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Jefferson Airplane - Volunteers CD (album) cover


Jefferson Airplane



3.58 | 109 ratings

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Volunteers" is the last album done by the most creative and famous line-up of the band. Due to that fact and to the noticeable cracks within the group (Dryden and Balin would soon leave), as well as the "political" overtones that followed the band around this time (Woodstock performance), the album's musical and artistic value is often overlooked.

Opening and closing tracks, "We Can Be Together" and "Volunteers", are actually the only ones that have outright political stance, calling for "revolution" and "dropping out" of the establishment. Notwithstanding a somewhat dated nature of these protest messages, both tracks are excellent and feature the last important composing (and singing) roles of the founder Marty Balin.

Then, we have three songs that are amongst the Airplane's best: traditional "Good Shepherd" is arranged and sung by Kaukonen, featuring some amazing guitar licks; "Wooden Ships" co-penned by Kantner, David Crosby and Stephen Stills (who both were present during recording sessions) is a wonderful anti-war mini-suite with perfect vocal harmonies; and "Eskimo Blue Day" that is sung by Grace Slick, invoking in certain details the previous psychedelic themes (totally crazy and mysterious lyrics with slow beat and recorder-flute passages).

As a complete novelty, this album contains two tracks that are pure country-rock. On the surface, "The Farm" sounds very much like THE GRATEFUL DEAD in their country- rock moments (see "American Beauty") while Jerry Garcia's pedal-steel only enhances this sensation. Even Paul Kantner's voice sounds like Bob Weir's! "Song for All Seasons" on the other hand, draws influences from the lazy and boozy, honky-tonky Gram Parsons' "Cosmic American Music" concept (see THE BYRDS "Sweetheart of the Rodeo"). And just as an average country-hating prog-rocker prepares to dismiss this album completely, suddenly the lyrics of these songs catch his attention - they are all but straight! The former track sings about wonderful "living on the farm, where the neighbour rides a toad", finishing with mockery sounds of cows mooing...! Hmm, White Rabbit meets Pink Floyd?! The latter track actually tells a story about splitting of a rock'n'roll group after they reached fame. Marty Balin, Spencer Dryden and even Jorma Kaukonen are easily identifiable in the lines. A self-satirising atmosphere is stressed by "drunken cowboys" harmony vocals.

"Hey Fredrick" is a boring 8,5 minutes unsuccessful Grace's work with a wild instrumental jam in the second part which saves the show. Along with Kaukonen's "Turn My Life Down", it is the weakest moment on the album.

Overall sound is much more mellow and soft than on earlier works and is dominated by fine piano chords played by studio session maestro Nicky Hopkins. Still, vocal performances and Kaukonen's solo guitar parts heard on this album rank among their best ever. Indeed, his revolutionary and highly original approach to electric guitar is rarely met, so one wonders how come this genius musician never reached stardom that he deserves.

"Volunteers" certainly suffers from a few not very consistent or engaging moments, especially when compared with previous three wonderful studio works. But it still contains enough excellent performances that keep it high in the major league.

Seyo | 4/5 |


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