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Jefferson Airplane - Surrealistic Pillow CD (album) cover

SURREALISTIC PILLOW

Jefferson Airplane

 

Proto-Prog

3.63 | 203 ratings

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The Wizard
Prog Reviewer
4 stars From the opening drum beat of 'She has funny cars', you can tell that who have just taken off. Meet Jefferson Airplane, a band of legends and notoriety. 'Surrealistic Pillow', the band's sophomore effort, shows the Airplane breaking new ground and venturing into the world of acid rock. What came out was a melting pot of blues, folk, and acid. While their debut showed a competent pop unit who were skilled song writers, Surrealistic Pillow shows them experimenting and progressing while maintaining pop credibility. For that, many rock fans regard this album as a true gem.

This album also brings in the beautiful Grace Slick, who sings like she's from outer space. Her voice itself is psychedelic, it has to be heard to be believed. But in typical Frisco fashion, the bands usually sings in harmony, greeting some beautiful textures. Grace sings solo on 'White Rabbit' and 'Somebody to Love" while Paul sings on 'Plastic Fantastic Lover'. All of the male singers in the band are competent, but not as unique and stunning as Slick. Paul almost 'raps' on 'Plastic Fantastic Lover', and the lyrics are very bizarre:

"All the red tape is mechanical rape of the television program waste."

For a band soaked in acid and personal conflicts, they work surprising well together as musicians. Jorma Kaukonen is a great guitarist, playing bluesy leads with great skill. His acoustic song 'Embryonic Journey' creates folky guitar textures that are as mind expanding as it's title. Jack Casady and Specer Dryden create one of rocks finest rhythm sections, the highlight being Casady's heavy and power bass-lines. If there is a virtuoso in this group it is Casady, his bass-lines are amazing, 'White Rabbit' being his claim to fame.

There is indeed a lot of echo in this record, something Frank Zappa would comment on. That contributes much to the albums psychedelic/trippy atmosphere. Jorma distorts his guitar and manages to use a plethora of effects pedals, creating the 'acid rock' guitar sound that was a signature of the Frisco scene. I was somewhat dissapointed about the album because I was expecting something trippier and more 'far out'. The bands sound still stays within blues and folk structures, it just incorporates strong elements of acid rock.

'Somebody to love' and 'White Rabbit' are classic summer of love anthems, incorporating great pop hooks that ensured radio success. Driving rock tunes like '3/5 of a mile in 10 seconds' and 'Plastic Fantastic Lover' shows the bands powerful rock drive. I find some of the folkier moments (How Do You Feel, Comin' Back to Me) kind of dull and uninspired, being the weaker ends of the album. Nonetheless, this album is a collection of great songs.

To track the history of progressive rock, one must track the development of psychedelic rock. This record is absolutely essential for that. While the band would get far trippier and psychedelic in the future, this album album is still their finest and an excellent addition to any serious progressive music collection.

The Wizard | 4/5 |

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