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Jefferson Airplane - After Bathing At Baxter's CD (album) cover

AFTER BATHING AT BAXTER'S

Jefferson Airplane

 

Proto-Prog

3.80 | 121 ratings

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Seyo
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars If "Surrealistic Pillow", although highly influential and revolutionary record in its own right, still did not leap away from the confines of (more or less) standard rock'n'roll song format, making innovations from within, its follow-up "After Bathing at Baxter's" radically crossed over to unknown, psychedelic and very experimental territory.

Instead of Marty Balin, who was the main author in the previous effort, here we can see Paul Kantner's slowly taking over the main composing role. His obsession with Sci-Fi would later give birth to his first solo work, an acclaimed album "Blows Against Empire", but even on "Baxter's" he started exploring strange themes. Dryden's "Small Package" is a short extravaganza of pure avant-garde madness with famous words "No Man Is an Island..." jocularly amended with "... Is a Peninsula", while Kaukonen's "The Last Wall of the Castle" is an early precursor to guitar-noise sounds such as that of SONIC YOUTH. "Watch Her Ride" and "Spare Change" are full of dissonant, atonal moments, extended jams and furious guitar fuzziness and exploding bass sounds of Kaukonen/Casady duo, which at times can be very puzzling to uninitiated listeners. On the other hand, "Martha" and "Rejoyce" are lyrically introspective, folk/psychedelic trips, the latter containing piano touches of jazz/classical tradition and lyrics invoking James Joyce's "stream of consciousness" signature. Slick's "Two Heads" tries to continue where "White Rabbit" ended, while the closing mini-suite "Won't You Try/Saturday Afternoon" contains some of the most powerful harmony vocals, along with raga-like guitars of Kantner/Kaukonen.

Even the graphic side of the album bears some radical innovation for those years. Silly, childlike drawings remind of later similar works of Daevid Allen's GONG covers depicting their notorious "Radio Gnome" concept. "Baxter's" cover design depicts an early 20th century aeroplane flying over the mountain of littered cans and garbage, with inscriptions saying "SMOKE", "CONSUME", "DRINK IT". Is this an early proto-ecological statement or an equally conscious protest against the "consumer civilization", as early as mid-1960s?! Or is it simply a product of too many brain-twisting substances? Who knows, but it's all stunning and amazing!

This is the most demanding of all JA albums and thus probably the closest in spirit to prog listeners, especially to those who prefer psychedelia/experimental/avant-garde sub- genres. A true masterpiece of proto/early prog rock.

Seyo | 5/5 |

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