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Jefferson Airplane - Volunteers CD (album) cover

VOLUNTEERS

Jefferson Airplane

 

Proto-Prog

3.55 | 71 ratings

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Garion81
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Jefferson Airplane in short two years had released 4 previous studio albums and one live one before this. I think this one is a close to perfection as they could have flown. While Bathing at Baxter's and Crown of Creation showed the bands psychedelic experimental side then Volunteers was one that showed off their songwriting skills more like Surrealistic Pillow. Except the songs were taking a bold new direction. Gone were the pretty love songs now we had some angry songs and wistful songs of a land being destroyed. The Airplane, Paul Kantner in particular, had become a political animal. The album starts off with one of the more angry songs entitled We Can Be Together. The song has many phases to it but mostly a declaration against society pitting younger freaks against the establishment. "We are forces of Chaos and Anarchy, Everything they say we are we are and we are very proud of ourselves" "All your private property is target for your enemy and your enemy is we"

The song contains some great vocal harmonies and shifts that take it beyond a standard song yet it doesn't go off on any tangents of psychedelia either. The second song is traditional hymn arranged by guitarist Jorma Kaukonen. He shines showing off a beautiful lead over acoustic and soulful voice. This is old blues not the one you grow up on in England in the late 60's. This is the blues of Honky Tonks and trains yet Jorma finds a way to bridge that with the present decade. The third song is a cute little country song with Jerry Garcia playing pedal steel guitar. The lyrics to this song have to be drug induced because the last thing I am sure I'll see is Paul Kanter doing what he says here "Well I gotta get back to work now and clear away some logs"

The next song is one of two Grace Slick compositions on the album. This one is some kinda treatise on a man or not as these lyrics could be interpreted in so many ways "Either go away or go all the way in" the music however is startling different than any thing else on the CD. It crashes gets softer and harder finally ending in a great jam. Graces voice soars on this song as well. She always said she wanted her voice to sound like a guitar and here she achieves it.

The next song is Turn my Life Down the only composition written by Kaukonen. Sung by Marty Balin who's presence on this album is noticeably lacking. The vocals are inspired about this sad little introspective song. "I see the Shadows, Softly Coming, taking me into a place, where they turn my life down:" In the middle Jorma shifts the song from one direction to the other and plays an upbeat solo at the end of these very somber lyrics.

I am only to comment on two more songs on the CD and they are really the two that stand out as the Proto-Prog in my opinion. They are a cover of Wooden Ships although cover may be incorrect because Paul Kantner added some lyrics to this and is credited with writing the song as well as David Crosby and Steven Stills. Anyway this song is really a mini epic. The first part like a dialog sung with three different voices into a sort of chorus. After a couple of verses Jorma Kaukonen gives probably his best solo as member of the Airplane an one that reminds me of something Steve Hackett might have done. Not a lot of notes but a soaring almost synthesized sound that really captures the spirit of the song. The last one is Eskimo Blue Day written by Slick again. A really haunting intro that breaks into a very jazzy song structure. It has a completely different kind of musical break and solo that returns to the song for one final verse. Again Slicks voice is used as another instrument here.

To me this Album was the definition of Proto-Prog. It is almost there, the songs seem to go in that direction but just don't quite hit the eloquence that the English bands would achieve in this year of 1969 an beyond. Still an Album worth noting in the history of the whole thing. 4 stars.

One note the recent re-release of this CD contains 5 songs from the Jefferson Airplane in the late 60's and they are worthy bonus tracks.

Garion81 | 4/5 |

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