. I finally got it, and wow, I couldn't stop listening! The contributions by various musicians definitely rock, and the lyrics and vocals are superb. My favorite of any of Paul's non Airplane work.
Baron von Tollbooth- Sorry guys, but I really don't like this one. It's not that I really dislike Freiberg, I just think the atmosphere and the style of the music is really unappealing and not nearly as creative as the other stuff. I liked Freiberg on 30 Seconds, and his Quicksilver stuff, but this album is just incredibly boring to me. The only thing I listen to regularly off of this Jack Traylor's 'Flowers of the Night'. Everything else is easily forgettable to me.
Sunfighter- almost a tie to Blows. I was skeptical about this after hearing Baron, but this album is filled to the brim with tasty musicianship, lyrics, vocals and messages. 'Silver Spoon' is so awesome! Both 'Dianas' are wonderful, and my favorite track has to be 'Holding Together'. Very Blows-like to me. and Jorma is on 'Look at the Wood'!
i highly recommend this over Baron (although, I think this was a few years before Baron).
LJS- I liked it a lot more than Bark.To me it sounded surprisingly fresh and pulsating with sincere, existent energy. The guitar work is really crazy awesome to me, and 'Aerie' HAS to be one of the best, most beautiful songs of all time. (Well, to me...) The Airplane has a very punk attitude, especially on 'Easter?' which sounded like something John Lydon or Malcolm McLaren could come up with. 'Twilight Double Leader' (nowadays, I don't think a band would ever put the word 'twilight' in a song title
) might be really silly and possibly nonsensical as claimed by Grace, but it's one of my favorite off the album. Jorma of course has a great song, Trial By Fire, which sounds like a follow up to 'Third Week' to me. Why the hell has there been no grandiose rerelease of this? I would love to hear demos and other tidbits that have been locked away for years.