THE JEFFERSON AIRPLANE
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Richard Everill <CherCello@aol.com> (30.10.99)
I found your review while checking my daughter's idea that Surrealistic Pillow came out before Sgt. Pepper. She had noticed the line in "With a Little Help from my Friends": "...I just want someone to love". Of course, your page answered this question perfectly!
I was a big Airplane fan in the 60's. I also listened -- and still listen -- to a lot of classical music, from Renaissance choral works to Beethoven sonatas to modern "cacophony and dissonance", as I'm sure you'd call it! So my perspective ought to be rather different...but actually, I agree with some of your judgements. And am stunned by others!
Yes, Jack Casady was terrific! Even in the weakest songs, he's always worth listening to. And Kantner's songs can be annoyingly unmusical. Good as Balin and Slick are as singers, I prefer when they all sing together (as in "Won't You Try"). But I think you underestimate Jorma Kaukonen as a guitaist. His solos in "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" are the best parts of those songs. ;) And "Embryonic Journey" remains a favorite of mine.
Best of all is when Kaukonen and Casady take off together, as in "If You Feel" (Crown of Creation), "The Other Side of This Life" (live version, on the Bless Its Pointed Little Head album from 1969), or -- dare I say it? -- "Spare Chaynge" (Baxter's). Much as I like love "Cream", I think I prefer Kaukonen+Casady to Clapton+Bruce: JA's songs often aren't as good, but the solos are more memorable! Okay, maybe I already regret this judgement ...
Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (16.02.2000)
With all due respect, it seems that Europeans have a very hard time getting into the Airplane. And I think that, aside from a lot of the music reflecting the time it was created in, it also reflects the place -- the USA . The Airplane's attitudes towards music making, relentless experimentation (of all sorts), and especially politics, was very American. It's very hard to appreciate the Airplane's stuff without having lived through the time and place; and even I am too young to fully do so -- I hadn't reached adolescence by the time Volunteers was released.
In addition, they, unlike the Byrds and so many others, were really not influenced much beyond the first album by the Beatles in a musical sense. The sound of Cream and Hendrix clearly came into play on After Bathing at Baxter's, but they pretty much, for good or ill, charted their own course.
One can argue that this dates the music, but that doesn't matter. What really caught me about the Airplane was how off-kilter their music and lyrics could be. I don't know if "discordant harmonies" is a contradiction in terms, but whenever something like Crown of Creation came on the radio, my ears would perk up because there was something just a bit off, strange, unusual -- not the smooth vocals of the Beach Boys or Beatles, or a standout solo voice like Jagger. And their best stuff has great melodies-but straightforward and bizarre, but still accessible.
Unfortunately, the band learned the hard way that ongoing drug use, swapping of sexual partners and political anger only divides people from another rather than brings them together, and that becomes apparent as you chart the band's flight from Crown of Creation and Volunteers to Bark and Long John Silver. Which makes your assessment of Volunteers all the more confusing, but we'll get to that...
Robert <email@example.com> (19.01.2001)
I don't know if you are familiar with any Hot Tuna material, or ever saw them during their heyday(73-77). From reading your comments on JA, you don't seem to have much appreciation for two of the all-time greatest and most authentic rock and roll legends. Like Frank Sinatra, Jack and Jorma always did things their way. They never worried too much about promoting themselves, or doing what anybody else wanted them to do.
You don't think that Jorma was a virtuouso guitarist? He is simply one of the greatest and most distiinctive guitarists America has ever produced. You seem to be a big Hendrix fan. Well, I believe he thought Jack Casady was the best on bass. Nobody has ever thumped a bass like Jack at his best.
On their recent tour, HT sold shirts which read "if you don't know Jorma, you don't know Jack". Their picture was on the back, but no further identification was necessary. You see, if you know J&J and what they put into their shows , and just how great they were at their best, you just nod or smile at the mention of their first names.
You, sir, don't seem to KNOW Jorma, in which case it is likely that you don't know JACK!
Kevin Baker <firstname.lastname@example.org> (12.03.2001)
This is the most criminally underrated band ever. It's as if everyone thinks that JA died with the '60s. Radio stations don't play anything besides 'Somebody To Love' and 'White Rabbit'. They are not just a historical curio or a footnote. They rock! Now, they've dated...a lot. Acid rock may have been fresh in the late '60s, but nowadays it sounds very, wel, 60-ish. But that's the magic of it. It's a musical transport back in time. On top of that factor, they have a unique aura to them. No one has managed to quite capture the unique feel their music had. It's such a shame that these guys (and Grace Slick) got dumped in the wastebasket of music. They're every bit as good as some others who haven't been trashed.
I find your reviews harsh, yet well researched. You are entitled to them, so there would be no sense in my saying anything more of them. There is an error, however. Darby Slick (writer of Somebody to Love) was not Grace's ex-husband, but Grace's ex-husband in law. Grace was married to Jerry Slick, though it was said that Darby always had a secret liking toward Grace...
Glenn Wiener <email@example.com> (30.07.2001)
True pioneers of the psychedelic era. This band had it all. An ace guitar player in Jorma Kaoukenen and a steady bassist in Jack Cassidy. What a kisser on that dude. Some incredible vocal performances most notably by Grace Slick on 'White Rabbit' and 'Somebody To Love' and Marty Ballin on Plastic Fantastic Lover. And numerous songs, vocal harmonies, and thought provoking lyrics. Personally the lead tracks from Volunteers due intrigue me. 'Good Shepherd' is a hidden gem in their repertoire. It’s a shame that the band disintegrated as the seventies began although Hot Tuna and Jefferson Starship put out some good songs. The later Starship with Mickey Thomas is just too sappy for my tastes. Such a far cry from the Airplane’s glory days. None the less, the Airplane were definitely high flyers during their hey day.
From a personal standpoint, for me the Airplane started to fragment on Crown of Creation. As a fan and a listener, I could tell that they were still MUSICALLY a group, but the content of the songs showed people pulling in very different directions. When Volunteers came out, I rushed out and bought it, came home and played it, and literally cried because I could FEEL that my favorite band was dead. Volunteers is the sound of the group being polite session players on each others' songs. A very sad album. And once Spencer was gone, the magical heartbeat of the Airplane (Casady and Dryden) was stilled. Not to denigrate anyone's contribution (because each player brought far more to the table than just their technical musicianship), but you could have replaced just about any of the other musicians in the group EXCEPT Casady or Dryden and not made that much of a difference in the overall sound. They were both very unique and original players, and their interplay formed the canvas that the vocalists and guitar players worked their magic on. The various members, in various configurations, went on to make a lot of beautiful music that I still enjoy today. But for me, the truly magical music was made with the Slick, Kantner, Balin, Kaukonen, Casady, and Dryden lineup. At their best, no one was even close to them.
Catherine M. <firstname.lastname@example.org> (06.03.2003)
Okay, the Airplane are the only "favorite band" I guess I've ever had, and I suppose I felt I could call them that because they were nobody else's favorite band. All through high school and college I suffered alienation from being a fan of so-called "psychedelia" who happened to be indifferent towards the Dead and Phish. I got a lot of blank stares. I guess all that contributed to my bitterness... Even more alienating (after I found fellow Airplane fans on the net) is the fact that I have no use for/appreciation of musicianship, despise jamming, and will never again be tempted to attend a Hot Tuna show after the one I went to in the late nineties (yawn). (And believe me... I know what ire I'm raising... I know from rabid Hot Tuna devotees, the JA mailing list was lousy with them.) While I may absentmindedly acknowledge that Casady and Kaukonen contribute to the special dark sound of the band, I'm too ignorant of their peculiar disciplines to want to delve any deeper into their oeuvre. I'm all about the SONGS with this band, and I'm all about Grace, with whom I was fairly obsessed all through my miserable college career. In addition to liking your cranky writing style, I like the fact that you acknowledge her vocal brilliance while generally disliking the Airplane's body of work. I disagree with you on the latter, but hey... the world keeps spinning. I happen to be the sort of person that thinks... the more dated-sounding music is, the BETTER! I've never been fond of the times in which I've been born, and while I think the baby-boomers were self-indulgent, near-sighted dunderheads for the most part, still I envy them without admiring them. "The spirit of the album was so peculiar to the hopes, dreams and fears of one subset of the subculture of that particular time." Yes, I agree with that, but about the band and not just a particular album. I think of their music as a photograph that includes smells and sounds and feelings. (I'm starting to sound dippy, I know... sorry) 'Won't You Try/Saturday Afternoon' may be the best example of that photograph metaphor. And just as a closing endorsement, I've always listened to the Airplane stone cold sober... no Rx, no booze. Anyway, despite the many ways in which our opinions on this band diverge, the places where they coincide kinda made me smile. Cheers!
I have a lot of respect for the Jefferson Airplane because they had a lot of dreams and ideas that went past just being in a band. These guys in my opinion were chiefly responsible for America questioning our involvement in the Vietnam war back in the sixties. Before them, people didn't really openly question it. The phrase "question authority" totally came from them. Grace Slick was the most influential female singer in the sixties. Idolized by girls, loved by boys, she was not only a beautiful hippie, she had tremendous talent as well. Not to be outdone, Marty Balin posessed a tremendous voice as well. Jorma was a good guitar player, but his roots always did lie in the blues. That's where he came from, and that's where he went back to after the Airplane. Paul Kantner eventually took control of the Airplane from Marty and through his vision, the Airplane became a vehicle for his own political views. I read where Jim Morrison called the Airplane "the most boring band ever." This is however a criticism from a performance level, not a communication level, and the Airplane did communicate to an entire generation. Surrealistic Pillow is probably the second most listened to album of the sixties next to Sgt. Pepper. I love the Airplane and what they stood for, and the fact that they had the guts to stand up and say "up against the wall motherfucker." Eventually, the Marty Balin split, and the whole band disintegrated shortly thereafter. I had the privelege of interviewing Marty when I cohosted a radio show in Tampa and he told me that the sixties were such an idealized time that you had to see it for yourself. The Beatles without question owned the sixties musically, but the Airplane was the first band to make people think.
marc <email@example.com> (16.07.2004)
I'm 18 and just went through all of my Dad's Beatles records, and I just recently discovered the Airplane. I found their greastest hits album, and it's amazing. There isint a single song on that album that hasen't either put a smile on my face ('It's no Secret') or made me feel really cool ('Plastic Fantastic Lover') got me all groovy ('Somebody to Love') or tripped me out at the peak of a hallucenogen trip ('White Rabbit', 'Chushingura')
But I'm not sure if anyone has ever said this, but me and a friend of mine are on the same level of this one. Not just how 'White Rabbit' can clearly intensify your high, but 'Chushingura' is almost lifelike in representing what you feel and hear on a bad trip. The eerie chords and spaced out bongo's only make things more intense, while the follow up song brings you to a nice calm. Almost like 'Embryonic Journey' following 'White Rabbit': your hit in the head with the most intense lyrics and riffs you've ever heard, then you relax to the mellow sounds of a classical guitar.
Richard Everill <CherCello@aol.com> (30.10.99)
"Don't Slip Away" & "Tobacco Road" -- maybe it's Casady's bass, but I find these cuts among the better ones.
Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (16.02.2000)
A forgotten gem. Not as groundbreaking as the Byrds' early work, but solid original folk rock nonetheless. Balin's voice is sweet, but not saccharine (unlike later). The sound is totally guitar-centered, which prevents the sound from getting too cloying. The album, for me, really conjures up a lot of wide-eyed innocence -- even if the Airplane wasn't nearly as naive as the atmosphere of the songs indicates! And it does have the most consistently unified sound of any of their albums.
What is also striking is that, even at this early stage, the individual personalties of the other group members come through, despite Balin's control of the band. I don't particularly care for "And you Like It." I'm not a big blues fan, but it does give Jorma a chance to play the blues he loves so much, and they don't let him sing! I agree that Signe has an incredible voice, but it's too bad she didn't get a better song to sing. Paul gets to sing "Let Me In," but the song is a lot more noticeable for those incredible bass runs Jack plays -- try this one through headphones. And Spence, who co-wrote "Blues for an Airplane" and the unjustly overlooked "Don't Slip Away," proves that he had quite a gift for melodies -- these are two major highlights of the album. And they do the absolute BEST version of "Let's Get Together" ever released -- beating out the Youngbloods' rather ordinary take by a mile -- much more powerful. This could have been a major hit if someone had been smart enough to release it as a single.
There are released outtakes which SHOULD have been left on the album, instead of nondescript stuff like "Tobacco Road" and "Run Around." The CD reissue restores the bouncy B-side "Runnin' Round this World," which was left off the LP because of the word "trips" -- the record company thought those trips might have been of the LSD-induced variety. Wonder what would have made them think that? The anthology Early Flight contains a cover of the old folk song "High Flying Bird," which has GREAT vocals from Marty and Signe, a la "Let's Get Together." And the boxed set has the first version of a terrific driving rocker by Kantner, "Go to Her," which is the first indication of his writing unusual song structures. Oh well.
Fredrik Tydal <firstname.lastname@example.org> (14.04.2000)
I find this one rather weak, actually. Some of the songs are so impressionless that you sometimes find yourself listening to Casady's bass lines instead of the actual songs. "Blues From An Airplane" is probably the best song here, along with "And I Like It" and "Don't Slip Away". "It's No Secret" and "Come Up The Years" are annoyingly catchy with pedestrian lyrics. "Let's Get Together" is inferior to the Youngbloods version and seems a bit pointless. And, finally, you'd think that the group were heavily influenced by The Byrds' Fifth Dimension. I was very surprised to learn that the Airplane's debut was both recorded and released before that album. And "Eight Miles High" wasn't even yet released when the recordings for Takes Off were finished. That's quite impressive. Some more things in defense for the album; the playing is really solid and the harmonies are good. In the end, I'll probably give it a 7 - but that's generous.
Morten Felgenhauer <Morten.Felgenhauer@kvaerner.com> (12.01.2001)
Signe quit the band because she was pregnant. It seems like a pretty good idea - I don't know if the drug-drenched hippie collective that was Jefferson Airplane was an ideal invironment for a child. Not to mention the touring, of course.
Pat Shipp <email@example.com> (22.10.2003)
If it weren't for Crown Of Creation, I would easily name this the greatest Airplane album ever. Jefferson Airplane is definitely one of my top five favorite bands of all time, and this is how they started. First, let me talk about Signe Anderson. She wasn't quite as good as Grace ('cause Grace was an absolute goddess), but she still has a marvelous voice that's downright stunning at times, most notably on "Chauffeur Blues", her only solo spot on the album. Kick-ass song. Listen to her wail on the second verse and you'll see what I mean. Grace would be proud! And the re-mastered version of the CD has lots of pictures in the booklet. In every picture, Signe has her long, black hair in pigtails. What a beauty she was.
Anyway, my favorite tune on here is the AWESOME "Bringing Me Down", which I love more than words can say. This song just kicks maximum ass from beginning to end. Love it, love it, love it! "Blues From An Airplane" is utterly spooky, almost to the point where it gives you goosebumps. "Don't Slip Away" and "Come Up The Years" are two of the greatest romantic rock songs ever written. The former has a fabulous guitar line, too. "Tobacco Road" is a wonderful blues tune; "Run Around" is the album's only weak song; "It's No Secret" is Marty at his best (lyrically and vocally) ; "Let's Get Together" puts the Youngbloods' version to shame; "Let Me In" simply rocks, and "And I Like It" is an emotional epic.
And the aforementioned remastered CD version is a real treat. Superb sound quality, elaborate liner notes and cool pictures. The last picture is one of Signe, in which she looks incredibly lovely (I think I already mentioned that). And not only that, but you get nine - count 'em - NINE bonus tracks. One of them is an excellent rocker called "Runnin' Round This World" (and no, it's not just a re-write of "Run Around"). There's also a glorious version of the song "High Flying Bird", in which Marty and Signe trade vocal leads to magnificent effect.
Hear the roar of the Jefferson Airplane!
Alexey Provolotsky <firstname.lastname@example.org> (10.08.2005)
A strong debut. I had expected more, though. George is absolutely right; the album is not so easy to get into. But after a couple of careful listens you start noticing that the melodies are there (and quite catchy, most of them) and that special Jefferson charm (don’t know how to call it) is there as well. To tell the truth, there are no real classics on Takes Off (not counting the bonus tracks, at least), but some come close. Like, say, Marty’s charming “It’s No Secret” and the closing track, the bluesy “And I Like It”. The latter is, in fact, my favourite track here. Other standouts are the opening track (love that middle part), the cover “Let’s Get Together” (catchy, catchy, catchy) and the unforgettable “Don’t Slip Away”. Unfortunately, some tracks are rather bland and lack hooks. For example, only Casady’s amazing bass saves the Kantner-sung “Let Me In”.
But the bonus cuts are most definitely worthwhile. “High Flying Bird” (now that is a true classic!) is better than anything on the album. Man, what gorgeous singing! And “It’s Alright” is also my personal favourite. How can one resist that contrast in voices singing the verses and the chorus? Well, I sure can’t.
The album gets a very high 11 overall without the bonus tracks and a definite 12 with.
In your review of Jefferson Airplane Takes Off you mention Signe Anderson's under-rated vocal prowess. I can't help but agree, but it's followed by a remark on Grace's role not being much more prominent. ("Didn't write no songs and doesn't play anything") While you're definitely right about her not singing lead too often (and why Kantner gets to half the time is one of the great questions of the universe), she DID write songs (She's the author of every track she sings lead on other than 'Triad', after Pillow) and she played all the Keyboards on the Airplane's albums, piano, organ, mellotron, whatever ('cept for volunteers, where it's of course, the unforgettable Nicky Hopkins. She DOES play on the two songs she wrote on that album). Oh, and recorder. That counts too.
No big deal, since there's only like, four tunes where her recorder gets featured ('Comin' Back to Me', 'How Do You Feel', 'Martha', and 'Eskimo Blue Day') and she only plays piano on a few compositions before Bark, still, thought it might be worth mentioning...
Hatte Blejer <email@example.com> (23.08.2006)
I just downloaded Jefferson Airplane Takes Off (Remastered). I bought the original album in 1966-1967 after hearing the Airplane live multiple times at the Fillmore in San Francisco. I agree with your review. While Grace Slick and some of the slightly later psychedelic tunes are classics (White Rabbit), this is the album that defined what I liked about Jefferson Airplane -- much better live by the way -- and why I stopped listening to them by 1970. Yes, there is no comparison to The Doors or to Janis Joplin. I saw The Doors live once outdoors on Mt. Tamalpias with Janis Joplin, the Grass Roots, and some others. I saw Janis Joplin everytime she played the Bay Area for a couple of years. The Jefferson Airplane was not a great '60s band, but it was a defining band for us Bay Area hippies and flower children back in those innocent but slightly dark times and I won't forget Howlin' Wolf as the opening act at the Fillmore, followed by JA pre Grace Slick. Chaffeur Blues is a great song. Every song on this album makes me remember an unususal time of my life and the life of American youth.
Richard Everill <CherCello@aol.com> (30.10.99)
"DCBA-25" is named after its chords, and we all knew where the "-25" came from. Great guitar & bass, ensemble singing -- I don't see how you can call it cacaphonous! "Somebody to Love" may have been written by Darby Slick, but he wrote it wrong! If you ever get a hold of the recording of "The Great Society" (the Slick/Slick band), you'll hear him play the "wrong" chords -- much weaker than JA's version. Glad to see you like "Today", always one of my favorites, and "Funny Cars" (great bass, great ensemble singing). "Plastic Fantastic" : once again, fabulous guitar and bass.
Valentin Katz <Valka324@home.com> (08.12.99)
Listening to the two Grace Slick tunes, 'Somebody to Love' and 'White Rabbitt', especially the latter give me goosebumps. The Piper at the Gates of Dawn can be frigtening but these two songs give me true scared-shitless goosebumps. 'White Rabbitt''s song-long crescendo to "FEED YOUR HEAD" is incredible. This is exactly what I'm looking for, psychedelia taking the dangerous aspect, not the flower power side. Piper does this perfectly and so does these 2 songs.
Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (16.02.2000)
After reading you review, I guess I do have to concede this is their best, although I like a lot of their later work. Every track is solid. I guess my problem is more with the production. A lot of the band members complain that too much echo was used, and Jorma's lead guitar is kind of tinny sounding. And Spencer's drums are kind of buried.
Every track is solid. There's certainly more variety than on the last album. A major leap in lyrics -- a lot of twists and turns and more topical concerns. What IS that "fine nicotine" Balin wants to obtain in "3/5 of a Mile?". And again, the individual personalities of the band exhibit themselves -- except for Spencer, who was kept on a relatively tight leash. Kantner's "DCBA -25" is indeed weird, but it's much better than "Let Me In" -- how can you not like a line "so many days are left unstoned" delivered in such an innocent, naive way?. Jorma scores by co-writing (and not singing!) the rocker "She Has Funny Cars" with Balin and with "Embryonic Journey" -- I think that's a very skilled track. And Grace's classics just go without saying.
The two outside tracks are delightful, sounding like more trippy songs by the Mamas and Papas. Spence's talent again came through on "My Best Friend," as well as on an outtake (on Early Flight) called "JPP McStep b Blues", another harmony beauty along the same lines. Early Flight also contains a second version of "Go to Her," with Grace adding a memorable vocal. Come on, record company guys, you had room for these!
Fredrik Tydal <firstname.lastname@example.org> (03.04.2000)
Another one of those great 1967 records. Probably the most crafted, consistant and throughly solid work the Airplane put out. Unfortunately, I only have an early CD pressing of it - doesn't seem like RCA reissued it again when they gave the late period albums the remastered/booklet treatment in '98. So the sound is a little inferior to what you're used to... Most songs are really good; "She Has Funny Cars" has an interesting song structure, "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit" are classics, and I actually enjoy Kaukonen's "Embryonic Journey". "Plastic Fantastic Lover" is another high-light, which they took to even further heights in concerts; the version on the live album Bless Its Pointed Little Head is really good. The only mediocre and less impressive tracks are Balin's "Coming Back To Me" and Kantner's "D.C.B.A.-25", though I don't think the latter is as bad as you describe it.
Wipqmio Emizo <fiber_optiqREMOVETHIS@yahoo.com> (14.04.2000)
I think "D.C.B.A.--25" is a great song (although I don't know what the "25" means). The vocals are beautiful, and the guitar solo is one of the best on the album. The melody actually seems Beatle-esque, so you ought to like it. The rest of this album is pretty much great and requires no comment, except that "How Do You Feel", "Embryonic Journey", and "Plastic Fantastic Lover" are not up to the rest of the album's standards, and "Today" is possibly one of the best songs I've ever heard.
Kevin Baker <email@example.com> (12.03.2001)
This is, IMHO, the 3rd best album of 1967, narrowly beating out MMT and trailing only Disraeli Gears and Sgt. Pepper. This is one of the most fantastic collections of songs ever unleashed upon mankind. 'Somebody To Love' is every bit as great as everyone says it is. Grace's vocal delivery on it is the real highlight. I even say she beats Janis Joplin out for my favorite female singer. Except Rachel Phillips, but that's probably only because she sits next to me in English so I have someone to talk to when we should be reading Julius Caser which isn't a bad play but my teacehr is so boring and....sorry for the rant. But at any rate, 'Somebody To Love' is a glorious moment in musical history. Ferocious vocals, voracious guitars, fantastic song. But none of the rest are slouches either. 'Today' is far and away the best of the ballads, and it may just be the best ballad the band ever did. Unashamedly romantic and beautiful, and the duet between Marty and Grace is truly something special. Then of course, 'White Rabbit'. In a little over 2 minutes, Grace manages to blame parents for drug experimentation by pointing out the one of the most popular children's books of the times is basically an acid trip on paper. The bass line threatens to steal the show from Grace's delivery, but how can it??? The pure power of the vocals simply cannot be beat. FEED YOUR HEAaAaAaAaAaAaAaAAAD! A classic.
But everything else is on the same general level as these classics! Even 'DCBA-25' and 'Embryonic Journey'. The former is quite cool. Very jangley and soft. I don't see anything wrong with the vocal parts. 'White Rabbit' it ain't, but what is? And 'Embryonic Journey' is simply lovely. Very peaceful and gentle. I suppose it's supposed to represent life in the womb, but I wouldn't know. I don't remember. 'Plastic Fantastic Lover' (it's about a TV set) is a lot of fun, but it sounds like Marty singing to me, not Jorma. 'She Has Funny Cars' is a groovy little pop song with some really cool moments. I like the guitar part at the beginning. 'My Best Friend' is, for the Airplane, a little cheesey, but it still flies. 'How Do You Feel' has some cool flute lines and some good guitar pickin'. And '3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds' is typical San Francisco acid rock. Cool album, 10 out of 10 any day of the week.
Glenn Wiener <firstname.lastname@example.org> (10.12.2001)
Not as fabulous as every says it is. The arrangements are pretty identical from track to track. And there are at least three or four filler tracks that do not say anything Special. But 'White Rabbitt', 'Embryonic Journey', 'Somebody To Love', 'She Has Funny Cars', and 'My Best Friend' are all strong tracks. You said it best when you recommended readers to find a compilation.
Alexey Provolotsky <email@example.com> (10.08.2005)
A classic! I haven’t heard all of their albums yet, but as for now, this is obviously their best. Nearly every single song has something to offer. Still, I’m not a big fan of both “My Best Friend” and “How Do You Feel”, but they’re quite good songs with solid harmonies. And the Kantner’s “D.C.B.A.-25” forgets to offer us a hook, although I can’t deny the fact that it is very professionally done. So, the complaint is minor. Man, but the other tracks are all catchy and beautiful. Balin composed two gorgeous hippie anthems and two strong rockers. Kaukonen’s “She Has Funny Cars” has, like, several different melodies (and GOOD melodies they are!); and his instrumental is one of the highlights here. And the Grace-sung tracks were deserved hits. The fact is that if “White Rabbit” was sung by anybody else (except Mickey Dolenz, of course!), it would become quite a plain song. Really, it’s all vocals.
I guess I will be the first to admit that, but 1967 was rather a good year for music. A high 13 overall.
Oh, and my CD has some bonus tracks. “In The Morning” is Kaukonen’s blues, which is quite generic, but still not bad. Alex Spence’s acoustic track called “J.P.P. McStep B. Blues” is very beautiful regardless of the crazy title. Finally, “Go To Her” is a total fucking classic. Fast, catchy and the harmonies. And the great guitar. Is that not enough for you?
Mark C. <firstname.lastname@example.org> (21.01.2006)
I would still like to know the correct lyrics that Grace 'answers' underneath the two stanzas Paul is singing on SHFC.
"You can collect-all the neglect-" Which sounds like "You can delay, (or) you can be late, (then undecpherable)
Like wise the next part is in "They may be wise -with their disquise..." While she sings "They-may be wise, BUT, (then undecipherable)
Fredrik Tydal <email@example.com> (18.10.99)
I don't agree here. You can perfectly enjoy this album without being under the influence of certain substances, though it would kind of an interesting experiment.
I see this album as the Airplane's most revolutionary, since no other "commercial" band up to this point had released such a consistent trippy and drugged-out album. Moving on, I don't understand what there is lacking in the performances; you have the trademark Casady bass, Jorma's psychedelic guitar, Spencer's solid drumming and Grace's powerful voice. Ok, so there's much to ask for in the song-writing department; but, hey, what other Californian band cared about the lyrics in late 1967? Ok, so maybe the first five minutes of "Spare Chaynge" are dragging and unnecessary - but, in my opinion, the solid muscian-ship of Kaukonen, Casady and Dryden makes up for it. All right, "Young Girl Sunday Blues" and "Martha" are forgettable, but tolerable. "Small Package..." is just your basic '67/'68 spaced-out sound collage - nothing to get upset about. The opening track, somewhat atonal and setting the mood for the whole album, features great bass work from Casady as usual. "Wild Tyme" has strained lyrics, but good singing. Kaukonen shines on his compulsory blues number "The Last Wall Of The Castle". I myself enjoy both Slick composition, somewhat the high point of the album for me. I don't find "Rejoyce" to be a "self-conscious piece of bullshit" at all; rather, it's an interesting piano experiment.
I would personally give Baxter's an over-all rating of 11. I would moreover give the Airplane a general rating of three. Come on; the Airplane had more raw talent than The Hollies. Ok, I know; talent is worthless if you don't use it.
Finally, a small tid-bit, if you didn't know it; the expression After Bathing At Baxter's means a post-drug state. A sort of a drug hang-over, I suppose.
Richard Everill <CherCello@aol.com> (30.10.99)
Well, I always loved this album. "Watch her Ride" was my least favorite; everything else was at least okay -- even "A Small Package", but then, I like "Revolution 9". :) "rejoyce" is for me a masterpiece, the best song JA ever did, and one of the best songs of the sixties -- but then, I'd say the same about Cream's "As You Said", and that can't be a popular opinion either! Terrific lyrics, terrific singing, outstanding instrumental playing (Casady again!), and fascinating melodies, harmonies, rhythms and orchestration. "Martha" is a high point in Kantner's songwriting -- for once, the music isn't pushed by unmusical lyrics, and Kaukonen shines; too bad Kantner's singing is so weak! I don't know why "Young Girl Sunday Blues" isn't more appreciated: lovely singing and lyrics ('rain slides down the side of my face / must be a rainy day' & 'don't try to touch me with words'). "Wild Thyme" & "Last Wall" have more great guitar playing.
Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (16.02.2000)
Well, the album is indeed a self-indulgence, from people who were self-indulgent, especially in the chemical department. It's another big sonic jump -- the band sounds virtually nothing like the group that made Takes Off. And they have to be admired for not taking the easy way out and making Pillow 2.
The band adopts the experimental attitude (but not the musical style) of the Beatles, but their new producer Al Schmitt was unable to impose the discipline George Martin did on his charges, which prevented the Beatles on Sg t. Pepper from going too far over the top. So, you do get a couple of major errors, like "Small Package," which is just nonmusical garbage. And "Spayre Change" is just a big timewaster. The full frontal attack of these three musicians, though, is captured much, much better on this album than on the Pil low, although not on this specific track. (Although to really appreciate how killer they could be, you need the in concert albums Bless its Pointed Little Head and Live at the Fillmore East.) They really crank it up, thanks to Hendrix and Cream showing up at the Fillmore.
The success of Grace's two hits from Pillow shifted the power center away from Balin, so he became increasingly alienated. Plus Jack and Jorma kept making fun of his wimpy love songs. Which is why we get only one Marty song, "Young Girl?" But based on this track (as well as two unused outtakes on the boxed set, "Things Go Better in the East" and "Don't Let Me Down"), maybe the Hot Tuna guys had a point. He is just thoroughly mediocre, already far removed from beauties like "Today," "Comin' Back to Me" and "Don't Slip Away."
To like the album, you have to like Paul. And I do. I love those bizarre melodies and twisted chord changes, sort of like folk melodies gone delightfully awry. And those weirdly wonderful, power trio harmonies (or disharmonies). A totally unique sound. But the relentless electric bombardment does become a bit much, which is why "Martha" is a favorite. Paul tones it down. And despite "Come up the Years," the band members were not above dallying with nymphets -- "Martha" is about another one of these young ladies.
"Won't You Try Saturday Afternoon?" does become a bit too long and droning. On the boxed set, there's a live version recorded before the album was, and it''s much quicker and more rocked up. They really should have retained that arrangement instead. Jorma's track sounds like a faster imitation of a Paul track -- which is OK, but they let him sing it himself in that flat, boring voice of his. He should have given it to "the power trio." Fortunately, it's over quickly (but just try sitting through an entire Hot Tuna album, no matter how well he plays).
And I just love Grace's stuff, because I just imagine the record company guys' faces when they heard them. I'm sure they were hoping Gracie would come up with more Top 40 ditties like "Somebody to Love," and instead they got these. "Two Heads" is beyond strange, but neat. And if you don't like the lyrics to "rejoyce," it's not 100% her fault. She took the lyrics from James Joyce's oddball novel, Ulysses. Well, it could have been worse -- she could have tackled Finnegan's Wake.
I'll defend the album to the death, because of the sheer chutzpah and musicianship behind it. The fact that they stumbled a few times is not so bad.
Wipqmio Emizo <fiber_optiqREMOVETHIS@yahoo.com> (13.04.2000)
I think "rejoyce" is a great song. Yes, it's dissonant. Yes, it's bizarre Yes, it's more jazz than rock. Yes, it's also a work of genius and one of my favorite songs, ever. As for the rest of the album, it's mixed. I like "Two Heads" (even if it is sort of stereotypical Grace), "Martha" (except they're out of tune), "The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil" (despite its repetitiveness) and "Young Girl Sunday Blues" (even if it is rather similar to 3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds) quite a bit. But "Small Package" is a failed attempt to imitate the sound-collage genius of the Mothers' We're Only In It For The Money, "Won't You Try/Saturday Afternoon" is too long, and "Last Wall of the Castle" is strongly affected by the fact that Jorma can't sing. Still, I think Baxter's is worth owning.
[Special author note: a slight correction - Money actually came out later than Baxter's].
you should smoke pot ....you need to...music should be listened to with the heart not the mind.your pretty square and limited.
ok "spare change " is mediocre and that could perhaos be blamed on pot...but the rest is the best.
Bucky Harris <firstname.lastname@example.org> (06.09.2000)
Anyone who calls 'Re:joyce' dissonant has a very narrow concept of harmony. To correct a few errors: the review of Surrealistic Pillow wrongly states that Darby Slick was Grace Slick's husband. He wasn't--he was her brother-in-law. Her husband at that time was Jerry Slick. As for the lyrics to 'Re:joyce': the line quoted in the review is actually "Molly's gone to Blazes / Boylan's crotch amazes / Any woman whose husband sleeps with his head all buried down at the foot of his bed." It's a direct reference to the sexual triangle at the heart of Joyce's Ulysses. Blazes Boylan was Molly Bloom's lover. Molly's husband Leopold slept "with his head all buried down at the foot of his bed." Turns out that Slick's lines are a lot smarter than George's uninformed comments!
Charles Jack <HBBBrand@aol.com> (27.12.2000)
On your Baxter's review, you missed an enchanted forest for the sound of your own amateur dendrology lecture. The spirit of the album was so peculiar to the hopes, dreams and fears of one subset of the subculture of that particular time that just thinking about trying to explain it to you reminds me of Louis Armstrong's answer to the woman who asked him to define jazz--"Lady, if you have to ask, you'll never know"--except that unlike you, that lady at least asked.
Two closing notes to the contributors who pointed out literary references:
(1) I never thought of it before, but I suppose the Stephen who "won't give his arm" in rejoyce is Stephen Daedalus.
(2) The "Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil" contains literary references, to two A. A. Milne poems, "Spring Morning," which can be found at
and "Halfway Down," which can be found at
[Special author note: "The spirit of the album was so peculiar to the hopes, dreams and fears of one subset of the subculture of that particular time" sounds very solemn, Mr Jack, but expressed in 'amateur dendrology' terms, it translates as follows: 'The album is hopelessly dated'. What's even funnier is that it is an exact and only possible translation.]
Kevin Baker <email@example.com> (13.03.2001)
This one is probably the most dated of all JA releases, but I don't have any fundamental problems with it. It's biggest problem is the wide range of quality; some tracks rule, others kinda stink. And I love the Airplane. My favorite is 'The Last Wall Of The Castle'. Jorma Kaukonen is such a cool guitarist, plus the song has a singalong quality that much of the rest of this album lacks. I'm also fond of 'Wild Tyme'; I don't really know why. I just like it. I have never acred for the two "standouts", 'Martha' and 'The Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil'. They just lack something that most other Airplane tunes have. I do like 'Rejoyce'; the verse about Ulysses is somewhat clever. The rest of the song is passable as well. I don't care much for 'Spare Chaynge', but everything else is somewhere between passable and good. I'd give it a 7, 10 overall. Which implies the Airplane magically becomes a 3. Hint hint.
Niels Nielsen <firstname.lastname@example.org> (23.05.2001)
For students of the electric bass, the JA Baxter's album is a revelation. Casady's playing was the glue that held their music together, and after 34 years of listening to it, I find there are still things in it I can learn from as a bassist. I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss this album as dated, because although the social context for it evaporated long ago, the content of the music itself is still valid today.
Many of your readers diss "Spare Chaynge" as a waste of vinyl. This was an impromptu studio jam to be sure, loosely based on the "Bolero" changes, but in it, Casady is playing chords and open string drones on the bass as counterpoint to Jorm's guitar: fabulous work, unprecedented and inventive. I used this cut as the sound track to an 8mm film I shot in high school in 1970 and later spent months and months trying to learn the bass part as a beginning student.
In "Two Heads", Casady is playing a 6-string Fender bass and doing standard blues-guitar string bend licks during the verses- ON BASS. The entire verse figure consists almost entirely of two and three-string chords with string bends inserted into the chords.
In "rejoyce", Casady is playing counterpoint to Slick's piano, doing everything BUT doubling her left-hand part, as would be typical for any rock bassist, and his precise speed and agility on this cut continue to amaze me. Try to figure out what he's doing behind the oboe solo!
"Young Girl Sunday Blues" might sound uneven to your ears, but this is in large measure because the instrumental tracks were recorded at a live performance and the vocals dubbed in later in the recording studio. You can hear the engineer "pan" several of the instruments off-center to make room for Marty's vocals in the mix right at the start of the first verse.
Casady's purposeful use of the distortion-causing quirks of his Versatone Bass Amp fill in the many cracks and crevices left behind by Paul, Jorm and Spencer on many of the tracks, as for example during Jorm's fuzz guitar solo in "Saturday Afternoon", which Paul signals by saying "keep it going" off-mike.
Michael H. <email@example.com> (22.08.2002)
if i remember correctally, they were doing a lot of drugs during the making of this album. i remember being told that. i especally remember being told (and maybe read somewhere) that it was nitrice oxide!!! I was told this. and I think I have bootleg recordings from the sessions.
Nick Vesey <firstname.lastname@example.org> (18.10.2002)
I gotta admit I got some pretty mixed feeling when it comes to this one. Most of the songs are, in my opinion, either hit or miss. I adore 'Saturday Afternoon' as well, and I also like 'Rejoyce' in moderation, mostly for Jack's bass and that odd wind instrument, whatever it is... oboe? I have no idea. It sounds like the sort of instrument a snake-charmer would use to, uh, charm a snake or what have you. And I dig 'Young Girl Sunday Blues' as well, even though I can't explain why. I can easily tolerate 'A Small Package Of Value Will Come To You Shortly', since it really is too short to bother me. By the way, 'Small Package' was actually an attempt to emulate Zappa's sound-collages, not the Stone's 'Sing This All Together (See What Happens)', even though it wouldn't surprise me if that was an influence as well.
Roberto Bardus <email@example.com> (05.01.2003)
After bathing at Baxter's is one of the ten best and influencing albums of the rock history. Like Happy trails of QMS and Anthem of the sun of Grateful Dead, I consider it the triad of the S.F. sound and I don't think it's an updated collection of songs. For me it's one of the first and best exemples of Progressive music in all of it meaning. With this and a few other albums, rock music become big. Thank you.
Catherine M. <firstname.lastname@example.org> (06.03.2003)
This is my least favorite Airplane album, but it contains my favorite songs. I mean, I could almost endorse having the entire band lined up and brutally noogied for having the sheer stones to lay down aural garbage like 'Spare Chaynge' and 'A Small Package of Value Will Come to You Shortly'. (BTW, there is ONE "experimental" song performed by a JA alum that I think is actually enjoyable... check out 'Would You Like A Snack?' on the boxed set... this is Slick's collaboration with Zappa. At the very least, it's funny.) I have little use for either 'Last Wall of the Castle' (any Jorma-sung song with the possible exception of 'Last Week in the Chelsea' makes me wriggle with boredom) or the uninspired (IMO) 'Young Girl Sunday Blues'. 'Rejoyce' is a meandering muddle that just reminds me that I prefer listening to Grace when she's riffing on a solidly written pop melody, not some kind of free-form jazzy blunder. But the rest of the songs, I pretty much adore. In my opinion, even the forgettable 'Wild Tyme' just crackles with ATMOSPHERE... maybe I can't put it any better than that. The lyrics are so dumb and pedestrian, but I still love it for its blind hopefulness... I mean, people actually BELIEVED that the hippy revolution was going to be permanent! At the age of thirteen, I couldn't help but be seduced by the feeling of an alternative reality that was being painted with this music... seduced without any chemical encouragement other than sweltering July New York City heat. Anyway, I believe some of these recordings came to be what they were in SPITE of, not because of, the drug-addled condition of their writers and performers. 'The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil' (indeed inspired by, as another contributer pointed out, the poems of A.A. Milne) is the sort of hard-driving, mind-bending musical diatribe that the Dead wouldn't recognize if it bit them on the arse. Since you already seem to appreciate the oft-overlooked 'Won't You Try...', I'll skip that one and just say a few words in defense of 'Martha'... well, I guess another contributer put it best... either you're into the Paul Kantner vibe or you're not... and 'Martha' may be my favorite Kantner composition of them all... it's psychedelic like a waterfall, and the soaring Grace background vocals are just [waves hands around in a vain effort to find appropriate word]. Anyway, I'll just finish by saying that thankfully, I was introduced to all of the "good" Baxter's songs (except for 'Two Heads'... I had to wait for the boxed set for that one) by the compilation entitled 2400 Fulton Street... and I'm so grateful that this was the case. I wonder if I'd have been able to get past the chaff of 'Spare Chaynge' to appreciate the wheat of 'Won't You Try...'?? Albums can be dangerous things...
E <Meldrain@aol.com> (24.01.2004)
Just had to say, with reference to the lines in question (the whole Molly/Blazes/Bloom allusion) they're absolutely Joyce references, but that hardly means they constitute good lyrics. Anyone can make reference to great literature; the fact that they're a reference doesn't infuse some magical intelligence into them. Actually, I'm somewhat offended that someone would reference my favorite novel in such an inane, pedestrian fashion. A reference needs to contain some insight, cleverness or intelligence, and this one is sorely lacking in that department.
So George was right, they are bad lyrics.
Michael H. <email@example.com> (20.06.2005)
There was some guy on here-living in San Francisco-who read my comments on here, emailed to ask me questions, and told me a lot of interesting things about some of the 'productions' of the album. I think his comments are not here anymore, and after a while his email became "return to sender", but if he is still on here, he can please email me back in regards to Jefferson Airplane. For other stuff: you should hear the original single version of "The Ballad Of You And Me And Poonell" / "Two Heads" not only is it rare (didnt make it anywhere on the top 40) but its in mono, remixed, and edited. A masterpiece. When I have more time, I will tell more about the making of this masterpiece. MORE TO COME...
Pat Shipp <firstname.lastname@example.org> (05.10.2003)
I cannot believe that no one has commented on this AWESOME live album yet. What's wrong with you people? Anyway, for the most part, I was rather disappointed with Bless It's Pointed Little Head because it didn't have Grace at her best. This album, however, has Grace at her best and then some. Just listen to her breath-takingly intense wails at the end of "Greasy Heart". Now THAT is power, ladies and gents! And how about the way she stretches out the word 'head' at the end of "White Rabbit"? Damn. She does it so long that you begin to think she's never gonna stop. Unreal. And "Somebody To Love" is miles better than the pathetic Pointed Little Head version. It finds Grace again singing with every bit of passion that she can muster. But as devastating as those songs are, the real ass-kicker on here is "The Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil". I don't even know if I can find the words to describe it. But I'll try. As soon as you hear the opening roar of an airplane taking off, you know that you're about to experience something truly not of this world. This is the greatest live psychedelic jam EVER recorded. It's a pulsating monster from start to finish, with trippy guitar licks, a pounding rhythm section and powerhouse vocals. The first time I heard this, I had to pick my jaw up from the floor! It totally blew my mind and took my breath away. And how about the tandem vocal attack of Marty and Grace on "Wild Tyme"? Fucking unbelievable. The way that they both wail "IT'S A WILD TIME!", with unearthly enthusiasm, is just amazing. It gets my blood pumping and builds up the tension inside of me to the point where it damn near has me on the verge of an orgasm. See, in concert, Jefferson Airplane always played like they were trying to get off, and get the audience off in the process. Needless to say they usually succeeded. Other highlights include "Watch Her Ride", "She Has Funny Cars" and a funky rendition of "Other Side Of This Life". All in all, this album totally beats the shit out of Bless It's Pointed Little Head. In the words of Airplane connoiseur Jeff Tamarkin, "Nothing in rock could approach the Airplane on a good night". Damn right.
Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (09.03.2004)
Actually, there is more prime time live JA available. On the boxed set, there's about 45 minutes of live stuff from spring '67, just after the release of the second album. So, what you prefer in concert, I suppose, depends on which period of the band's history one prefers (I suspect that you might like the '67 stuff better, with lots of tunes from the first two albums), or comparing versions of the same tune. For instance, the other two versions of "Other Side" rock more than this one, and I miss Paul's harmony voice on "Wild Tyme," as on the third album. "Somebody to Love" is far less polished than the original version, but less improvisational than the BIPLH track. And so on. The bass solo in "Pooneil" is really awesome here, rivaling the live-with-overdubs take on the box. And I actually like "Thing" -- it actually has a discernible chord sequence and melody, plus you don't have to put up with dumb improvised lyrics, like on "Bear Melt." I could do without another version of "Fat Angel," agreed. On the other hand, I appreciate "Star Track" more after hearing this version, and would rather hear that from Jorma than any more of his blues covers. On the whole, I'd probably give this one the nod over BIPLH, mainly because you get more of the group's quality original material here.
Richard Everill <CherCello@aol.com> (30.10.99)
Such a dark album! Too much E minor / E Phrygian. I'd have to really brace myself before I could listen to "Lather" again, as great as it is -- it's depressing just thinking about that song --, and I have to skip "The House at Pooneil". I really enjoy "Chushingura" (really!). "Ice Cream Phoenix" has good lyrics & ensemble singing. "Greasy Heart" is powerfully performed, as is "Triad".
Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (16.02.2000)
Well, it seems like the farther we move along in the Airplane discography, the more our opinions diverge. At least we agree it's an improvement over the last one. But I disagio that it sounds nothing like Baxter's. What this album is a sort of compromise between the single track accessibility of Pillow and the production tricks and advances of Baxter's.
And, again, some of it works and some of it doesn't. The JA did try and get more democratic with the songwriting here. But, as in all democracies, some participants have more strength than others. Jorma's stuff is totally dismissible. As for Marty, "If You Feel" is an OK rocker, but it can't hold a candle to "3/5 of a Mile," "She Has Funny Cars" or "It's no Secret." But I like "Chusingura" -- it creates a brief, echoey moment of weirdness. And don't get so apoplectic abut it, George -- it's only one little minute long! It was edited down from seven. Plus his percussion trio thing, "Ribump-a-bump-a-bump," was totally excised (it's on the boxed set.). So, the fact that Spencer's weirdness is toned down should make you a happier camper!
This leaves my buddy Paul and the glorious Grace to redeem the album. And they do, indeed. Paul really comes into his own here, as far as I'm concerned. "In Time" is a beautiful, haunting number about hippie escapism -- how can you not like it? And for someone who drools over The Doors, I don't understand why you don't like "The House at Pooneil Corners." To me, it sounds like the first cousin of pieces like "The End" and "When's the Music's Over." Except the end here is nuclear war -- a very scary track. (By the way, Pooneil is a combination of Winnie-the-Pooh and folkie Fred Neil.) The title track is another sci-fi themed piece -- the lyrics were taken from a story called "The Chrysalids," by British author John Wyndham. In it, a group of post-nuclear telepathic mutants become the new order. Paul applies this to the hippie movement. Hopelessly naive, but the crashing melody, those power trio harmonies and Casady's thundering bass drive the point home anyway.
And Grace makes a big leap forward, again. "Triad" does have a weird melody -- Crosby rarely wrote a song in standard tuning. But Grace's vocal actually makes the idea of a menage a trois sound tender rather than sleazy, and almost makes you forget Dave had ulterior motives. And she's even more tender on "Lather," with the softest lead vocal she ever did. Despite all the weirdness going on, both musically and lyrically, she leaves you with sympathy for the character (who was based on Dryden) in the end -- "I should have let him go on/smiling baby wide." And I love the sarcastic tone she takes in "Greasy Heart,' too, as she, unlike Paul, shows nothing but contempt for an artistic hippie type. And if you think that one is extreme, try another track which was left off on (again, on the boxed set), her collaboration with Frank Zappa, called "Would You Like a Snack?" (Guess what the snack is!). "Greasy Heart" sounds like "I Want to Hold Your Hand" by comparison.
The reasons for the darkening of the music from '67 to '68 were both internal and external. The gloom of Paul's stuff was inspired by the 1968 escalation of the Vietnam War. And dissension was slowly building within the group, especially with Marty.
Fredrik Tydal <email@example.com> (03.04.2000)
Wow, I actually mostly agree with you on this one, George. Except that maybe I'd raise it one or half a grade or something, just to place it above Long John Silver. This or Surrealistic Pillow is probably the place to start with the Airplane. The group is at their peak here, before the downfall with Volunteers. Kantner manages to restrain himself a bit with the solid title track, which isn't too clumsy or rambling. Kaukonen shines on his bluesy "Ice Cream Phoenix" and "Star Track", the latter with a great solo. Casady is all over the record as usual, adding great touches to otherwise mediocre tracks. In fact, Balin's formularic "If You Feel" is made memorable only by Casady's base. Grace gets two really good songs in "Greasy Heart" and "Lather", before she would fall to such depths as "Hey Frederick". Her cover of Crosby's "Triad" is, however, nowhere as good as the original Byrds one, available as a bonus track on the reissue of The Notorious Byrd Brothers. And, yeah, the closing "House At Pooneil Corners" is bad... But I wouldn't drop the overall grade of the album just because of it.
Wipqmio Emizo <fiber_optiqREMOVETHIS@yahoo.com> (13.04.2000)
Another mixed album. When I first heard this, I didn't like it. But it's grown on me. First of all, the title track is amazingly powerful. "Lather" sends shivers down my spine. "The House at Pooneil Corners," although it kind of trails off into randomness, is quite effective as a variation on "The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil." "Greasy Heart," although too similar to "Two Heads", has some great lyrics ("You are your own best toy to play with, remote control hands, made for each other, made in Japan"). "If You Feel" is great, "In Time" sounds almost like something off Pillow, and "Triad", although musically not enormously interesting, has very interesting lyrical content. And by the way, it's not about a "menage a trois" exactly--it's not about three people in the same bed. What Crosby was writing about is the possibility of one person having two significant others--not necessarily all three of them in the same bed at the same time. You have to take the lyric "Why can't we go on as three" more figuratively, meaning that she doesn't have to choose only one of them. And there's nothing sleazy about going out with two people. Please. OK, now that I'm done proseletyzing, I'll say that I think Crown follows the progression from Pillow to Baxter's, in that, over the course of these three albums, Jefferson Airplane got darker, less voice-oriented and more guitar-oriented, and got worse. But this is still worth gettting. Although--what's the deal with "Star Track"? I hate that song!
Kevin Baker <firstname.lastname@example.org> (13.03.2001)
There we go! This one's as good as Surrealistic Pillow, or at least real close. The title track has always been a favorite of mine. Almost a chant. Very cool. 'Chushingura' is not good, but at least it's short. I love 'Greasy Heart', especially the line about the creamy suntan. Grace's delivery is especially notable. 'Ice Cream Phoenix' is OK, but not much more than that. 'The House At Pooneil Corners'...I like it, but I don't. Dissonant, violent, catastrophic. But brilliant. Depressing as all get out, but what do you expect from a song with lines like "everything will be gone someday except silence" and "there will be no survivors?" The cover of Triad is excellent. I do like most Crosby compositions, and Grace just makes a three-way sound like something sweet, like giving your girlfriend a dozen roses on a moonlit night. How perverse is that??? 'Star Track' and 'Lather' are both groovy. Everything else is decent. 12 overall.
Pat Shipp <email@example.com> (26.10.2003)
George, I can't believe that you didn't mention "In Time", the best song on this album, and maybe the best Airplane song ever. In the review for Baxter's, I believe you said "Kantner's ballads are good, but they don't hold a candle to Marty's far superior ones". I beg to differ. "In Time" shows that Paul can write ballads every bit as good as Marty. I strongly suggest that you give this tune another listen, George, and you'll realize it's grandeur. In particular, listen to the way that Grace sings the word "time" after each verse. Tell me that isn't unbelievably beautiful. And Kantner's lead vocals are excellent, too. The whole atmosphere of the song just haunts me to death, and it's probably my favorite Airplane song ever. That being said, now I can discuss the rest of the songs.
This is their greatest album. There's a little story that goes with "Lather" that perhaps you aren't aware of, so I'll tell it to you: First and foremost, the song is based on drummer Spencer Dryden, because he turned 30 in 1968, hence the line "Lather was thirty years old today". Grace wrote that as a way of teasing him a little bit. Secondly, Jack Casady was given a pill by a drug guru named Owsley, but the pill was accidentally made twelve times too strong, and Jack totally went berserk when he took it. He was arrested for running nude on the beach and drawing pictures in the sand, which is also described in the song ("... to lie about nude in the sand, drawing pictures of mountains that look like bumps..."). And yes, Grace does sing it in a very, very hypnotic way. Same goes for "Triad", in which her crystalline vocal cords sound lovelier than ever. Hard to imagine that dork David Crosby singing it better than Grace, even if he was the one that wrote it. Just check out the way she sings that first line of the final verse ("We love each other, it's plain to see"). That is the voice of a goddess.
"Star Track" features some of the most blistering wah-wah licks ever put on record. Jorma really sizzles on this one. And nobody seems to mention that he was one of the fastest guitarists in the world. "Share A Little Joke" is the album's only mediocre song, and "Chushingura" is totally pointless, but not much worse than "A Small Package Of Value" from Baxter's. The title track of this album is very haunting, but many say that it was plagiarized from a novel called "The Chrysalids". Notwithstanding, I still love the song. Kick-ass bass from Casady. "Ice Cream Phoenix" is even better, with Grace singing some of the most uplifting lyrics ever written ("Take my hand and be happy...These pictures of sadness are not what they seem"). And her "Greasy Heart" has been misinterpreted by many people. It sounds like she's insulting the "girly girl" types who wear makeup and stuff like that. But actually, she's singing about HERSELF. See, she was a model before she got into music, so she knew about trying too look fashionable and all that stuff. In the words of Grace herself, she said "I know it sounds like I'm pointing fingers in the song, but I'm actually living it". Anyway, it's still a great song, though it pales in comparison with the version from Live At The Fillmore East.
So that leaves the creepy "House At Pooneil Corners". I think it's not a secret that the song is about nuclear devastation and the end of the world. I don't see why many people dislike it, I think it's one hell of a song. Dark, dreary, haunting and wonderful. The perfect ending to the perfect album.
Alexey Provolotsky <firstname.lastname@example.org> (10.08.2005)
Good, but only good. Some songs already don’t sound so inspired and some of them drag. But you won’t know that from the first track, Slick’s amusing tale called “Lather”. Again, it’s her vocal delivery that makes the song sound so great, but I don’t really mind. She also sings Crosby’s “Triad”. And they do it well, but I still prefer the Byrds’ version. The tracks that I also enjoy are the catchy rockers “Star Track” and “If You Feel”. Well, I enjoy most of the tracks here, but these tracks are NOT GREAT. What I don’t like are “In Time” (I’m still hunting for the melody), “Share A Little Joke” (very bland, but has some charm) and the closing track, which is, yes, an embarrassment. I believe it has some kind of a hook, but really… And “Chushingura” is nothing at all.
Nah, still a good listen. A good album, really. If you like 2 first albums by the band you won’t be disappointed (I mean, very disappointed). I give this a very high 11.
P.S.Okay, I’ve just relistened to it and it should get a weak 12. Ha, but don’t you give a damn.
Michael H. <email@example.com> (28.02.2003)
GET THE BOOK "THE ROLLING STONE ROCK 'N' ROLL READER"- EDITED BY BEN FONG-TORRES. I FORGOT WHAT YEAR IT WAS RELEASED, BUT IT CAN BE FOUND IN A USED BOOK STORE. IT HAS A VERY NICE ARTICLE ON THE JEFFERSON AIRPLANE RELEASE BLESS ITS LITTLE POINTED HEAD ONE THING I WANTED TO POINT OUT IS THE SONG "CLERGY" IS A SOUNDBITE OF THE KING KONG MOVIE BEING PLAYED PRIOR TO THE AIRPLANES SET WHILE THE BAND IS TUNING UP. THIS WAS THE REASON WHY THE ALBUM WAS DELAYED IN RELEASE, BECAUSE THEY WANTED TO CALL THE TRACK "KING CONG" BUT I GUESS THE OWNERS OF THE MOVIE SAID NO, SO THAT CAUSED A LOT OF PROBLEMS. I DONT HAVE THE BOOK IN FRONT OF ME BECAUSE ITS UNDER A STACK OF STUFF, BUT IF I REMEMBER CORRECTALLY THE SONG "BEAR MELT" IS SUPPOSED TO BE A SONG "ABOUT A MAN WITH A SLEDGEHAMMER TRYING TO KEEP THE LITTLE ANIMALS ALIVE" OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT!!!
Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (16.03.2004)
In its original context (released after the first four studio albums), the sound seems like a jarring change. Stripped of their increasingly complicated studio sound, the band rocks fiercely to compensate. The Takes Off and Pillow tracks sound extremely different with these rocked up arrangements. Particularly "Plastic Fantastic Lover," which I think is the highlight. This version practically sounds like an entirely different song, full of lust and power as opposed to the creepy, dark spaciness of the original. "It's No Secret" also sounds like a sexual grabber instead of a cute little folk rocker. I do agree that the jamming is the weak point of the album -- especially "Bear Melt," which Grace improvised on the spot. They took a lot of chances live, and sometimes they lost, like here. "Fat Angel" is silly, but it at least seems like a typical Airplane number, unlike the overlong blues of "Rock, Me Baby" (there's a live version on The Best of Hot Tuna, where it sounds much more in context). Still, chop "Bear Melt" off, and you've got a very enjoyable live album. I hope the find more tapes from the shows and release an expanded version with more actual songs as bonus tracks, as opposed to pointless meandering.
Fredrik Tydal <firstname.lastname@example.org> (29.09.99)
I would like to correct you a bit on the authorship of "Wooden Ships".
"Wooden Ships" was mostly Paul Kantner's song. He conceived the idea, with the people escaping in the wooden ships from a future nuclear holocaust. Kantner had most of the lyrics, but he couldn't find the music to go with it. Kantner brought the words with him on an afternoon out with Crosby's boat. Crosby instantly liked the lyrics, with his fascination of the sea and all. So, Crosby provided the back-bone of the arrangement, which he in part pulled from an old country standard (the "Wooden ships, on the water; very free" part), just like he did with the lick in "Volunteers" and "We Can Be Together". *Then* they brought it to Stephen Stills - who added the "horror grips us" verse. That was Stills' sole part of the authorship. Kantner first objected to the verse, since there were no "horror" or "anguish cries" in his utopic scenario. But, short on a verse, he accepted it. Crosby then added the opening dialogue and closing monologue. And, voilà, a classic was born.
The CSN version, of course, omitted Kantner's "sail away" part. And, here's some fun trivia; in the Airplane version, Kantner had a rather obscure way of thanking Crosby for his collaboration. The closing "Go ride the music" line, repeating itself over and over, was actually what Kanter thought Crosby and McGuinn were singing in the The Byrds' "2-4-2 Fox-Trot (The Lear Jet Song)". The real line was of course "Gonna ride the Lear Jet, baby" and the album was Fifth Dimension, a major influence on Kantner.
So, now you know the extent of Stills' collaboration on "Wooden Ships". One verse. "Wooden Ships" is often thought of as CSN's song, since it was released prior to the Airplane's version. But this was simply because RCA had put the Volunteers album and the "mother-fucker" line on hold.
Also; Kantner's name doesn't appear in the credits to "Wooden Ships" on CSN's debut album. This was because of a dispute between their respective record labels, RCA and Columbia. With Kantner's song appearing on Columbia, RCA had just found a way sue their rival label. Don't ask me to go into detail here. Kantner, of course, didn't want his buddies Crosby, Stills and Nash to get into trouble and simply elected not to be credited. On the CSN Box Set, however, the whole writing credit for "Wooden Ships" finally appears.
Richard Everill <CherCello@aol.com> (30.10.99)
I liked this album in 1969-70, but much of it hasn't aged well. I think Kaukonen's "Good Shephard" is still worth hearing.
Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (16.02.2000)
I am totally dumbfounded by this review. For the life of me, I cannot comprehend how you can give a more favorable review of the almost nonstop piece of absolute garbage that is Long John Silver, and yet totally dis this record, which contains a number of their classics. Befuddling!
A lot of fans pick this one as the Airplane's best album. The primary reason for this is that the group, for the most part, comes down off its druggy space cloud (temporarily, anyway). The one exception is "Meadowlands" -- it's odd, but at least it's short. Otherwise, they dispense with the weird tricks, sound effects and echo and get down to business with standard rock instrumentation -- guitars, bass, drums, embellished by piano and a little bit of organ, all well played. Closer to their live sound.
And the two political anthems, "We Can Be Together" and the title track, just ROCK! Sure, the rabble-rousing is contradictory and dated, but the way these songs are played and sung, totally convincing. And Marty did help come up with the music and lyrics for "Volunteers" -- the best song from him since Surrealistic Pillow. "Wooden Ships" is, for the most part, a better played, sung and produced version than CSN's, although I wouldn't have minded if they took it at CSN's tempo. And "The Farm" is a well targeted spoof of redneck music, not an attempt at the real thing. Lighten up, here!
Jorma comes up with the best tracks he ever contributed to the Airplane. His low key vocal is actually nice on "Good Shepherd," he gets great backing vocals from Paul and Grace, the traditional lyrics are moving, and the playing and arranging are full bodied. It's about the only time the Airplane came up with something spiritual. And "Turn My Life Down" is just gorgeous, with incredible lead vocal and female backing vocals. Jorma gave the lead to Marty : a VERY smart move. Despite the fact that the two halves of the song have entirely different (but great) melodies, they are welded together seamlessly. Another great production.
But I do agree that not everything works. Grace's stuff is a big letdown (although even worse was yet ahead). "Hey, Frederick" does plod on way, way too long -- her weakest track yet. I like her vocal on "Eskimo Blue Day," but both the music and the eco-preachy lyrics ramble more than they need to. And "A Song for All Seasons" is the low point. "The Farm" was a successful dig at country, but this is not -- just boring. I'd rather have "Chusingura" from Spencer - he is NOT a composer. He would do better with his next band, the country rock outfit New Riders of the Purple Sage.
All in all, though, a solid listen. Give it another try, George.
Jeff Hlavaty <email@example.com> (25.06.2001)
A very good Airplane LP - my favorite after Crown Of Creation. (Maybe it's just a case of, "you had to be there"?)
Pedro Andino <firstname.lastname@example.org> (01.08.2003)
a political record. i say you are an asswipe! george, quit fucking around and review this album again! i say that maybe bill clinton loves this album. anyhow, 'wooden ships' is an airplane staple. you still hate this because the political message gets a bit bloated. 'we can be together' and the title track are political anthems. 'the farm' and 'a song for all seasons' are country ballads. grace slick does 'hey fredrick!' a psychedelic jam. 'eskimo blue day' is a eco-song but it is cheesy. anyhow volunteers is underrated by fans but you had to open your big mouth so let me say sometihng in spanish: plitiqueando! lunes a las 7:30 por wapa television. politicas! see that is the joke.
Mike Lambert <email@example.com> (01.03.2004)
I was reading the Jefferson Airplane section and was surprised to find you seem to utterly despise their Volunteers album - "Worst Album Ever"! I got a good laugh out of that. I think this is one of my all time favorites. C'est la vie!
Fredrik Tydal <firstname.lastname@example.org> (07.01.2001)
Well, I basically agree here. Certainly the most underrated album in the Airplane catalogue, as this usually gets a lot of unsubstantial bashing; the All Music Guide (who else?) knowingly states that "Kaukonen was ill-equipped to pick up the song-writing slack", while later praising "Kantner's 'Third Week In The Chelsea'". Anyway, that says more about the AMG than about this album, which is fact is saved by good ol' Jorma. Grace kicks off "Feel So Good" with those distinctive piano chords of hers and the song moves along nicely with good chord changes and a cool vocal tone from Jorma. Yes, the virtual Hot Tuna song "Wild Turkey" is really good with its interplay between Jorma and Papa John, but it wouldn't be my bet for best song on the album. Also, be sure to watch Jorma's growth as a song-writer in the understated "Third Week In The Chelsea", which predicts the break-up of the Airplane. Shame about Kantner's mediocre songs, though; even if don't find "When The Earth Moves Again" particulary political. "Rock And Roll Island" has some vigorous back-up singing by Grace and "War Movie" has that apocalyptic vibe - but that's about it. Grace's efforts are better this time around, though her odd German rant is too much of a throw-away. But her "Law Man" is good - watch out for Casady's bass during the "don't you" lines towards the end. As always, Casady's playing is remarkable throughout the album. But, why, oh why did they give new drummer Joey Covington so much space? Almost two songs, damn it - not even Dryden got that much play room! Jorma probably had dozens of better songs than the awkward messes that are "Thunk" and "Pretty As You Feel", both of which I almost can't bring myself to listen to - even if the latter evolved from a jam with Santana. All in all, a seven is about right. If you like Casady's playing and appreciate Jorma's material on this album, chances are good you might find Hot Tuna worthwile. Now, I know Tuna records probably are a real rarity in Moscow - Lord knows they're a pain to find here in Sweden - but you never know what with the Russian CD market being so unpredictable... Oh, and fellow Jorma fans might want to stop by www.jormakaukonen.com - run by the man himself and frequently updated with all sorts of everyday anecdotes and observations.
i was very astonished, when i met two people in the same month (1979),who told me, bark was their airplane favourite. i always thought, i would have been the only one. 'war movie' is a real smash, even today. and "striten sie nichr...etc" is a funny thing for people here in germany. airplanes german sentences are horrible false,but well regarded. the rest of the album may sound very different for american ears, than for germans. here bark is told to be very typical westcoast sound, while things like surrealistic pillow are what you heard in the local radiostations in the afternoon.
Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (24.11.2003)
No, sorry, pretty awful. Only the next album is worse overall, but there are three songs that are at least as bad as anything on Long John Silver. When Kaukonen gets four songs (yes, I know that Covington wrote and sang the lyrics of "Pretty as You Feel," but the musical vibe is clearly Jorma's), and the overall quality of his tracks are better than Paul or Grace's, you know you're in trouble. "Wild Turkey" is fun, but clearly belonged on a Hot Tuna album. "Feel So Good" does seem to drag on too long, but it's not totally uninteresting (although the unedited version on the boxed set wears out its welcome after nine minutes). "Third Week in the Chelsea" is his standout, with Grace adding a beautifully sustained harmony vocal.
Four months after this album, Kantner and Slick released their own album, called Sunfighter. In retrospect, it's clear that they were saving their better material for themselves. "War Movie" is ruined by those stupid ambient sound effects. However, if one is a fan of Paul's songwriting style, his other two are OK. "Rock and Roll Island", with it's chugging musical track and escapist lyrics, sounds like an outtake from his Blows Against the Empire album, but much better produced. "When the Earth Moves Again," I think, is a very cool anthem, though, with its apocalyptic, but optimistic theme.
However, the only acceptable Grace track is "Lawman," its very provocative lyrics sung very powerfully. "Crazy Miranda" might have been passable, if she had attempted to provide a decent vocal instead of treating it a farce. Awful. However, it pales in badness when compared to "European Song," which never should have seen the light of day. One can tell that the Airplane had its own record label and was producing itself, because a sober voice would have told them to exclude this hideous joke, as well as the dumb vocal improv "Thunk." ("European Song" becomes even worse when one knows that it's a bad ethnic joke aimed at Kantner). Covington's weird lyrics and the vocals add a neat psychedelic vibe to "Pretty as You Feel," but "Thunk" did not prove he was a composer. Yuck.
The most disjointed album the Airplane ever released. One could tell that the group was on its way to falling apart, even without listening to the lyrics of "Third Week in the Chelsea." The players would recover in other contexts later, but this definitely marks the beginning of the end.
Bob Josef <Trfesok@aol.com> (16.02.2000)
Yes, the pits. Almost no redeeming value, musically, lyrically and socially. Like I said, I don't know how you can even tolerate it, much less enjoy it and find any favor in it!!
The previous two years had really taken its toll on the JA. Bark was really all over the place, and had its share of total loser tracks alongside the decent stuff. Here, the one thing I will say is that the band has a more integrated sound. But it's a BORING integrated sound. The same noisy guitar chugging, piano and violin embellished tedium track after track. Almost no variation in sound. Jorma and Jack don't seem the least bit inspired. Drummer John Barbata is at best average, with none of the power and flair of Dryden or even his predecessor, Joey Covington.
But it's not like he had a lot to work with. The songwriting, from both Kantner AND Slick, as far as I'm concerned, is beyond abysmal. Their muse was totally shot (fortunately, only temporarily). In total agreement about the childish "The Son of Jesus" -- "Look at me, I'm Paul Kantner, the iconoclast!" -- the worst song he ever recorded, bar none. Grace's tracks sound like the ravings of a madwoman. "Eat Starch Mom"? What the hell is that? And Jorma comes up with country lunatic music to match. "Easter"? Grow up, Grace.
But the major, major reason for my despising the album is Grace's voice. She says she can't remember recording a single track -- she was heavily drinking (and drugging)? during the sessions. Hearing the playback must have added to the pain of her hangover -- I wouldn't want to remember perpetuating this, either. I hear virtually NONE of the power of her voice -- it's grotesquely out of tune, thin. "Aerie" is painful to hear -- so strained as her voice fails to ascend the scale, her range shot. Her only remotely tolerable vocal is on "Milk Train," but the stupidly smutty lyrics don't help.
"Trial by Fire," with Hot Tuna drummer Sammy Piazza, sounds like a leftover from that band. The only track I enjoy is the solid rocker, "Twilight Double Leader," although the lyrics are rather obscure. Grace's harmony voice sounds OK. Fortunately, her voice came back to life in time for the tour, which means that the version of "Milk Train" on the resultant live album 30 Seconds Over Winterland is actually not bad. "Trial My Fire" is also improved, so that album is the one to get if you want to avoid all the crap that this and Bark have to offer.
The tour was actually the death knell for the Airplane, more than the album. The Hot Tuna guys were continuously in battle with Paul and Grace, and the group was constantly getting into trouble along the way with the local authorities because of drugs and bad behavior. Can't lead a revolution of love if that's going on. A very sad and unfortunate end.
Fredrik Tydal <email@example.com> (13.03.99)
This is, in my opinion, the Airplane's worst album. Yes, I actually think Volunteers is better. I can't see how you can rate it equal to the clearly superior Crown Of Creation. This is just a bunch of songs which are average at best. Of Kantner's songs, "Twilight Double Leader" is ok, "Alexander The Medium" is tolerable, but his raving, in-your-face statements on "The Son Of Jesus" are just tiresome. The title track is simply boring, not even Grace's singing or Casady's rare writing credit can save it. Grace's tracks are a bit better than those of her husband's at the time, though; "Aerie" has some of the best vocal work-outs on the album, "Milk Train" is amusing and the Kaukonen collaboration "Eat Strach Mom" is just all right, though a bit nonsensical. The best song on the album turns out to be the compulsory Kaukonen blues number; "Trial By Fire". Not that I disparage Jorma, but when one of his songs are the high-light of an Airplane album, then there's something terribly wrong. It's quite clear that at this time Kantner and Slick were saving their best material for their solo albums and that the Kaukonen/Casady combo were preoccupied with their Hot Tuna. Get this one only if your an Airplane fan.
I heard this album for the first time a few months back and the first thing that struck me in songs such as "Twilight Double Leader" and "Aerie" was an obvious (to me) early Krautrock influence. I'm talking about the Krautrock you here on Amon Duul's II album YETI which I believe predates LONG JOHN SILVER (yes?) Is it possible that members of the Jefferson Airplane could have heard or even seen Amon Duul II on a previous european tour. The chuggin' guitars on "Twilight Double Leader" remind me of the first track on YETI. Anyway, LONG JOHN SILVER in my opinion (as a whole) is not worth playing over again after two or three listens.
yes, yeti predates long john for two years,but i cant hear any relation.
amon düül 2 was very influenced from airplane, specially their vive la trance and carnival in babylon- albums. nowadays its very modern to tell long john as a underrated sleeper. but the only good thing i can tell about this one is : there isn`t one song which is as bad as the things which came up afterwards.
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