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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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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars After such an outstanding and astounding record as Surrealistic Pillow, and having sold by the hundred of thousand of units of it, Jefferson Airplane was in position to impose their view to their record label (RCA was Elvis's label), and as the owners admitted to not understanding anything to rock music (as opposed to Elvis's RnR), so they let the group have the freedom it asked. This was again a first, as not even The Beatles were allowed to produce their own label. As it would turn out, the Airplane was not yet ready to fly on its own wings, as this great album is sometimes heavily flawed and a good deal of it is due to the lack of presence of an outside artistic producer (if you except the presence of Al Schmitt as technical supervision). Nevertheless and in spite of its flaws and coming with a superb comics gatefold sleeve, JA managed another stunning album.

This album is divided into five series of songs that are inter-related within their section. This might just be reminiscent of the multi-movement suite of the early 70's, but to say that JA is the forerunner in this case would be exaggerated if there were not Procol Harum's In Twas Held In I. Actually, Iwas never sure if there was a concept to this album as it seems to describe a week's worth of Airplane tribulations.

From the superb opening Ballad of You & Me and Pooneil (this was Robert Kennedy's dog, as this political bunch of artistes were friendly with the potential future president) and which was anything but a ballad, the first section Streetmasse (almost 10 mins) evolves into the stunning RIO-like Small Package. This stunning 100 seconds is again showing that asa rock group, the Airplane was over a half-year ahead of the Fab Four's Revolution 9. Outstanding!! Without much a rest, Dryden leads the group in the Young Girl Sunday. The second movement (the wishful thinking War Is Over and its 6-min+) is probably the best-known as it contains their (flawed) hit Martha, where Grace is again playing the piper and Wild Thyme (H), most likely chanting their favoured herbs. Not the most prog, but definitely a rocking rebel moment on which the Airplane build their legend.

Older Generation (their third suite) starts out rocking out loudly, but settles into the incredible Rejoyce where JA reaches maturity, with Slick literally spell-binding us with her voice (dealing with James Joyce's Ulysses novel) while oboes and a bunch of other wind instruments accompany the lady art her piano. Not much is known about those backing musos (Grace blew a good flute, but this partition was probably out of her reach), but their arrangements are simply wonderful. If this is not prog (remember we are in August 67), I do not know what is.

How Suite It Is (no accident, uh? ;-) is their longest (12min15), mostly due to the lengthy jam-like Spayre Change which can be easily dispelled as messy if it was not for the formidable fusion Indian Raga laced with Spanish influences (remember the Rabbit and do not forget that Frisco was once Spanish) where Casady, Kaukonen and Dryden steel the show. Starting out as heavily descriptive music with an awesome bass work, the track slowly settles into a raga-groove with both Casady and Kaukonen pulling flamenco lines. Again years ahead of what Clack-Hutchinson would do some four years later.

The last suite Schizoforest (9-min+) starts out with an Indian harpsichord and the group just flows freely (Grace pulls in some interesting piano plucking but does not dare go further! Too bad, it sounded mega-interesting, but the suite flows onwards until it calms down, but the Airplane is always ready to use air-holes to make your ride as bumpy and interesting as possible. Great job, guys, you may now land with all targets reached.

On this reissue of the remastered album, the bonus tracks are of little interest as they are alternate or single version of existing tracks of the album. Although there are some rather obvious flaws, JA wanted to do a more adventurous record and their certainly achieved this fully. Although at times patchy ABAB might just be their more progressive album. Warmly recommended, as one of the earliest example of psych was the twin brother of prog. And the Beatles just on their heels.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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