GRACE SLICK: Dreams
Year of Release: 1980
Year it Came Into My Life: 1980
“Face to the Wind”
“Angel of Night”
“Do it the Hard Way”
“Full Moon Man”
“Let it Go”
“Garden of Man”
As I mentioned before, when I became a fan of Jefferson Starship,Grace wasn’t in the band. She and Marty Balin had just left. Her alcoholism had gotten out of control. Her last tour with JS was disastrous, with the band having to cancel shows because she couldn’t go on, and when she did perform she was belligerent to audiences and unable to sing. Years ago I heard her talk about how her wake up came when she drove a car straight into a wall at 80 miles an hour. It made her realize that many of her friends from the Woodstock era — Janis, Jimi, Jim Morrison, Mama Cass, etc — were all dead, most of them because of drug and alcohol use. She quit the band, quit drugs, and never looked back.
Dreams is an incredible album, and certainly the most personal that Slick has ever written. She’s not one to write about personal experiences; she is more of an observational writer. But on Dreams, she turns her attention squarely on herself and her problems, and holds nothing back. She is scathing in her self-criticism.
Musically, its quite a departure for Slick. It is predominantly orchestra and acoustic guitar-led. The only venture into actual rock that she takes is on “Angel of Night”. The whole album is, in my opinion, her best vocal performance ever. Better than anything she did with Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, other solo albums, Starship, guest appearances on other artists’ recordings, etc. This is the pinnacle.
The influence that this album had on me wasn’t necessarily musical like all the other ones were. This one came out at a time when I was in high school, and I hung around a lot of druggies. There was always pressure to get involved in their ‘activities’. I never wanted to, and I either felt uncomfortable or out of place with them. Dreams helped me to be okay with my decision, because if Grace Slick, who had consumed more drugs than nearly any other human being, had walked away from it and looked back on her choices so harshly, then I didn’t need to be doing it in the first place. Thanks, Grace.
To this day, this is one of my favorite albums I’ve ever heard by any artist in any style of music. It’s pretty much perpetually in my Top 5.
Grace rejoined JS a year or so later, and found the band to be a much improved and more healthier place to be. They’d had some member changes, they were more focused, were playing harder rock now, and the shows were more fun now that Marty and his lengthy string of love ballads were gone. She came back in as a guest on the Modern Times album, rejoined fully once the album was done, and went out on tour that year. That year was my first time seeing them live and it was quite an experience. I saw them a few times after that as well. She stayed in the band even after Paul Kantner got fed up with and quit, taking the “Jefferson” moniker with him. She stayed during the first two Starship albums, until she couldn’t take it any longer, and quit. I saw her live twice with Starship; not bad shows, but the band didn’t really care about writing material or making meaningful music any longer. She later retired and now focuses on her paintings.