Song: “St. Charles”
Artist: Jefferson Starship
Album: Spitfire (1976)
Marry swelling chord progressions with chilling, Fleetwood Mac-y dynamics, Grace Slick’s knee-buckling vocals, and a touch of dragon-folklore imagery…and you’ve got Jefferson Starship’s dizzying, 6-minute mirage known as “St. Charles”.
Distant seagull calls and a Craig Chaquico-birthed, moody acoustic-guitar riff pave the way for this magical ride…with takeoff commencing the second Marty Balin insists, “let me tell you ’bout a dream…”.
More than just a psychedelic glimpse into typically ornate, Starship-thought, “St. Charles” is a hypnotizing whirlwind of the Far East and myth-woven sensuality…beyond what even the band members perfectly understand. And so they keep it vague–and resistant to decryption by the simpleminded listener.
Whatever/wherever St. Charles is, we’re not sure. It is, however, a distant sanctum worshipped by Slick’s intensifying “OOH”s, layered harmonies, and an overall instrumental carpet ride–operated and maintained by Pete Sears and David Freiberg, and their never-ending keyboards.
Though Jefferson Starship’s name has historically been tainted by major corniness accusations (not helped by simpleton radio hits like “We Built This City”), the album Spitfire marks a significant popularity-high ridden out by the 7-piece group–spanning from their Airplane-to-Starship renewal period in the early 70s, to their disintegration at the close of the decade. “St. Charles” cannot more accurately illustrate the band’s perpetually spacey and magical subject matter–their most deeply-rooted [and magnetizing] traits since the dawn of “White Rabbit” and other acid-inspired tracks.
Lyricism may serve as the track’s enigma, but flawless musicality subdues our confusion. Each instrument, voice, and riff shines. And all previously jumbled pieces of this mystical, melodic dream are morphed together–making unexplained, ethereal sense–with Balin’s reverberating claim, “she’s the storm-bringer…the storm-changer…”.