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


Jefferson Airplane



3.80 | 137 ratings

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3 stars The biggest problem with the old acid-tripping albums of the mid- to late- sixties is that almost none of them make much sense today, unless of course you're still tripping, in which case you either have the chemical constitution of Tommy Chong or are a second (or third) generation white, middle-class weekend hippie. In which case you might very well still find the third Jefferson Airplane appealing.

Jefferson Airplane recorded 'After Bathing at Baxter's' in the summer and autumn of 1967, by which time they were no longer in the minority of former folk-rockers to adopt the psychedelic lifestyle with wholesale abandon. Certainly the band was still an extremely popular creative force, and this album would go on to sell more than a million copies despite (or perhaps because of) its radical departure from both folk-rock music and a mainstream lifestyle. And perhaps most importantly RCA secured the services of Grammy award winning producer Al Schmitt for the Los Angeles recording sessions. Schmitt could polish a rancid skunk turd and make it look appealing, and finding a way to corral four months' worth of studio depravity into a presentable package proved to be no problem for the veteran studio pro.

Not to say everything is smooth sailing here. Like many psych bands of that era Jefferson Airplane were hell-bent on mind-expanding, 'innovative' music-making that challenged any and all notions of what a 'proper' music album should be about. Rather than craft a well- sequenced, concept or at least cohesive collection of songs for their third record, the band opted to question even that convention and instead grouped pairs of tunes under mostly unrelated stanzas with odd titles like "Schizoforest Love Suite", "How Suite It Is" and "Streetmasse" ('Street' differed only in that it contained three songs). These sound more like forum thread titles on a prog-music website. And the songs contained in each section bears all the marks of most of the other highly experimental, self-indulgent, trippy and heavily improvised acid and psychedelic music of that day. Airplane were nothing if not trendy.

Not that there aren't some gems because there certainly are. "rejoice" in particular takes full advantage of Grace Slick's evocative songwriting and vocal skills, not to mention her piano playing which is an often overlooked talent she brought with her to the band. The song also includes vaguely Eastern sounds like flute and what at times sounds like a table but it probably just keyboards. Not quite as powerful as "Somebody to Love" but a great use of her talents nonetheless.

"The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil" appears to be another attempt to twist a children's tale into a mad acid romp in the vein of 'Surrealistic Pillow's "White Rabbit". This time the fictional character is Pooh bear, and the delivery is more disjointed but as I've listened to scores of neo-psych bands over the past decade like Dead Meadow and Smell of Incense I have to think the children's-fiction-as-acid-trip-music motif left its mark. This one along with "Spare Chaynge" and the ultra-trippy "Two Heads" formed a trio of singles released in support of the album. None garnered much airplay (at least not on AM radio), but the album sold well regardless which is more a reflection of the times than of the quality of the music.

The wild guitar work and harmonized vocals make "The Last Wall of the Castle" a prototypical acid rock number, and the comparatively restrained "Martha" was surely a live- show crowd favorite with its 'coming down' trip vibe. Most of the rest of the album consists of drawn-out, spacey psych numbers that were most likely heavily improvised in the studio and then whipped into a recognizable format thanks to cutting room wizardry during the New York post-production engineering sessions.

This isn't one of my favorite Jefferson Airplane albums, mostly because it just doesn't hold up as well as the first two after more than thirty years. It's a period piece for sure, and fit the mood of its target audience quite well in 1967 though and easily deserves a three star rating, but nothing more as it does not rise to the level of essential even in the Airplane discography. Mildly recommended, mostly to psych freaks, and not so much to fans who were attracted to the more palatable experimentation on the band's first two albums.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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