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Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars Well now that Jefferson Airplane is finally in the Archives, I will try to show in my successive reviews of their album , just how progressive they were, usually at the head of progress and often a step ahead of The Beatles and The Beach Boys, but JA lacked that clean-cut image as their sulphuric reputation generally made the headlines in terms that the establishment really loathed them and what they stood for.

Retrospectively speaking, this album is very aptly-named as we have the embryonic Airplane, still close to their folk rock roots (both Kantner and Kaukonen were folkies hanging out in clubs around the bay area) and the way rebels assembled their bands together. The result of Marty Balin, a beatnick doodling in club ownership and toying with music, enticed Kantner to form a group, calling Kaukonen who himself called Casady from across the continent and findi,ng a local girl to handle the second twin lead vocals, the group was still missing a drummer, so Balin convinced this Canadian songwriter Skip Spence to become their drummer solely on his looks, nevermind that he had never played drums before. Rebel and RnR??? Ya betcha!! Now the least we can say is that JA's take off is not really impressive and will remain only in history as the debut of an exciting adventure. It is actually quite hard to measure their two virtuoso's (Kaukonen and Casady) abilities on this album tracks selection, as they are quite bland.

Not much for the proghead in this album, even if he looks/listens hard at it, as most of the tracks hover between blues, folk, folk rock and never really gets adventurous. Blame it on their inexperience and a rather poor line-up , a problem that would almost solve itself: their average female vocalist settled down and started a family, while Spence, obviously fed up with this unnatural drumming role, will leave to form the seminal Moby Grape. In would come their iconic Grace Slick (from another Bay area group called Great Society) with her two monstrous hits and the group had to resort to the LA scene to pry away the jazz-trained drummer Spencer Dryden, with the two newcomers quickly falling for each other. With all the right ingredients in the stew-pot and this next album to come, the face of this planet would change quite a bit as JA became the flagship of the Haight-Ashbury and the Summer of Love and the hippy generation. And their rebellious attitude insured these musos would never settle for the easy way out. Glad they did!

Report this review (#84887)
Posted Thursday, July 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars JA debut is a nice folk rock album but it is only marginal in indicating the future progress of the band. Obviously influenced by the phenomenal THE BYRDS, "Takes Off" picks up the familiar pieces from blues/folk/rock/beat and delivers some excellent songs - Balin's first remarkable hit "Come Up The Years" or nice cover of traditional "Tobacco Road". Still it is not an essential record, so the newcomers are advised to skip it in favor of the sophomore "Surrealistic Pillow" follow-up.
Report this review (#110739)
Posted Monday, February 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
2 stars I discovered this great Califiornian band in 1971 with Woodstock.

This first album is far to reach the quality of the tracks they played during this festival (but this release was issued three years before). Although the lineup is almost similar, the major difference of course is that Grace Slick will only join on the next album. On this one, Signe Anderson does the job, but can not really be compared to Grace (IMO).

This work is quite representative of the mid-sixties. Pop, politically correct (no rebel song here as they will have the fame for later on).

Not yet psychedelic but rather folky. The band will need to grow up before producing more interesting stuff. There are no real highlight to point out here.

Two stars.

Report this review (#112224)
Posted Thursday, February 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Getting High

Jefferson Airplane are one of the three bands that spearheaded the psychedelic rock movement of the mid 1960s in San Fransisco, and were, rightly, one of the first to gain international recognition. Along with the Byrds and the Grateful Dead, this was a trio of bands that was to influence generations to come, and provoke the development of new and exciting forms of rock music that opened the gates for the progressive music movement to flourish, and Progressive Rock itself to emerge.

All of these bands emerged from the folk music scene, along with the likes of Janis Joplin, David Crosby et al., with what appeared to be a common goal to merge the major foundational popular music forms; Jazz, the Blues, Rock and Roll, Country and, of course, Folk - possibly as the result of Bob Dylan's then shocking decision to play using electric amplification at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.

It was Airplane founder member, Marty Balin's idea to finance and open a club called The Matrix, at which these rising folk fusion groups could play. This, along with the Grateful Dead (then The Warlocks) regular appearances at the Merry Prankster's Acid Tests as house band, were the prominent recorded moments in a revolution in music.

Naturally, it is Grace Slick who is synonymous with the voice of the Airplane, but her mesmerising tones are absent from this, their debut, as she was involved in her own project, the Great Society with whom she wrote and recorded the songs that JA are probably most famous; White Rabbit (her own) and Somebody to Love (originally Someone to Love, written by her brother-in-law), produced by Sylvester - later Sly - Stone, both of which appeared on the subsequent album, Surrealistic Pillow.

As a progressive music album, it fares surprisingly well, considering it is the band's debut. All the shades and colours of emerging approaches to rock music are in place, and it is because of, not despite, the album's feeling of typical psychedelic rock that this album is so remarkable - especially bearing in mind the release date.

The influence of the Byrds is strongly felt, but the emphasis on the rock side of the music is very strong indeed, as the growling bass propels Blues from an Airplane. This is not your standard 12-bar blues - it is a rock song that has the blues, which is a very different thing altogether. The 2:13 running time is packed with changes that all but destroy the old song form, which is made to give way to something altogether more oragnic.

Let Me In goes through several neat twists in the first 30 seconds, before ending up somewhere between the Byrds and the Monkees - with a startling descending bass line that suddenly puts me in mind of 19th Nervous Breakdown (The Rolling Stones), and suddenly a Stones influence I hadn't noticed before stomps through, before an instrumental that bears a resemblance to the sitar sound that had started to invade the music of both the Stones and the Beatles.

And so the album continues, with songs that bear a strong resemblance to the common styles of the time - all bearing a new twist that strongly marks Jefferson Airplane as a band with a genuinely new approach.

Standout tracks include;

- The unusual version of the Nashville Teens' Tobacco Road, which renders the song almost unrecognisable - an idea that was to provide Vanilla Fudge with a career.

- The strikingly Summer of Love flavoured Let's Get Together, like a more rocking version of the Byrds, with Buffalo Springfield styled harmonies, and rhythm guitar playing that appears to play games with time, interjecting odd triplet motifs - and stranger groupings - decidely not a simple case of bad timing either. Actually, this is a feature of the rhythm guitar on this album generally, but it simply seems to stand out more here.

- Chauffeur Blues, featuring the vocals of Singe Anderson, which give a clear picture of the space that Grace Slick needed to fill - without being unkind to Anderson, who has a voice that perfectly suits the music, with plenty of power and a pleasing vibrato - but somehow lacks the ultimate and dominating conviction of Slick.

On the second and subsequent release, Runnin' Round this World was removed - according to most reviews, because of the mention of the word Trip. The single version of this has been included with the CD I'm reviewing from, and I have to say that I would have removed it from the album because of the poor songwriting and execution quality - but that's just me.

Other bonus tracks, such as High Flying Bird are much more worthy, however - this is a wonderful piece of SF psychedelia, spoiled only very slightly by Anderson's somewhat excessive vibrato, which puts me in mind of a sheep... nonetheless, pure Acid Rock that makes you trip without the expense and risk of taking anything illegal. The Uncensored Version of Let Me In is also infused with a headier taste of those times than the album version.

All in all, a most worthy - dare I say, excellent - addition to the collection of anyone even vaguely interested in the history of Progressive Music. Although it's not as compelling a collection of material as Surrealistic Pillow, and seems to take more than a trick or two from the Byrd's 8 Miles High, nevertheless, this album is every bit as important as the Beatles' Revolver and Pink Floyd's Piper at the Gates of Dawn in the evolution of the more artistic side of popular music.

Pick up a copy of Conspicuous only in its Absence (Great Society) to go with it ;o)

Given that it was released in 1966, 4 stars - essential as a historical document, very progressive indeed for the time - but extremely dated.

There's definitely more than a small something for modern music fans to get out of it, however - it's a trip.

Report this review (#171504)
Posted Monday, May 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Takes Off" is the debut full-length studio album by US, San Francisco, California based rock act Jefferson Airplane. The album was released through RCA Victor in August 1966. Jefferson Airplane is considered one of the forefathers of the American West coast psychadelic rock style along with acts like The Byrds and The Grateful Dead. This debut album features a slightly different lineup from what most people probably consider the classic lineup of the band featuring Grace Slick on vocals as Signe Toly Anderson performs the female vocals on the album while Skip Spence plays the drums (Signe Toly Anderson was replaced by Grace Slick and Skip Spence was replaced by Spencer Dryden shortly after the album´s release).

The music style is blues oriented rock and folk based pop/rock with only some psychadelic elements (something they would add plenty of on later releases). The vocals are mostly sung by Marty Balin but Paul Kantner also sings on a couple of songs. Signe Toly Anderson only sings lead on "Chauffeur Blues". Most trackss on the album are original compositions but a couple of cover tunes have also found their way to the tracklist. The powerful Clay Warnick song "Tobacco Road" is one of my favorites of the cover songs on the album. Tracks like "Blues From An Airplane", "Bringing Me Down" and the kind of eerie sounding "Don´t Slip Away" are also excellent material.

The musicianship is strong on all posts. Powerful guitar playing and a tight rhythm section. The most remarkable feature in the music are the vocals though. I especially enjoy Marty Balin´s emotional and almost desperate sounding vocal style. Vocal harmonies are also a big part of the sound. The production is well sounding considering that the album was recorded in late 1965 - early 1966. Upon conclusion "Takes Off" is a strong debut release by Jefferson Airplane. They may not have fully tuned into the style they would subsequently play, but this album is still a strong statement and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

Report this review (#205330)
Posted Wednesday, March 4, 2009 | Review Permalink
Eetu Pellonpaa
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This stuff was probably influenced quite much by The Byrds, having strong harmony vocals and ringing sound of the guitar (probably not same 12-string Rickenbacker, though I'm not certainly sure). The syringe scratches out nice slightly psychedelic American mid 1960's pop/rock music with amplified folk elements included, and it's a really nice product of it's time. If you flip in the remastered CD with bonus tracks, you get also a bunch of very fine extra material, not fuzzy leftovers or radio tapings (I guess they can be found from some other hardcore compilations also).

The style of the band in this time was not the most calculated sunshine bubblegum pop possible, but neither the most unrestrained piece of pop art. Compositions are good, but none of them seems like a total masterpiece. Signe Anderson is not bad singer either, but disappears quite much to the harmonies of multilayered singing layers, "Chauffeur Blues" offering however a rare glimpse of her solo vocal performance potential. The following hey-day recordings of the group can be seen to evolve from this material quite logically, featuring a more aggressive lady singer and exploding the imaginative ideas to wilder direction. Some of the songs were also played later on the live stage by the most famous line-up, like "It's no secret", and the bonus track "High Flying Bird".

If you are interested to hear the band without Grace Slick who would land to the band from The Great Society to the next (true classic) record, and like the style presented you shouldn't be disappointed by the album. Any fan of the band should not in my opinion lower their interest toward this record due different singer, as the music is quite good o this historical LP.

Report this review (#223566)
Posted Sunday, June 28, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Takes Off ? 1966 (2.5/5) 9 ? Best Song: Let Me In It turns out that the band sounds absolutely nothing like the Byrds. There's the tambourine (who didn't rock out to a goddamn tambourine back then? Take them Limp Bizkit albums, all of them, and add a tambourine, and they become instant Sgt. Peppers, I swear that's the only thing they're missing), there's the pulsing, incoherent bass guitar throb, and there's the jangly guitar. This is most likely the point of similarity that most would draw to. The singing this early on is faceless and unprecedentedly awful without Grace Slick making things all idiosyncratic and such. It's all just a hobgob of boring, competent acid rock songs that sound mystically as if they were recorded in an airplane engine (and as if they were written in one, too).

It's not that dark, and it's not coherent half the time. Oh 'Let Me In' has that fuzzy, tinny solo to it, but it's a wet noodle compared to what would come right around the corner. I can't be too hard. You can see the Beatles influences a mile away, and the harmonies fall absolutely flat on 'Bringing Me Down'. With all that, I still can't be too harsh. I mean, it's better than listening to someone cutting wood. Oft times there'll be a catchy melody to grace your ears, or the guitarist (what's his name? Micky Rourke?) will play something above pleasant, but for me, this is just another (gratefully) lost mid-1960's album that belongs where it is, in the shadows. And whoever said San Fran was the place to be?

Report this review (#445863)
Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Jefferson Airplane Takes Off is a very good debut album. The San Francisco rock band released this on RCA Victor Records in September 1966. The personnel differ from the later "classic" lineup and the music is more folk-rock, blues-rock than the harder psychedelic sound for which the band later became famous. Signe Anderson was the female vocalist whilst Skip Spence played drums. Both left the group shortly after the album's release and were replaced by Grace Slick and Spencer Dryden, respectively.

The absence of Grace Slick and the presence of cover versions do not distract the enjoyment. There's a slightly tinny sound typical of RCA recordings of the mid 60s which might be considered a fault. But if you can see past that, then you'll know that JA proved they were a force to be reckoned with. Good musicianship, particularly from the thumping bass. I also like this band for Marty Balin's amazing vocals alone. "Tobacco Road" is a main highlight. I also like "It's No Secret", "Let Me In", "And I Like It" very much. Signe Anderson's vocals are also fab on their version of Memphis Minnie's "Chauffeur Blues". A nice little record to dig out every now and then.

Report this review (#488148)
Posted Friday, July 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog Folk Researcher
4 stars It's hard to believe a half-century has passed since distinct but somewhat related folk music revivals exploded in both the UK and the U.S. In Britain folks like Ewan MacColl and wife Peggy Seeger were resurrecting long-forgotten folk ballads of their ancestors and encouraging others to do the same, while on the East Coast in the States beatniks gave way to authentic folk-music rediscovery in coffee houses and on campuses from Cambridge to Greenwich Village. Out west the folk was a bit more modern and interpretive, as opposed to traditionalist with pockets of interest in activity around San Francisco as well as emanating from enclaves like Laurel Canyon in the south. In between of course Bob Dylan was about to spring free of the frozen tundra of Hibbing, Minnesota and Gram Parsons was immersing himself in a half-century of backwoods country music and hard- scrabble American western, especially the pill-popping kind that grew out of the 'outlaw' Bakersfield, California sound.

Nearly everything we recognize as modern rock music has at least some connection to that swirl of activity between the late fifties and the British Invasion.

And somewhere early in 1965 some of that new generation of folk revivalists started shaping those classic folk standards around contemporary rock and pop arrangements and instrumentation as well as crafting new songs and sounds inspired by what they'd been listening to and emulating for several years. Folk-rock was born, and Dylan plugged into an amp. Within three or four years the folk revival was all but dead and Altamont was about to put the final nail in the coffin of the peace generation, but in between that wispy twig of folk-rock grew some pretty powerful branches including psychedelic, bubblegum pop and even easy-listening. And this is where Jefferson Airplane came in.

Anyone who mistook Starship's 1985 cheeseball hit 'We Built This City' as the remnants of Jefferson Airplane selling out failed to recognize that the band's original shtick was really not much more than an attempt to capitalize on a sound for personal profit. In their case the sound was (briefly) popular folk-rock and the profit was to come from Marty Balin's hipster new club The Matrix in San Francisco's Fillmore District. Balin's newly formed band debuted at the opening of the club and thanks to great media connections both the club and the band quickly developed a following.

While the Airplane would morph into one of the seminal psychedelic bands of the sixties, there debut album gives very few hints as to the direction the band would take less than a year later. The songs here are all firmly rooted in the folk-rock sounds of the era, including three folk-standards: 'Tobacco Road' by Louvin Brothers cousin John D. Loudermilk; 'Chauffeur Blues' by Lester Melrose; and Dino Valenti's 'Let's Get Together' which was originally recorded by the Kingston Trio but was made famous Jesse Colin Young's one-hit wonder group the Youngbloods a year after Jefferson Airplane recorded it. The others are all original tunes, mostly written by Balin but with some support by other band members, especially Paul Kantner.

'Blues from an Airplane' is co-credited to drummer Skip Spence who was clearly signed by the band mostly for his looks and musician swagger since he had never even played drums before joining the group. And really this is the one song that has even the slightest glimmer of a very early psychedelic sound with slightly trippy vocal harmonies and a disjointed rhythm that was more likely a result of Spence's inexperience than an intentional sound.

Kantner sings on 'Let Me In' and later on 'Run Around', both coming off sounding more like post-Beat tunes with brief blasts of electric guitar riffs and wacky bass from the recently signed East Coast transplant Jack Casady. These two aren't very folksy really, but certainly not close to the tripped-out psych that would dominate 'Surrealistic Pillow' the following year.

Signe Toly Anderson offers complementary harmonies to Balin's tenor on 'Bringing Me Down' and 'It's No Secret', two quintessential folk-rock numbers that have both appeared on countless compilations and retrospectives of the mid-sixties over the past several decades. The latter became the first single from the album but like the others ('Come up the Years' and 'Bringing Me Down') failed to chart, although the album itself ended up going Gold in the U.S. thanks again to some key connections between band supporters and key regional music critics.

On 'Don't Slip Away' Balin and Anderson pair up for sort of a modern take on a dysfunctional love song ('now that you're here, we should just let it happen') that surprisingly was one of the songs that could have, but wasn't, edited by RCA when the album was reissued nationally in late 1966. 'Run Around' was, and for some of the same sort of blandly suggestive lyrics as this one had.

The last two tracks are both steeped in the blues, 'Chauffeur Blues' being an obvious one given its origin on the south side of Chicago, while 'And I Like It' was a Balin tune that was clearly tampered with in the studio by lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, whose love for the blues would become quite apparent once he left the band to form the erstwhile jam group Hot Tuna.

This is certainly not the greatest Jefferson Airplane album, and definitely not the most famous. But for fans of folk-rock who are interested in a taste of that brief period of time when folk-rock ruled the music scene it is a great sliver of amber of those days. As a historical piece and an innovative (though somewhat derivative) album I have to give 'Takes Off' four out of five stars, and recommend it to any serious fan of modern rock music regardless of your genre preference.


Report this review (#488626)
Posted Friday, July 22, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars To create this album pour some trippy hippie rock into a bowl full of folk rock and add a large measure of The Byrds. What you get is a nice mid-60s flower children album that doesn't really have any progressive bits at all but is still a good listen. Any, of course, it is the genesis of a teriffic band in the history of rock music and protoprog. This does not feature Grace Slick who joined later but I like the voice of Signe Anderson as much as Grace, although they each have their strengths. Best songs contained here:"Let Me In", "Blues From an Airplane", and "Chauffeur Blues". If you are a fan of trippy music or Byrds music than you should enjoy this record. Not one of the best of Jefferson Airplane's catalogue, but not the worst either. 3 solid stars for it's historical value.
Report this review (#639346)
Posted Thursday, February 23, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is my first review here... i've made a few reviews , maybe 4 or 5 around half a decade ago under another name, but well i never stopped reading and visiting this rich site , every week and for many many years now.

I've choosed Jefferson Airplane... their 1st album , a logical start, as it takes off, and one of my fave album by the band

"Blues From an Airplane" is a short impressive start for their official musical carreer... the flight is goin' to be turbulent to say the least... no PanAm class lounge affair flight here...

The title of the song is kinda paradoxal, i imagine the blues been basically more earthy, but sometimes it can fly as well for sure, and not only Jefferson Airplane proove this fact... it reminds me a blue fog... like in a Carpenter movie.

"Let me In" was always a fave song for me , and easily in the top 10 songs of the band i played the most... this is seedy garage psychedelic rock at it's most hard-hitting... modern rock bands should take some lessons... and the bass rolls and rolls down the hills here...

"Bringing me down" is another good song... a more versatile version of what the byrds were doin' at the time (ok where are the byrds in progarchives?)

"It's not a secret" and "tobacco road" are not the best here but it ain't bad

"Come up the years " open the 2nd side of the LP with a delicate pop folk sound... it's so delicate and bright

"Run Around" is the return of a good rocker, the bass is jumpin' again...

"Let's get together" is not written by any of them but it's pleasant enough even if not essential, the vocals here by Signe Anderson are really close to what Grace Slick will do in their following 2nd album...

This album is a real good affair ... and an important recording to understand the fast- evolving year of 1966... a record suspended between two eras... there's more than seeds of evolution here


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Posted Wednesday, December 12, 2012 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 'Summer Of Love,' one of San Francisco's most spontaneous, yet enduring movements where up to 100,000 disillusioned youth descended upon the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood forever changing the city's politics, demographics, fashion statements and most of all musical scene, it's a good time to reflect on all those great bands of the past who have been put on the shelf in the ensuing decades as musical flavors have broadened and diversified but never truly forgotten, of course. Of all the contributor's to the counter-culturally fueled San Francisco Sound including Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Santana, it was really JEFFERSON AIRPLANE who launched the whole psychedelic scene with their huge hits 'White Rabbit' and 'Somebody To Love' off their 1967 classic 'Surrealistic Pillow.'

All that would come soon but not before Grace Slick and Spencer Dryden would join the band and form the band's classic lineup which would finish off the 60s, the band started out much more in the folk rock arena primarily inspired by The Byrds, The Beatles, Weavers and Kingston Trio. After a few years of unsuccessful endeavors, the band was founded by guitarist Marty Ballin and would soon hook up with Paul Kantnor and David Freiberg. Soon thereafter they would discover Signe Toly Anderson and invite her to sing in their new group. It wouldn't take long for the band to release their debut album JEFFERSON AIRPLANE TAKES OFF which in a commercial sense really did just that. The band was virtually unknown outside of the San Francisco Bay Area and RCA only pressed 15,000 copies but the band's reputation found them instant success in the area where over 10,000 copies were sold alone thus prompting the label to repress immediately and found the album going gold without any successful singles and instead setting sail via word of mouth alone.

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE TAKES OFF is very much a product of its time. Although associated as one of the primary movers and shakers of the psychedelic scene, there is nothing on this debut release to prognosticate where they or the world would lead in only a year's time. This album is very much a folk rock album that encapsulates the jangle folk rock guitar sound of The Byrds, blues inspired riffs as heard on the opener 'Blues From An Airplane' and an attempt at a Mama's & Papa's male / female vocal interchange (but not nearly as harmonically successful). While the majority of the tracks are originals with shared writing credits from the Ballin / Kantner songwriting team, there are three covers as well. The excellent rendition of the Clay Warnick song 'Tobacco Road' first recorded by John D. Loudermilk in 1960, Dino Valente's 'Let's Get Together' and a rare lead vocal performance by Signe Anderson doing an energetic performance of the famous Memphis Minnie tune 'Chauffeur Blues' (originally released under the title 'Me And My Chauffeur Blues.')

Universally accepted as a true feel-good album of sorts, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE TAKES OFF does deliver a consistent feel of no nonsense 60s folk rock, however despite every track being a pleasant listen, the AIRPLANE doesn't really have much of an identity at this point either. While all songs are perhaps nice sing-alongs, they don't really stand out from the crowd of imitators who would follow despite JEFFERSON AIRPLANE having created a very unique sound for the day with a slightly countrified take on bluesy folk rock. I feel the Byrds influences are too strong and Anderson isn't allowed to shine as a vocalist enough despite her vocals not having the power of Grace Slick whose contributions would eclipse anything heard on this album. Unfortunately in an artistic sense, this debut album took off in name only. JEFFERSON AIRPLANE would in reality sit idol in the runway until Grace Slick made it through the check-in lines and handed in her boarding pass. The soundtrack for the hippie scene would have to wait a little longer.

Report this review (#1741622)
Posted Friday, July 7, 2017 | Review Permalink
3 stars First, I am a self-confessed big fan of the Airplane from the moment I bought "Bless Its Pointed Little Head" their classic live album.

I didn't even know this album existed until a friend alerted me to it by which time it was deleted in the UK. When it was re-releasedin the early 70s I immediately bought it on vinyl.

Let's start with the cover which shows what looks like a bunch of college students standing in front of an old propeller plane. Typical cover for the 1st LP but showing no signs of the hippy darlings they'd become a year or so later.

Marty Balin formed the band as a vehicle for his songs and voice so his presence is much stronger here than on later albums when everybody in the band wanted to sing their own songs on each album. I love his studio voice which is great on this release but always felt that he tried too hard to outdo Grace Slick on live recordings.

His voice introduces track 1 "Blues From an Airplane" a strong opener in which Signe Anderson's voice provides good support. She was the original girl singer for the band but only featured on this release before leaving to have a baby. The song was cowritten by drummer Skip Spence who was really a guitarist who became a drummer short term.

The next 2 tracks "Let Me In" and "Bringing Me Down" were cowritten by Balin and Kantner who shared lead vocals before a pure Balin composition "It's No Secret" sung by Marty. The original album then ended Side 1 with "Tobacco Road" ( a rather limp version) and "Come Up the Years" a pleasant ditty about love for a younger (presumably underage) girl.

I haven't lavished praise on the 5 songs after the opener because they feel pleasant without being outstanding. However, side 2 picks up strongly after its opener "Run Around".

"Let's Get Together", a song written by Chet Powers (aka Dino Valente) is another real highlight as Signe gets her best chance yet to show her singing prowess. "Don't Slip Away" feels a bit twee but is really enjoyable.

"Chauffeur Blues" allows Signe to truly show the power in her voice on a fast blues well driven by the band before Balin sings "And I Like It" a lovely ballad. In all side 2 is stronger than side 1and makes this album more than a curiosity for collectors only.

The album shows early signs of musical prowess with Cassady's bass already shining through on most tracks, the powerful female voice, the choir-like chorusses on some tracks. Kaukonen would come through more strongly in the future. The band would go on to make much better albums with Grace Slick, who also brought some great songs to the band, replacing Signe.

Balin would slide down the pecking order for lead vocals and eventually leave the band he formed but this is his album really. Torn between 3 and 4 stars but, since i feel there are a few songs here not up to their usual high bar, it must be 3.

RIP Balin, Kantner and Anderson

Report this review (#2787695)
Posted Friday, September 2, 2022 | Review Permalink

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