For several years, the nucleus of the Airplane/Starship has been struggling to hold together a concept that didn’t seem workable in the first place. The performing personalities of Slick and Kantner have long seemed much too cold-hearted to deal convincingly with humanistic themes. Their icy remoteness has combined with Kantner’s pedantry and Slick’s sarcasm to turn the pair into unknowing self-parodists.
But this is better: Dragon Fly is at worst listenable and at best surprisingly engaging. New guitarist Craig Chaquico makes up in ebullience what he lacks in subtlety, Pete Sears (on bass and keyboards) is a pro, and the leading couple sounds almost excited at times.
Long-time Airplane devotees will love the album, if only for its best track, the sexy and nostalgic “Caroline,” which reunites Marty Balin with what has become of his band. Balin’s charming vulnerability neutralizes the Slick/Kantner harshness and kindles a much needed spark through the album as a whole, making Dragon Fly the Slick/Kantner combine’s first adequate effort since ’69’s Volunteers. A spark, however, does not necessarily mean a lift-off — it’s safer to view this album as a proud exit than the first sign of a major resurgence.