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Jefferson Airplane


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Jefferson Airplane Surrealistic Pillow album cover
3.60 | 184 ratings | 22 reviews | 23% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1967

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. She Has Funny Cars (3:13)
2. Somebody To Love (2:57)
3. My Best Friend (3:03)
4. Today (3:00)
5. Comin' Back To Me (5:24)
6. 3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds (3:45)
7. D.C.B.A.-25 (2:40)
8. How Do You Feel (3:35)
9. Embryonic Journey (1:52)
10. White Rabbit (2:32 )
11. Plastic Fantastic Lover (3:44)
12. In The Morning* (6:21)
13. J.P.P. MeStep B. Blues* (2:37)
14. Go To Her* (4:02)
15. Come Back Baby* (2:56)
16. Somebody To Love (Mono Single Version)* (2:58)
17. White Rabbit (Mono Single Version)* (5:20)


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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Marty Balin / vocals, guitars
- Grace Slick / vocals, piano, organ, recorder
- Paul Kantner / vocals, guitars
- Jorma Kaukonen / guitars, vocals
- Jack Casady / bass, rhythm guitar
- Spencer Dryden / drums, percussion

- Jerry Garcia / musical and spiritual adviser, guitars

Releases information

RCA LPM/ LSP-3766 February 1967
RCA B0000A0DRY August 19, 2003 Remastered with bonus tracks noted with *


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JEFFERSON AIRPLANE Surrealistic Pillow ratings distribution

(184 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(23%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE Surrealistic Pillow reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by The Wizard
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.

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars First JA album (but their second overall) to have the classic line-up, this album is really one of the cornerstones of psychedelic rock, the album that literally made the Haight-Ashbury scene, the album that put San Fran on the rock map, one of those albums that equalled any album of The Beatles' influence, the album that allows all superlatives (including the launch of The Summer Of Love) without too much a feeling of exaggeration. Of course, the album might have aged a little, might seem a little tame with what came after it. But the young proghead must wonder: what if this album had not come through? Of course in terms of English psych/prog, there were albums that were definitely more adventurous, progressive, but none that really had an international impact as Surrealistic Pillow did.

Of course Pillow is still an album that suffered technical limitations of the era, relatively tight rules of record label, and there are some rather standard tracks such as My Best Friend (still written by ex-"drummer" Skip Spence), Today (and its extreme hippy ideals of just living one day at a time on delightful drum rolls), 3/5 Of A Mile (a rocker built over a steady beat) and their monstrous hit Somebody To Love.

But on the other hand, this album is loaded with spine tingling moments, great musicianship, and novel ideas. Right from hearing the drum intro (Dryden is a jazz-trained drummer) of She Has Funny Cars leading to a descending bass line (Jack Casady is a master of the bass and helped write the book of rock bass playing with Jack Bruce and John Entwistle), you are well aware that things will "degenerate" into greatness: forty second into the track a superb succession of chord changes and the tracks picks -up again with Kantner and Balin going about their duo singing, and coming from the back Slicks comes with her incredibly sensual voice turns, twist, twiddles and circles around the males voices like she was their lovers (not yet in real life ;-) and performing oral lovemaking. Barely over three minutes, this song is one of more emblematic the Airplane ever did, but there would be so many more to come. Coming Back To Me is one of those incredibly delicate moments where Grace with her recorder (there were very few pop records using flutes prior to this album) underline's Balin superb vocals (with a bit of imagination, this might just recall you a bit Crimson's I Talk To the Wind) and an unusual length.

How Do You Feel is another flute-laden track. Embryonic Journey is the kind of track that will lead future Steve Hs to do acoustic pieces on their group's album some five years later, and Kaukonen finally gets a chance to strut his stuff, and then comes the other nail into the wall structure of rock music: White Rabbit! What hasn't been said about this outstanding and astounding track? Yes it refers to Alice In Wonderland; yes, it has incredible tension based on Spanish influences; yes, Casady's bass intro is close to eighth wonder; yes, this is a bolero some four years before Crimson and ELP; yes, this track is MUCH TOO SHORT for its greatness. The album finishes on an ode to the dildo over a square beat, but a swirling bass line, and whistles enlighten it.

The bonus tracks that came with the definitive remastered versions are worthy and belonged to the recording sessions of this album, but do not really bring a plus, except in showing the blues side of the group (three tracks of the four real bonus) that would clearly later evolve in the offshoot Hot Tuna with the large jam improvs between Casady, Kaukonen and Dryden. Of special interest to frequent Airplane flyers is the superb Go To Her. Also included are the mono single versions of the two monster songs of the album.

Overall, nowadays it is easy to overlook this album's real merits and dismiss it as just another good album, but retrospectively and looking back, this album was absolutely groundbreaking as would their next four albums, all recorded with the classic quintet. Not flawless, and certainly not full-blown prog-rock, but damn well essential to its birth.

Review by erik neuteboom
4 stars I am very glad that Jefferson Airplane is added to this site because this band was one of the pioneers in the second half of the Sixties. From the very first time I heard this band I was delighted about their warm and exciting, very distinctive sound. Of course the singles Somebody To Love and White Rabbit (both on this album) were my first musical encounter with Jefferson Airplane but I was pleasantly surprised that the quality of these timeless hit singles was to be found back on their LP's as I soon discovered. The songs alternate between folk, rock, blues and psychedelia and sound very melodic and harmonic. Their strong points are the excellent duo - and even triple vocal parts, the great interplay between the guitars (soli and rhythm) and the fluent rhythm-section that lead every song to the right direction, from dreamy (warm twanging acoustic guitar, vocals and flute) to swinging and up-tempo rock (fiery electric guitar work). This is a band that delivers a sound that is typically rooted in the Sixties but also sounds timeless, because it's pure quality (like Forever Changes by Love, rest in peace Arthur Lee).
Review by Chris H
2 stars Surrealistic Pillow. It's not excellent. It's excellently overrated! Jorma Kaukonen produces one of the most amazing consistant performance on any album from any guitarist I've heard, but that's just what this is: Guitar Rock. It's Delta Blues people! The gems of this album are "3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds" "Come Back Baby" and "She Has Funny Cars". Everything else proved to be a chronic disappointment. "White Rabbit" was one of the biggest pieces of rubbish I have ever heard, and it makes me sick that people worship this song so much. It's LSD in music form. And "Somebody To Love" is just an average, repetitive, boring blah-blah song that people get tired of. Every other song except maybe, just maybe "How Do You Feel" is a boring, forgettable attempt at making a good album, and its a shame because Jerry Garcia contributed to this piece.


Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars "Surrealistic Pillow" may sound naive and overrated to nowadays listeners, but we must be aware that it was recorded in late 1966 (released early 1967)! This album not only reflected the then burgeoning avant-garde music scene of San Francisco, it actually catapulted the entire psychedelic/acid rock movement with all its experimentation and expansion of the limited rock'n'roll format of the era. This album is a collection of excellent songs, starting from energetic and furious "She Has Funny Cars" through the closing acid rock vignette "Plastic Fantastic Lover". The only negligable song might be "My Best Friend" (by ex member Skip Spence). "White Rabbit" is of course as progressive as it could be in that time and it deserved a status of a "psychedelic anthem". A pure avant-garde, mixing influences from Ravel's "Bolero" and Spanish classics, presents a perfection done in a mere 2,5 minutes! Minimalist art at its best. Proto-prog? I would say - more than that! It is a genuine masterpiece!
Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars The great news is of course that Grace Slick has joined for this album. I am really hypnotized by her voice. Some of their live antems are here : "Somebody to Love" and the wonderful psychedelic "White Rabbit" which both were hit singles during the summer of love.

The opener starts a bit like "Set The Controls..." from Floyd, at least the drumming. But this one was written before, so the influence here is reversed. Good backing vocals from Grace. "My Best Friend" is not mine. Folky and naïve tune.

The accoustic and mellow "Today" is played on a monotous tone and one falls almost asleep when listening to it. Same applies to "Comin' Back to Me" which is a very slow song song. Sounds almost like a Donovan one. Quite boring frankly.

"3,5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds" has some psyche flavour and is precursor of better things to come. It's one of the best track.

The rest of the album is rather disapointing : "DCBA 25" and "How Do You Feel" are probably the worse songs on this album. It is far much closer to folk songs than to psyche rock. I also regret that Grace has not more the leading in the vocals : her role is more backing (with the exception of "White Rabbit" of course). "Embryon Journey" is an accoustic guitar solo, quite ... embryonary (1'55"). It could have been played by one of the Steves (Howe or Hackett).

The highlight is of course "White Rabbit" writen by Grace. One of the best (if not the best) song they will ever write. Grace's voice is gorgeous. Lyrics are representative of an era : '"And you've just had some kind of mushroom, And your mind is moving low". The repetitive and crecsendo tempo is incredible. I wish this track have lasted much, much longer though. The bluesy "Plastic Fantastic Lover" closes the album and is quite dispensible.

All in all, too few great moments (5'34" to be precise). Two stars.

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This is a really fabulous classic psych rock album, culminating the lovely hippie charms on a singular disc. The only minor flaws on the LP seem to be one filler track; "My Best Friend" seems a quite poor rant out of place here when compared to the rest of the material. Also this band was really at their best on live stage. Though the classic compositions here are awesome in quality, they got a bit stronger punch on the group's jam oriented live performances. In my opinion the best versions of classic "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" are their Woodstock 1969 performances, which are also nicely available from Woodestock documentary films and recordings, offering also the visual experience of this group, and it is interesting to realize that this event happened nearly fourty years ago. The union of male and female vocals create a nice sexual tension to this music, though the charismatic lady singer probably draws the main attention among the band personnel. Fragile "Today" and "Comin' Back To Me" create a beautiful silent folk sequences between the more aggressive marvelous tracks like "She Has Funny Cars" and "3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds". These are also songs which I suggest of hunting down from some of their live recordings. "Embryonic Journey" shows the acoustic side of the guitarist, who has Finnish roots and has had a solo career in the present days. On a whole, I consider this record an essential album for fans of 1960's rock & early psych movement.
Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars JEFFERSON AIRPLANE were a big part of the summer of love in San Fransisco in 1967. With their two monster hits,"Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit" this record became part of the culture of free love and drugs. Certainly the message for this generation was "Feed your head" as the song "White Rabbit" advised.

I was a little surprised at the aggressive garage-rock sounding guitars on the opener "She Has Funny Cars" and "3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds".

"Today" is a fragile beauty. "D.C.B.A.-25" has dual vocals and almost sounds like THE BYRDS. Some nice flute melodies on "Comin' Back To Te" and "How Do You Feel". "Embryonic Journey" is a psychedelic, guitar driven instrumental. I like it ! "Plastic Fantastic Lover" is kind of cool. I like the way he sings the title of the song.

As influencial as this was I think people who didn't grow up on this music would find it a little dated and hard to enjoy, except for the two hits of course. Good but not essential to prog lovers. 3.5 stars.

Review by Chicapah
3 stars Since prehistoric times the music business in the USA had been, for the most part, firmly entrenched in New York and Los Angeles. If someone wanted to land a record deal that's where they had to go to be discovered. But starting in the mid sixties a new Mecca of talented, unorthodox songwriters/musicians was starting to take shape in San Francisco and the head honchos in the "biz" had no choice but to take notice. Jefferson Airplane was the first of many groups based in that city to be snatched up by the major labels who didn't want to miss out on the "next big thing" and they became one of the frontrunners of the counter-culture movement more or less by default. (Having two hit singles on AM radio just as the infamous "summer of love" was changing the world as we knew it in 1967 didn't hurt, either). Recorded in only two weeks time, this rushed but surprisingly well-crafted album hit the shelves just as suburban America was starting to realize that Bob Dylan was right as rain when he sang ".something is happening and you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?" We all desperately wanted to know and "Surrealistic Pillow" provided an important clue.

Right off the bat you hear the psychedelic strains of "She Has Funny Cars" with its progressive folk harmonies and uncomplicated jungle rhythm. It has male and female voices singing together but this ain't Peter, Paul & Mary in any way, shape or form. The next song, the unforgettable "Somebody to Love," introduces us to Grace Slick and her anything-but-subtle voice half-shouting "When the truth is found to be lies/and all the joy within you dies..." Well, let me tell you, that kind of stark reality grabs your attention right quick. The tune has Spencer Dryden's pulsing, signature double-time snare beat that characterized so much of their music and made it perfect for phantasmagoric light shows. It was the ideal soundtrack for the burgeoning hippie phenomenon. One of the biggest chart-busting groups at the time was The Mamas and the Papas so it's not surprising that "My Best Friend" sounds like it could have easily been covered by them. In fact, it was the first single released by RCA from this LP for that very reason but its lack of anything original ensured that it would go nowhere.

"Today" is an excellent folk ballad they retooled in the studio with a more modern arrangement that brings the guitars up front and places the rest of the band reverberating far in the background. But it's Marty Balin's emotional lead vocal in harmony with Paul Kantner and Grace that makes this poignant love song shine. Following right behind, however, is one of the most haunting tunes they would ever record, the gorgeous "Comin' Back to Me." A more moody, serene and sad composition you will be hard-pressed to find. Balin's lonesome voice layered over acoustic guitar and bass with only a flute for accompaniment is so effective that I consider it to be the best song they ever put together. It is spellbindingly wistful and morose.

The psychedelic rocker "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds" jars you right out of the reflective stupor the previous tune invoked with Jorma Kaukonen's trippy guitar and Jack Casady's booming bass pulling you up to dance around the room uncontrollably. Next up is the very Byrds-like "D.C.B.A. - 25" that falls short of being memorable in any way. It defines the word "filler." Jorma's magical "Embryonic Journey" is a bright, cheerful solo acoustic guitar ditty that thoroughly showcases his fluid ability on the instrument. One can easily imagine strolling through the Haight-Ashbury district on a warm summer afternoon without a care in the world as this plays.

If "Someone to Love" is the call to join the peaceniks then "White Rabbit" is the siren song of the hallucinogenic drug culture that beckons you to follow Alice into the hole. It's difficult to imagine another tune that so completely envelopes the aura and mystery of the forbidden fruit with its Bolero drum track and the band's relentless, steady buildup underneath Slick's powerful words and vocal. It is still arguably the most unique 2:27 in rock and roll history. The album ends with another danceable rocker, the cosmic "Plastic Fantastic Lover" that twirls abstract lyrics around a tight groove and ushers you out on a suitably "high" note.

I recently reviewed an album by Spirit and I was struck by the contrast between them and JA. That band started out composing very progressive music and then became more and more commercial. Jefferson Airplane did the opposite. They began by conquering the Top 40 with their radio-friendly music and then got increasingly weird and spaced out with each new LP. In the grand scheme of things I can't say that this group was all that influential to what became progressive rock. They were definitely a big part of the non-conformist, bohemian rebellion that grew out of the northern California scene but their constant immersion into the cesspool of drug and alcohol abuse robbed them of true perspective in the long run. In my mind this slightly flawed but historically important album is the acme of their career.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Surrealistic Pillow is the second full-length studio album by American west-coast psychadelic rock act Jefferson Airplane. The groupīs debut album Takes Off (1966) was an enjoyable and good album IMO and I expected great things from this follow up album and I can tell you that I am not disappointed. Since the debut thereīs been two lineup changes. Grace Slick has replaced Signe Toly Anderson on female vocals and Skip Spence is replaced by Spencer Dryden on the drums. The album was a major succes and peaked at #3 on Billboard's Pop Albums chart and spawned two hit singles in White Rabbit and Somebody to Love which peaked at #8 and #5 respectively on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Both songs are Grace Slick penned tracks.

While Takes Off was mainly rooted in blues and American folk and generally didnīt have many psychadelic elements, Surrealistic Pillow adds psychadelic elements to Jefferson Airplaneīs sound to great effect. The music is not overtly experimental or psychadelic but the songs are rather simple pop/ rock songs with psychadelic tendencies. Songs like She Has Funny Cars, White Rabbit and Plastic Fantastic Lover all represent the new style of the band. The songs mostly have male lead vocals but a couple of the songs have Grace Slick on lead vocals.

The musicianship is great. Tight interplay, lots of exciting guitars and great vocal harmonies.

The production is organic but edgy when it needs to be. Producer Rick Jarrard has made a good sound for the music.

Surrealistic Pillow is a good album and takes Jefferson Airplaneīs sound to a new level. 3 BIG stars are well deserved and Iīll be looking forward to listening to more from the band. I canīt believe I havenīt given their music more spins before now. A really good band.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars My first JA album was Live In Monterey. Some songs really attracted me, but sound quality was very poor. So I just found studio album with similar tracks.

First of all, it's a music from a bit different era, just second half of sixties. So music by itself, sound quality,arrangements all are at the different standard from later music.

Music itself is beat+ psychedelia, with some perfect melodies, and some very average ones. Again, in some songs Grace Slick voice is excellent, another are just songs. I believe, that with better sound quality and more modern arrangements this album could sound perfectly.

But speaking about what we have, I just think it has more historical value. And for sure, for some this album is just memory and nostalgy from flower-power sixties ( and that time had some great moments!). But for newcomers, I'm afraid that music could sounds a bit as grandma old vinyl.

Review by Any Colour You Like
3 stars It is obvious that Surrealistic Pillow will be remembered for two mega successful, iconic songs. But it should also be remembered as one of the albums that set the benchmark for Psychedelic rock in the late 1960s. It goes without saying that Somebody to Love and White Rabbit have become icons of the Summer of Love, the Hippie movement, and naturally the drug counterculture of the late 60s. Both songs possess a unique charm and typically lucid psychedelic aura, and consequently made Grace Slick's amazing voice famous overnight. These songs aside, there are a few other tracks here that warrant a listen, including the equally lucid Today, the folky-acoustic Embrionic Journey and Plastic Fantastic Lover.

Jefferson Airplane deserves a lot of credit on this site, they experimented with compositional techniques, and pushed the boundaries of musical norms beyond what had previously been accepted. While not especially progressive or high-impact today, the experimentation and developing themes found on Surrealistic Pillow will hopefully ensure that it remains one of the icons of Psychedelic rock, and indeed of the 60s. Beyond the music structure and composition, Surrealistic Pillow also established Grace Slick as one the most recognisible voices of a generation. It is not hard to see how her vocal representation came to impact on not only pop and rock, but also many progressive singers.

Despite these obvious sentiments, there are things to improve upon here. Some of the songs sound too much like filler content for my liking, and I am still unsure on whether the bluesy guitar is simply, just a bit, well... ho hum. Anyway, for those who wish to take a trip down to Haight-Ashbury - well don't worry, just make sure you pack your Surrealistic Pillow, and Jefferson Airplane will fly you away.

Review by Epignosis
4 stars An excellent album of psychedelic folk rock with a few pop tendencies, Surrealistic Pillow marks the entrance of a remarkable female vocalist from The Great Society, and while she may not have carried much of the vocal duties on this album, she did bring with her two songs from her previous band, which helped make Jefferson Airplane an icon of the 1960s. Thick, grainy reverb envelops this entire album, giving it an impure but important sound. Surrealistic Pillow is a requirement for any fan of 1960s rock music, and some of the compositions are definitely progressive in the context of their time.

"She Has Funny Cars" Listen to those opening drums and the riff of those descending guitars with a vocal melody that follows, and the counterpoint vocals after that- this is golden proto-prog territory.

"Somebody to Love" One of the greatest and most well-known Jefferson Airplane songs, "Somebody to Love" has an immediate vocal from the gruffly melodic wonder-woman Grace Slick, which carries the piece along with a big backing rock sound- a genuine classic.

"My Best Friend" It's nice to follow the popular rocker with a gentle folk song. There's nothing fancy here, but those gradual tempo changes are brilliant in their own way.

"Today" Easygoing, picked acoustic guitar and a high-pitched electric riff make for a phenomenal foundation for a lovely folk tune.

"Comin' Back to Me" Further acoustic guitar and a delicate flute create this melancholic piece, and the vocals swoop down suddenly, bringing this airy piece back to Earth, but not quite. It is a sleepy track, and a lengthy for what it offers, but not repugnant in the least- just calm and sleepy.

"3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds" The previous track was very drowsy; therefore it makes sense that an upbeat, poppy wakeup call follows. The variety in the band's trademark foot-stomping drumming (from eighth notes to sixteenths) is excellent under the equally terrific guitar solo especially.

"D.C.B.A.-25" Marty Balin and newcomer Slick sound especially good together with their unmistakable sound despite their contrasting tones. The music is fine 1960s pop-rock.

"How Do You Feel" Peppy flute and a moderately-paced, almost country-flavored song comes in. A distantly sweet bit of guitar, from both electric and acoustic, usher in the final, a cappella chorus.

"Embryonic Journey" The one instrumental is a terse, happy piece, which makes me think of Steve Howe's acoustic interruptions on a few Yes albums.

"White Rabbit" Carrying a rhythm very similar to Maurice Ravel's famous "Bolero," this fantastic song blatantly depicts psychedelic drug use in tandem with imagery from Lewis Carroll's most famous work. It is an anthem of the psychedelic era.

"Plastic Fantastic Lover" The final track is like psychedelic acoustic proto-funk, with a grooving bass line, a gritty electric guitar, and almost rapped lyrics.

Review by Rune2000
3 stars I haven't heard this album in years and since the three albums Jefferson Airplane released over the course of 1967-68 all have a likewise sound I generally never can remember which track belong to which record. All this had no real effect upon my first revisit of Surrealistic Pillow in over 10 years of time. Listening to it today I instantly recognized every twist and turn that each of these songs had to offer which really surprised me since I honestly can't recall listening all that much to this record in my teen years. I guess that the human brain can pick up and store a lot details that one would imagine!

I have no recollection of why I started listening to Jefferson Airplane except of course for the obvious pop-cultural reference in the 1996 Jim Carrey vehicle The Cable Guy where Carrey does an outrageous version of Somebody To Love. Still, I believe that I've heard Surrealistic Pillow long before that occasion.

The album features a lot of very dated music from the '60s that might lack in production and any real Progressive Rock credential but that's why it's considered to be Proto-Prog. Just like the excellent numbers like She Has Funny Cars and Plastic Fantastic Lover there are also quite a few really forgettable performances featured towards the middle of the album. Those performances consist mostly of low-key acoustic guitar and vocal driven songs like 3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds and How Do You Feel.

Although I might have really enjoyed this brief revisit of Surrealistic Pillow I can't really call it an excellent due to the obviously dated moments. Still, I would definitely place it on the higher end of the good, but non-essential rating scale!

***** star songs: She Has Funny Cars (3:12) Somebody To Love (2:57) Plastic Fantastic Lover (3:37)

**** star songs: My Best Friend (3:02) Comin' Back To Me (5:21) Embryonic Journey (1:53) White Rabbit (2:32)

*** star songs: Today (3:01) 3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds (3:43) D.C.B.A.-25 (2:38) How Do You Feel (3:33)

Review by zravkapt
3 stars The second and most famous album from this San Francisco band. The first with singer Grace Slick who brought along with her two songs from her former band The Great Society. I have never heard the originals, but Airplane's versions of those two songs are the two best songs here and were the two biggest hits for the group. This album was recorded in 1966 and is still primarily in folk-rock territory. Althought this is now considered a classic psychedelic album, the music is not very psychedelic compared to the next two albums (which are also more 'proto-proggy' as well).

"She Has Funny Cars" is one of the better songs. I like the fuzzed out guitar and harmony vocals here. "Today" is a highlight. A nice ballad with mainly acoustic guitar and vocals, along with a little bit of electric guitar, bass and tambourine. Barely audible drums way in the background add texture later on in the song. "3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds" has a great psychedelic title, but the music is basically R&B. The guitar solo is typical mid-60s psych- rock. "Embryonic Journey" is a good instrumental with intricate folky guitar playing. This reminds me of some of the stuff David Gilmour will do later with Pink Floyd.

"Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit" are both great singles and the two most psychedelic songs on the album. The latter in particular has great lyrics and is one of the best songs to come out of the 1960s. The next album, After Bathing At Baxter's, will be an improvement over this. There have been many CD releases of this album; I'm used to the original '80s CD with no bonus tracks and mediocre sound quality. The sound of the album itself is very mid-60s with all the reverb added. Surrealistic Pillow gets 2.5 rounded up to 3 stars.

Review by Warthur
3 stars The two most famous songs from this album - Somebody to Love and White Rabbit - are in a way the least representative, bearing as they do the wonderful vocals of Grace Slick. The other songs on the album are somewhat less interesting; many don't feature Slick's vocals, and even those that do can't quite match the restless energy of Somebody to Love or the mounting tension of White Rabbit. Which isn't to say they're bad, but they just don't stand out when placed next to other similar folk-psych acts of their era. Three stars, though White Rabbit and Somebody to Love are without a doubt 4-star tracks.
Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars 'Surrealistic Pillow' may be the defining album of the entire West Coast Haight-Ashbury / Summer of Love experience. No doubt there are millions of aging baby boomers who have fond memories of key events from their formative years where songs from this album served as background music. Personally I was a bit too young then but didn't have any trouble connecting with this album a decade later during my own period of discovery.

As far as the band goes, the lineup had changed slightly since their debut the year before, but the impact of those changes are incalculable. Signe Toly Anderson was gone to raise a family, and the mercurial Skip Spence had been shown the door and gone off to form his own band Moby Grape, replaced by Spencer Dryden, a drummer who had the advantage of actual experience on his resume. And Grace Slick was no stranger to the band having served at the helm of The Great Society during their brief gig as a recurring opening act for the Airplane. Slick and Dryden clicked both with the band and between the sheets, embarking on a famously 'secret' affair that began during the period this album was recorded.

The opening track of 'Surrealistic Pillow' is deceptively tame compared to some of the more heavily acid-tinged psych that would come on this and subsequent records. "She Has Funny Cars" has been suggested to be a protest song of sorts, mostly referring to materialism. The song features fuzz guitar rather prominently but on bass rather than six- string, and set to a rhythmic beat and fairly simple chord progressions. Not a song that would be considered innovative today, but quite a departure in the fast-moving music scene of 1966.

Grace Slick makes her debut on the second track "Somebody to Love", a song written by her then brother-in-law for The Great Society but which became the highest charting single ever for Jefferson Airplane. The Airplane combines a driving beat with over-amped electric guitar and bass of a style that would characterize much psychedelic music for the next several years. Slick's sensuous and powerful vocals dominate except for the distinctive extended acid guitar solo by Jorma Kaukonen that brings the short but memorable track to a close.

Listeners are reminded of the fledgling state of psychedelic music with the comparatively simple "My Best Friend", a song written by Skip Spence but not recorded by the band until after his departure. The three-part harmonies hearken back to 1965, which given the nature of most of the rest of the record seems like ancient history. This was the third single from the album and probably the least well-known.

Marty Balin and Paul Kantner co-authored several folk-rock tracks on the band's first album, but the laconic "Today" is the only such song on this record. Jerry Garcia, who was active in many aspects of this album's recording plays rhythm guitar. The band wouldn't record or perform many more folk-rock songs in their remaining career, and this one, along with Balin's "Comin' Back to Me" almost sound like requiems to a sound that by 1966 was already falling out of popular favor. The latter tune also has the distinction of being the longest track on the album thanks to the meandering nature of Balin's vocals and disjointed guitar delivery. Balin seemed to be grasping at times for inspiration as evidenced by "Comin' Back to Me" and "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds", neither of which were based on very weighty subjects. No matter, as '3/5' has a strong acid-rock delivery and fits the mood of the second half of the album quite well. "D.C.B.A. -25" comes across in similar fashion and also sounds like a Balin tune despite the liner credits to Kantner.

Kaukonen didn't write much for the band but his brief instrumental "Embryonic Journey" would become something of a signature live piece, and one that has been played by scores of folk, psych and acid bands in the ensuing years. The alternating fingering/strumming chord style give the tune a mellow feel and make the following "White Rabbit" stand apart even more.

And speaking of "White Rabbit", one has to wonder how many post-rock musicians took inspiration from the simple building crescendo established by the rhythm section and enhanced by Kaukonen's acid lead guitar work. The tension in the song gives it a range and volume that belies the fact that the song is less than three minutes long but can seem to last an eternity, especially when enhanced by mental stimulants which is both how it was recorded and presumably intended to be heard. Along with "Somebody to Love" this quickly became both an instantly identifiable part of the band's legacy, and one of the most referred-to and copied songs by generations of acid, folk and psychedelic rockers who followed. As the second single for the band it also gave the band two simultaneously charting singles and helped launch their international fame at a time when they had only briefly appeared live outside the Bay area.

The album ends on another Balin tune, the acid anthem "Plastic Fantastic Lover" which again seems tame today but whose prurient lyrics (considering the era) were not automatic candidates to escape the censor's red pens. Balin's spoken-sung vocals and Kaukonen's raw guitar chords are in the finest garage band style, and similar sounds would resurface a decade later on scores of punk albums.

The various reissues of this album have included stereo versions of several songs and outtake materials including the sappy Kantner tune "Go to Her" and version of the blues standard "Come Back Baby" that was presumably scrapped because Aretha Franklin also had a recorded version ready to release at the same time. Having heard both versions it's clear the band made the right call.

This album is not necessarily a masterpiece, and in fact there are little snippets of studio sloppiness here and there that aren't surprising given the likely free-flowing of drugs in a studio filled with the famously indulgent Airplane members not to mention prodigious partaker Jerry Garcia. But considering the radical departure the band had made from standard blues, beat and folk-rock fare of 1966 and the staying power of "White Rabbit", "Somebody to Love" and even "Embryonic Journey" it has to be considered at least a seminal and groundbreaking psychedelic album released at a time when musical styles were changing more quickly than the weather. Anyone who is a serious fan or student of modern music should have 'Surrealistic Pillow' in their collection, and it deserves a solid four (of five) star rating for that reason. Highly recommended if you haven't heard it already.


Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A perfect moment from the real Summer of Love, '66

"Somebody once said there was a period, maybe about a week in 1966, where anything you wished for would come true. Like you know, 'wish upon a star' kinda stuff. And sure enough, it did." -Paul Kantner

I've heard both Airplane and Dead members say '66 was the real thing while '67 was for the tourists. I wasn't there but I'll take their word for it. This iconic work was created at the tail end of 1966 and is deserving of its status. Sometimes I see people question why the earlier classic albums are rated so highly. After all, these albums seem quaint by today's standards and they lack today's sophisticated recording techniques. I've never understood these reviewers though, from my perspective albums like Pillow, Piper, Rubber Soul, and Days of Future Passed are about as good as music gets. While the later works of all of these bands would get more experimental and complex, and while I would call many of them masterpieces as well, there is something special about the early work.

I think there are several factors which make these works appealing. What comes through in the early work is band relationships which are still firmly in the "band of brothers" fun stage. They are not yet tired and plagued by infighting. Their drug experimentation was still in the wide-eyed stage of hallucinogens and mostly good vibes, as opposed to some of the dark excesses that came later. But most importantly to me, the one foot in each world effect, the transition, the blast off, this is the moment I find so exciting. These works are the moments when the traditional songs are just starting to morph. The branches are just starting to sway in the breeze. So you get to hear songs which are still fairly traditional on the exterior being ever so subtly twisted by the infancy of the counterculture, and it is that combination of the innocent and mischievous which is so unique. Yes in a couple of years everything would get very radical. But I for one find the initial altering of the consciousness as exciting as the full blown party. It's like those first partying experiences in your teen years which were so memorable and largely innocent. Those naive and heavy moments with friends. Bands can't really recapture that spirit of wide-eyed wonder any more than people can recapture their youth.

The album was recorded a mere two weeks after Slick joined the band in November of 1966. As a testament to how talented and resourceful they were, the sessions took two weeks and cost $8K. The collective charisma and enchanting power on display place Pillow among the very best iconic albums of the 1960s or any decade for that matter. Slick brought a combination of power and sexuality a full decade before anyone knew who Ann Wilson or Stevie Nicks were. Along with Marty Balin's wide range and generally likable presence, the Airplane had one of the most entertaining and formidable vocal fronts of any band. The had the ability to play off of each other and trade leads for great variety. Behind them were a band every bit as interesting as the Dead or the Doors. For 1966 Kaukonen had an aggressive and sometimes caustic edge to his playing while having the ability to spin pure sunny beauty with the delicate "Embryonic Journey." Textural contrast is all over this album as it songwriting variety. From the whimsical sweetness of "My Best Friend" to the hazy strains of "Today", Surrealistic Pillow proves Kantner's magical quote about 1966.

The sparks fly early in the lead off track "She Has Funny Cars", it is the moment when Balin's smooth voice is first joined by Grace's tentative, soft entrance to the band. An interesting track with different sections that range from chilled to urgent, that abrasive guitar edge already getting in your face. "Somebody To Love" is a single I thought I was sick of years ago from radio play, along with "White Rabbit." Wrong. In the context of the original album, nicely remastered, both come alive with a new power. "Somebody" rocks out while "Rabbit" beguiles with masterfully played leads, completely subtle but mysterious. "Comin Back to Me", recorded the first of November 1966, is among my favorite Marty Balin moments. After a delicate acoustic/flute opening that is pure San Francisco flowers, he dreamily sings "the summer had inhaled and held its breath too long, the winter looked the same as if it never had gone." I love that. It's a very poetic and fragile piece but effective. Kantner's "DCBA-25" is another typical sunny psych number whose lilting guitars simply transport you to the Haight, very upbeat, very happy, as the three vocalists harmonize behind it. "How Do You Feel" is a love song with more acoustics and Grace's recorder, great harmonies and completely high-minded. The album closes with Balin's uber cool delivery on the catchy, lyrically clever "Plastic Fantastic Lover" which is commentary on television, and features some Jerry Garcia guitar work.

It is what a wide-eyed, joyful, cynicism-free masterpiece feels like. If you're young and wondering if you should bother with these albums from half a century ago, made by people now in their 70s, the answer is a resounding Yes. They won't provide the adrenalin rush of the latest Haken album but there is much more to life than what is currently cool. Be amazed by what the mid 60s artists did when they were replacing the templates.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
3 stars "Surrealistic Pillow" is a trippy psychedelic album that bristles with kaleidoscopic lyrics and unusual time sigs, like mood swings that may occur under the influence. The main drawcard is the two quintessential Jefferson Airplane tracks, 'Somebody To Love' and 'White Rabbit'. However there are other songs on offer that are worthy of attention. There is the jaunty rhythmic 'She Has Funny Cars' with a pounding drum beat and jangly guitars driving it. The rocking '3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds' is terrific with strong harmonies and silver lined with simplistic guitar riffs. 'Plastic Fantastic Lover' is short burst of psych rock to close the album. Given the lyrics it is focussing on the "Space Age" where everything had to be modern, made of plastic, and computerised, hence the reference to "IBM", and the electron tube was replaced by the transistor, hence the references to the "TV program waste".

Grace Slick, formerly of the Great Society is a welcome addition to the lineup and remained with them for many years. This lineup is hyped as the most essential and it is hard to disagree once you hear Slick's powerhouse vocals. Jerry Garcia had some input as spiritual adviser (!) and it features some incredible bass playing from Jack Casady.

'Somebody To Love' is a grand excursion into passionate vocals and a melody that jams into your brain, and has haunted airwaves for decades. One has to admire the powerful vocals of Grace Slick who is a tour de force on this album. Once you hear 'White Rabbit' you will never forget that melody. It has a raga rhythm and psychedelic lyrics based on Alice in Wonderland; "one pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small, and the ones that mother gives you don't do anything at all, go ask Alice when she's ten feet tall." Other characters are drawn into the bizarre lyrics such as the "hookah smoking caterpillar" the white rabbit, the white knight who is "talking backwards", the red queen, who is "off her head", and the dormouse. One can take from the mushroom and acid soaked lyrics what they wish, but the final sentiment culminates with the enigmatic "Feed your head!" Perhaps this was the catch cry of the flower power movement. It is all captured in 2 and a half minutes, a perfect conceptual masterpiece. Even the way Slick sings in an Arabic Eastern lilt, along with the Bolero rhythm, is completely out of the box. The song simply stands alone in the canon of Haight Ashbury counterculture and psychedelia.

Certainly it is not a perfect album though, with dated sugar coated songs such as 'My Best Friend' that could be mistaken for something from The Partridge Family. I am no fan of the quieter moments on the album that are not sung by Grace such as 'Today', and 'Coming Back To Me', sung by Marty Balin. It is a real hit and miss affir for me, with moments of grandeaur and some moments that are dated and dreary. The album was groundbreaking in 1966, it rings with a distinct reverberation, a result of the large recording room's high ceilings at RCA studios, and the placement of the microphones. This is of course part of its charm. Nevertheless, despite all its flaws, "Surrealistic Pillow" has been touted as a milestone album and as a spawn of 1966, a year of change, pre-Woodstock era, it is a pillar of importance; and the best thing from Jefferson Airplane.

Latest members reviews

3 stars There are three wonderful psychodelic songs on Jefferson Airplane's second album release: "She has Funny Cars"; "White Rabbit", and "Somebody to Love". Much of the rest of this album, in my opinion sounds dated and just not too interesting. This band is always at its best when Grace Slick sings ... (read more)

Report this review (#640501) | Posted by mohaveman | Friday, February 24, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Psychedelic sentiments - Surrealistic Pillow is an innovative classic of its time, zipping you back to the San Fransisco atmosphere of the sixties. Recorded in 1966 and released for the Summer of Love: 1967, it is an album of variety. 'Somebody To Love' is a great upbeat number led by Slick's powerf ... (read more)

Report this review (#488176) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Friday, July 22, 2011 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Surrealistic Pillow ? 1967 (3.6/5) (low four, nearly a three) 12 ? Best Song: White Rabbit And this is the focal point for ever wanting to listen to the Airplane in the very first place. This isn't maturity (a band of this nature could hardly be called upon to mature), but it's something sure ... (read more)

Report this review (#445864) | Posted by Alitare | Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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