Think for a moment about rock music’s preeminent bass players. John Entwistle, Jack Bruce, and John Paul Jones come to mind as the crème de la crème. But what of Jack Casady? One of the most talented and innovative bassists to emerge from the 1960s scene, Casady is often overlooked but certainly worthy of mention with his four string brethren. Establishing himself first with the psychedelic Jefferson Airplane, then with Hot Tuna, Casady has become an icon in music circles, a gifted bassist with an impressive resume. Over the course of four decades, Casady has worked with the best of his musical compatriots, displaying a versatility and willingness to experiment that few artists share. With the release of his first solo album, Casady demonstrates that time has taken nothing from his abilities as a player, writer, and adventurer.
At first glance, one might expect Dream Factor to closely resemble Casady’s work with Airplane or, at the very least, electric Hot Tuna, as it is his inaugural solo effort. Surprisingly, aspects of each incarnation are completely nonexistent, as Casady has crafted a beautifully original work grounded in folksy blues sensibilities. Utilizing the services of a diverse collection of friends and musicians, Casady has successfully shed all vestiges of his previous bass playing identity, allowing him to explore and create without constraint. Including Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes and Matt Abts, the Tubes’ Fee Waybill, Little Feat’s Paul Barrere, and the Black Crowes’ Steve Gorman among others, the supporting cast is a formidable one and a testament to the respect Casady has earned among his peers.
Dream Factor’s 11 tracks form an interesting listening experience, as Casady’s collaborative efforts give each song a distinctive signature and contribute to the album’s wonderful ebb and flow. The slow and earnest “By Your Side” is contrasted by the driving “Who You Are”; the deep Ivan Neville vocals of “Trust Somebody” and “Daddy’s Lil’ Girl” sit comfortably with the melancholy acoustic “Weight of Sin”; the blues-drenched “Paradise” and “Listen to the Wind” are complimented by the Long Ryders-esque folk rock of “Water from a Stone”.
While the underlying sound of Dream Factor is distinctly blues oriented, Casady deviates from the norm with a pair of electrifying inclusions. The six-minute-plus instrumental “Outside” is highlighted by the superb guitar work and drumming of Haynes and Abts, and features Casady at his rhythmic best. Similarly, the album’s closing track, “Sweden”, provides a dynamic sendoff as Haynes shares lead with none other than Casady’s brother in arms, Jorma Kaukonen. The result is a powerful end note to an immensely satisfying solo debut.
What Casady has done with Dream Factor is nothing short of courageous. It would have been easy to put together a collection of songs threaded by the familiar undercurrents of his work in Airplane and Tuna. Casady chose to eschew the trappings of his past musical persona, however, deciding instead to blaze a trail of new sounds with the help of some impressive guests. By nimbly assembling the component parts, Casady has succeeded in creating a fine album, as well as reaffirming his reputation as one of rock’s most gifted bassists.
Let’s hope that Dream Factor is the beginning of something special.
// Notes from the Road
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