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Jefferson Airplane - Volunteers CD (album) cover

VOLUNTEERS

Jefferson Airplane

 

Proto-Prog

3.58 | 109 ratings

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ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 1969. This is the year for the Airplane. They will blow out the world with their incredible Woodstock live set of which only "Volunteers" will appear on the soundtrack, but more tracks will be available on "Woodstock II". Today, it is almost possible to reconstruct their whole set (which I did).

This album is the more accessible to date. Not too much psychedelic any longer (with a few exceptions). More rock oriented as in "We Can Be Together", "Hey Fredrick", "Eskimo Blue Day" and "Volunteers. We'll even get two country numbers ("The Farm" ... logical, no ? and "A Song For All Seasons"). Both are very poor tracks.

"We Can Be Together" is a good opener. Nice vocal harmonies (Grace in the backing only), good rocking rhythm. Although "Volunteers" will be a "revolutionary" song, the lyrics of this one are truly more anti-establishment : "In order to survive we steal cheat lie forge fred hide and deal. We are obscene lawless hideous dangerous dirty violent and young". The tone has been set...

"Hey Fredrick" is the first great track. Well, it's the first featuring Grace in the lead vocal, so I might be biased, you know. I have always been really charmed with her voice (I should even say hypnotized). It is a very powerful song : on top of Grace who is just fabulous we get loads of guitars displayed here. The track develops further on to be a pure solid rock number with a great and long guitar break. It is one of the rockiest studio number from the band (clocking at 8'30"). The guitar part reminds me of the live version of "Southern Man" from CSN and Y available on "Four Way Street". One of the highlight of this album and one of my favorite one.

We'll have a bit of reminiscence of old psyche with "Turn My Life Down". The psyche mood will also be maintained for the following track which is one of the most interesting song here: "Wooden Ships". It is a combined effort from Crosby, Stills and Kantner. For legal issues, Kantner could not be credited on the Crosby, Stills & Nash debut album. Stephen and Paul contributed for the lyrics while Graham wrote the music. The Airplane version is brilliant and quite different for the CS&N one : more spacey and piano- oriented than the live version, but rockier than their studio version. The addition of Young during the Woodstock version of this song is by far the best I know (but I haven't heard the one of the reamastered version of this album). As many others, C, S, N & Y will perform the show of their lives (it applies to the Airplane as well). Vocals here are really subtle and full of emotion.

"Eskimo Blue Day" is another highlight : Slick is as great as usual and gives this track an incredible flavour. Strong psyche and rocking number. Background guitar work is very efficient. This number is rather complex and the rhythm is at times truly wild.

The closing number "Volunteers" is another Airplane anthem. In 1969, this was quite a revolutionary number : a protest song, really. Remember, the anti-Vietnam war feeling is at its peak in the US (Woodstock being the climax of course). Lyrics of "Volunteers" are completely in-line with the reigning mood : hard, bold, provocative. Unfortunately, it is too short (just over two minutes). Same applied already to another one of their greatest number "White Rabbit".

I like this album very much. I think it is a good way to approach the band. There are of course two weak tracks (and a short instrumental, completely useless "Meadowlands") but globally it is a very good album. Only second to "Baxter" IMO.

Four stars.

ZowieZiggy | 4/5 |

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