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JEFFERSON AIRPLANE

Proto-Prog • United States


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Jefferson Airplane biography
Jefferson Airplane is one of the major psychedelic acts from US West Coast, with their great musicianship and their groundbreaking attitude which can be seen in their lyrics and album covers.
The history of Jefferson Airplane began in early 65 when Marty Balin, who had played in a folk group called the Town Criers in 1963 and 1964, invited the guitarist Paul Kantner to form a new band which would blend rock and folk. Then Kantner recommended the guitarist Jorma Kaukonen to join the band too. Balin wanted a female voice to contrast his voice and Signe Anderson Joined.

The band was completed with the bassist Bob Harvey and the drummer Jerry Peloquin. They started performing in small clubs and soon Peloquin and Harvey were fired and replaced by the drummer Skip Spence (later Moby Grape) and the bassist Jack Casady, an excellent virtuoso known as one of the best rock bassists ever. His technique was so good that later in his career he had to tap fingers together to make his bass lines less complex. They released their debut in early 1966, "It's no secret". Then Spence started to have problems with drugs, so he was fired and Spenccer Dryden was brought in his place.

They released the first album in 1966. Since the beginning, it showed psychedelic influences, which would grow till the end of the decade. After some months, Signe left to take care of her children and Grace Slick was recruited. They released in early 1967 their most successful album, Surrealistic Pillow, containing White Rabbit and Somebody to Love, their biggest hits. It was "the summer of love" and Jefferson Airplane became one of the most acclamated psychedelic bands, playing in the famous Monterey festival. In late 1967 they released an experimental album with long suites, After Bathing at Baxter's. Songs like Rejoice and Spare Chaynge show that Jefferson Airplane was among the pioneers of going a step further than the psychedelic rock. The next album, Crown of Creation is a bit less experimental, the sound is more deep (less "happy psychedelic") and considered by many their best album. HIghlights are the electronic experimental Chushingura and the fantastic The House of Pooneil Corners. In 1969 they released a partly-live album, Bless its Pointed Head, where all the virtuosity of Casady and Kaukonen can be appreciated. In late 69 they released another studio album, Volunteers, which had some great psychedelic songs and some prog-oriented acts, like Wooden Ships, Eskimo Blu...
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Surrealistic PillowSurrealistic Pillow
Remastered
Sony Legacy 2003
Audio CD$3.95
$1.25 (used)
The Essential Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/StarshipThe Essential Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship
Sony Legacy 2012
Audio CD$10.73
$10.72 (used)
Jefferson Airplane Takes OffJefferson Airplane Takes Off
SBME SPECIAL MKTS. 2010
Audio CD$2.89
$2.88 (used)
VolunteersVolunteers
Extra tracks
SBME SPECIAL MKTS. 2011
Audio CD$2.86
$2.85 (used)
After Bathing At BaxtersAfter Bathing At Baxters
SBME SPECIAL MKTS. 2010
Audio CD$3.19
$2.99 (used)
The Worst Of Jefferson AirplaneThe Worst Of Jefferson Airplane
Remastered
Sony Legacy 2006
Audio CD$4.47
$2.49 (used)
Crown Of CreationCrown Of Creation
SBME SPECIAL MKTS. 2010
Audio CD$2.89
$2.88 (used)
Bark ( Iconoclassic Remaster With Bonus Tracks)Bark ( Iconoclassic Remaster With Bonus Tracks)
ICONOCLASSIC 2015
Audio CD$9.97
$9.96 (used)
Woodstock ExperienceWoodstock Experience
Import
Import 2012
Audio CD$8.05
$10.81 (used)
Sweeping Up the Spotlight - Jefferson Airplane Live at the Fillmore East 1969Sweeping Up the Spotlight - Jefferson Airplane Live at the Fillmore East 1969
SBME SPECIAL MKTS. 2010
Audio CD$2.89
$2.88 (used)
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JEFFERSON AIRPLANE shows & tickets


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JEFFERSON AIRPLANE discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.18 | 57 ratings
Takes Off
1966
3.60 | 168 ratings
Surrealistic Pillow
1967
3.80 | 101 ratings
After Bathing at Baxter's
1967
3.90 | 105 ratings
Crown of Creation
1968
3.57 | 87 ratings
Volunteers
1969
2.70 | 39 ratings
Bark
1971
3.11 | 35 ratings
Long John Silver
1972
3.82 | 22 ratings
Baron von Tollbooth & the Chrome Nun (as Baron von Tollbooth & the Chrome Nun)
1973
1.73 | 21 ratings
Jefferson Airplane
1989

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.40 | 26 ratings
Bless Its Pointed Little Head
1969
2.90 | 16 ratings
Thirty Seconds Over Winterland
1973
4.01 | 15 ratings
Live At The Monterey Festival
1991
2.69 | 13 ratings
Live At The Fillmore East
1998
4.00 | 2 ratings
Through The Looking Glass
1999
4.02 | 6 ratings
At The Family Dog Ballroom
2007
3.96 | 8 ratings
The Woodstock Experience
2009
3.83 | 6 ratings
Return To The Matrix - 02/01/68
2010
4.50 | 4 ratings
Live At The Fillmore Auditorium - We Have Ignition - 11/25/66 & 11/27/66
2010
3.83 | 6 ratings
Live At The Fillmore Auditorium - Early & Late Shows - Grace's Debut - 10/16/66
2010
3.75 | 4 ratings
Live At The Fillmore Auditorium - Late Show - Signe's Farewell - 10/15/66
2010

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.22 | 13 ratings
Fly Jefferson Airplane
2004

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.09 | 10 ratings
The Worst Of Jeffreson Airplane
1970
4.44 | 9 ratings
Early Flight
1974
3.67 | 4 ratings
Flight Log
1977
4.00 | 5 ratings
The Best Of Jefferson Airplane
1978
4.00 | 8 ratings
2400 Fulton Street
1987
3.00 | 2 ratings
White Rabbit & Other Hits
1990
4.50 | 8 ratings
Loves You
1992
4.04 | 7 ratings
Journey - The Best Of Jefferson Airplane
1996
0.00 | 0 ratings
Collections: Jefferson Airplane
2003
4.00 | 2 ratings
Jefferson Airplane ('I Miti Musica' series)
2004
3.00 | 3 ratings
The Very Best Of Jefferson Airplane
2007
1.27 | 2 ratings
Collection 2CD: Jefferson Airplane
2008

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

0.00 | 0 ratings
Come Up the Years
1966
0.00 | 0 ratings
Bringing Me Down
1966
0.00 | 0 ratings
My Best Friend
1966
5.00 | 1 ratings
Somebody to Love
1967
4.00 | 1 ratings
White Rabbit
1967
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil
1967
0.00 | 0 ratings
Watch Her Ride
1967
0.00 | 0 ratings
Surrealistic Pillow EP
1967
0.00 | 0 ratings
Greasy Heart
1968
0.00 | 0 ratings
If You Feel Like China Breaking
1968
0.00 | 0 ratings
Crown of Creation
1968
0.00 | 0 ratings
Plastic Fantastic Lover (live)
1969
3.05 | 2 ratings
Volunteers
1969
5.00 | 1 ratings
Mexico
1970
0.00 | 0 ratings
Pretty as You Feel
1971
0.00 | 0 ratings
Long John Silver
1972
2.14 | 2 ratings
Selections From Jefferson Airplane Loves You
1992

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 After Bathing at Baxter's by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.80 | 101 ratings

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After Bathing at Baxter's
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars "After Bathing At Baxter's" seems to be the one a lot of Prog fans enjoy but I have to admit I rate it below "Surrealistic Pillow" and my favourite of theirs "Crown Of Creation". It is commendable that they didn't sit on the success of "Surrealistic Pillow" and just try to do another in that style. They seemed to be aware of what their contemporaries were doing(Zappa for example) and so they tried to make this more experimental and they also included several suites that make up this recording. The suites don't seem legit to my ears for a couple of reasons, and by todays standards this is far from experimental but remember this was 1967. I find the vocals and guitar do get on my nerves at times which certainly doesn't help in my enjoyment of it.

"The Ballad Of You & Me & Pooneil" opens with that extended guitar that is one of my highlights but then it kicks into a standard pop song. Not a fan of the vocals but that brief BYRDS-like guitar is cool before a minute. I also like the percussion/ guitar section around 2 1/2 minutes. The next track might have been something to rave about in 1967 but not now. My two favourite tracks are back to back. First up is "Martha" which comes across as a melancholic Folk song with Grace on vocals. I like the guitar 1 1/2 minutes in.

Next is "Wild Tyme" with Grace's strong vocals and the prominent guitar standing out. He rips it up a minute in. Excellent song. My other top three tune is "Rejoyce" with the abundance of piano and Grace's singing. There's an Eastern vibe around 2 1/2 minutes and I like the flute late. "Watch Her Ride" is catchy and straight-forward with male vocals. I like the bass on this one. "Spare Chaynge" is okay but nothing more. An experimental soundscape of guitar, bass and drums. If you want something like this but better check out some classic Krautrock. The closer is pretty good especially when the slow it down on the second part.

There's just too many negatives for my tastes to give this anything more than 3 stars.

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 Crown of Creation by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.90 | 105 ratings

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Crown of Creation
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

4 stars With the recent death of Paul Kantner I felt moved to review a JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album and this one seemed appropriate. Some have called this AIRPLANE's "Revolver" album. Released back in 1968 after the monster album "Surrealistic Pillow" and the experimental "After Bathing At Baxter's" both released in 1967. I have to say it's been a joy spinning this album and feeling like I'm being transported to the late sixties. I was a kid of 7 in '68 but there is a certain vibe to the music back then that makes me want to go back in time. In fact I've found myself searching for movies with 60's soundtracks that are set in the late sixties just because I feel nostalgic about that era.

"Lather" is such a great opener coming across as a Folk-like tune with humerous lyrics and best of all Grace's innocent sounding vocals that pretty much speak the lyrics. They add samples to this one as well. "In Time" features male vocals and some cool guitar sounds. Grace adds backing vocals and helps with the lead. This is a laid back number with a memorable guitar solo starting before 2 1/2 minutes. "Triad" is a David Crosby penned tune when he was with THE BYRDS and essentially he gave it to JEFFERSON AIRPLANE as it was too controversial for the times. Relaxed guitar melodies and a melancholic mood makes this one work. "Star Track" is catchy with male vocals. A wicked guitar solo starts before 1 1/2 minutes and lasts about a minute. "Share A Little" opens with drums and some aggressive guitar before it settles as male vocals arrive. I like the passion in the vocals 1 1/2 minutes in and the guitar that follows. The tempo speeds up late to the end with some innovative guitar expressions.

"Chushingura" is a short experimental instrumental. "If You Feel" has some wah wah guitar in it and it's quite catchy and uptempo. Some nice bass here as well. "Crown Of Creation" is where Grace's vocals shine as she sings with some power. Man I dig this one including the lyrics. "Ice Cream Phoenix" doesn't get mentioned much but I like the drumming and Grace's vocals after a minute. "Greasy Heart" is drug themed and it opens with some excellent guitar as Grace comes in singing like she owns this song. Love the guitar after 1 1/2 minutes as well as late to end it. "The House At Poonell Corners" is the longest track at almost 6 minutes and one of my favourites. A spacey and psychedelic intro as the vocals join in. Just killer! When it picks up it's very 60's sounding in a Pop-like sense but not for long as it turns dark with some nasty guitar as the vocals return. Dark lyrics as well.

Easily 4 stars and I like this better than "Surrealistic Pillow" despite the two anthems on that one. Just a pleasure.

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 Volunteers by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1969
3.05 | 2 ratings

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Volunteers
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by Guillermo
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I first listened to the song "Volunteers" and to JEFFERSON AIRPLANE in the "Woodstock" triple LP album from 1970. This song is a very energetic political, anti-war song, somewhat simple (2-3 chords), but maybe the anti-war and "revolutionary" political messages of the lyrics were more important then than the music itself. It has the late very good session piano player Nicky Hopkins as guest. He also appeared with the band in the Woodstock Festival in 1969. Unfortunately, the original film of that Festival did not include songs played by this band although they were represented in both of the original LP compilations of the Festival which were released as "Woodstock" in 1970 and as "Woodstock 2" in 1971. It seems that they finally appear in a new version of the film done some 30 years or more after that Festival was organized.

"Volunteers" is maybe one of their most popular and known songs.

The B-side of this single also was taken from the "Volunteers" LP from 1969. In fact, it is the first song from that album, and this song in particular is longer but musically very similar in some parts to the "Volunteers" song but with more chords in the other parts of the song. It also has Nicky Hopkins on piano.

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 Volunteers by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.57 | 87 ratings

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Volunteers
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars End of an era

"All your private property is target for your enemy. And your enemy is we."

Great line Paul though it does make me wonder what your bank balance is these days.

After the letdown that was "Crown of Creation" the Airplane came back with their last truly great album "Volunteers." Things had changed so fast in just a few years. Musically the band were perhaps influenced by their friends in the Dead, who had also moved from hallucinogenic explorations to a cross of harder rock tempered by a healthy dose of country-flavored hayride music. But while the Dead were happy to keep the lyrical themes mostly wide-eyed and road-ramblin', Kantner was getting angry and serving up plenty of good lefty rhetoric as noted at the top. Whatever currents were tossing them about in the chaos of this period, and it was very chaotic in the band, they managed to deliver what might be their finest work. It's certainly arguable: the Airplane's first five albums are all amazing in their own way and you can easily find people who will champion each of them as the best Airplane album. While "Volunteers" may lack the naive beauty of "Surrealistic Pillow" or the enjoyable insanity of "Baxters", it delivers some of their finest songs.

"Your worst enemy is yourself. There is no us and them. It's all us. We were very naive." -Grace

Recorded in the spring of 1969 and feeling very much like a last gasp, the album is bookended by Kantner's anthemic observations on the counterculture, "We Can Be Together" and "Volunteers" (co-written by Marty) which are very much sister tracks. They are equal parts anger and lament, trying to marshal the kids to stick together while at the same time calling for revolt. (He claims the band was not political and only commenting on what it saw.) The first is particularly effective in capturing the turbulence of what youth felt like at the time. The contrast of joy and anger is represented, musically and vocally, brilliantly by the melody and Marty and Grace's vocal. Oh my what a start! Side one then heads for Marin county for an afternoon in the country with "Good Shephard" and "The Farm." It wraps up with one of those fantastic mind-bending Grace tracks called "Hey Fredrick" with poetic lyrics and a sensual feel. Grace says the song is about doing what thou wilt when someone is saying you can't or you shouldn't. Not surprisingly Grace raises her finger again to the naysayers. Kaukonen lays some very hearty leads over the middle section. Yet again it is Slick who provides the band's most creative material.

"Turn My Life Down" was something of a quaint return to the sound of Surrealistic Pillow, the band coming full circle. The next track "Wooden Ships" is one of the best songs of the 60s, co-written by Stephen Stills, David Crosby, and Kantner. The Airplane version is far more powerful and dramatic than the earlier CSN version, which is more dreamy and laid back. Both are excellent. "Eskimo Blue Day" is another very strong tracks with superb arrangements, Grace is so powerful here belting out the vocal which deals with change in our lives. If they didn't know the classic line-up was splitting after this album then it was pure luck that had them sounding so dramatic and road wise. You can feel the "end of the road" throughout this album, lyrically and musically. Just before the climactic title track is a short instrumental interlude where Grace plays a theme song of the Soviet Army on organ. Crazy as it sounds it work perfectly. No matter how serious the world was getting this band was not going to forget to have fun. It's one reason they are remembered so fondly after so many decades.

If someone wanted to get just one Airplane album I'd still push them toward Surrealistic Pillow or Baxters. But in reality all of their 60s albums are pretty much essential to a deep rock collection--a stunningly good run for an amazing American band. You can't go wrong with albums like "Volunteers." Dryden would be gone after this album, Balin next, and the Airplane would fold not long after.

"All in all, a good time was had by all who attended."

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 After Bathing at Baxter's by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.80 | 101 ratings

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After Bathing at Baxter's
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Though the preceding Surrealistic Pillow was their breakout album, Jefferson Airplane's sound is sufficiently reconfigured on After Bathing At Baxter's that if you're looking for a followup to hits like White Rabbit you're probably going to be disappointed. With material ranging from naive psychedelic pop numbers to sound collages reminiscent of what Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention were producing at the time, this album attempts to establish the Airplane as more than just a mere pop band.

No longer is there the weird division between standout tracks like White Rabbit and the more straight ahead blues rock numbers that acted as filler on Surrealistic Pillow; instead, all the songs are part of broader conceptual suites, a technique which perhaps suggests more than a few listens to Zappa and the Mothers' Absolutely Free. However, listened to against that album the true avant-garde force of the 1960s is revealed and the Airplane feel drab and self-absorbed by comparison. Indeed, the less nostalgia you have for the hippy era, the less staying power this album is likely to offer.

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 Crown of Creation by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.90 | 105 ratings

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Crown of Creation
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars I actually prefer to this one to Surrealistic Pillow, since I find that by this point Jefferson Airplane's psychedelic freak rock had hit a more consistent tone. From the opening Lather, which transforms jarringly from a typical hippy-era lamentation about having to grow up to a depressing portrait of a person who is too developmentally challenged to join the real world, to the closing House at Pooneil Corners (stopping off to quote Stranger In a Strange Land as part of a defence of polyamory along the way in Triad), the album is dripping with the flavour of the Haight-Ashbury crowd of the 1960s. You don't get much closer to hippy ground zero than this mushroom cloud, at least in terms of the subject matter, though the actual music is far less interesting than many of their contemporaries' work, being fairly unpolished hippy-folk for the most part. More interesting for what they are singing about than what they are singing over, in other words.

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 After Bathing at Baxter's by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.80 | 101 ratings

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After Bathing at Baxter's
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by ProgShine
Collaborator Errors & Omissions Team

3 stars I still remember to this very day the first time I've heard a Jefferson Airplane song. I've discovered an old Cassette tape that had many great songs like 'White Bycicle' from Tomorrow, 'SLAWBR' from Cream, Deep Purple and many more. In fact I only discovered the songs names many years later.

The song in question was 'White Rabbit' from Surrealistic Pillow (1967), it was so fresh and exciting even 30 years later. When I finally was able to listen to the whole album I was so disappointed...

It's not really different with their next album After Bathing At Baxter's (1967) released later in that same year. The band try to go further in their Psychedelic/Acid Rock sound (with hints and colors of Prog Rock), but their Blues Rock background pretty much destroy it for me.

Even though the band is trying to go on and even created some suites in the album, the general sound is more like a Blues Rock/Folk Rock album than a development. Even on their next album Crown Of Creation (1968) they were still the same band. They lost their momentum, they should get forward, instead they used their fame to serve as stagnation.

Not the album is bad, it's not, but it lacks depth.

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 Crown of Creation by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.90 | 105 ratings

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Crown of Creation
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars The hangover album.

1967 San Fran was quite the party by all accounts, and Baxters summed up beautifully the craziness of the scene, a snapshot of "acid incense and balloons" as the song goes. It couldn't last of course and 1968 was a bit of a drag in comparison, even the Airplane were not immune. "Crown of Creation" is anything but its grandiose title, a huge drop off in majesty from the two previous stunners. The band sounds tired (which they were, being on a crazy schedule), the songwriting sounds phoned-in, and the album is the spiritual hangover of the four 'classic line-up' albums. I think that even those who like the songs of this set would admit it doesn't have the same fresh vibe of the previous two. That's not to say there aren't some gems of course.

Let's start with what's great, namely the first and last tracks. "Lather" is fantastic leftover psychedelia, a little present from Grace to her boyfriend Spencer who was turning 30. She sings of lost youth and a boy stuck in childhood as his friends come of age. What makes it work is the haunting childlike melody that is beautiful but eerie along with her clever, slightly deranged sounding delivery. The closer "The House At Pooneil Corners" is a drop dead classic, a monster split personality epic with apocalyptic tones on one side and breezy contrasting psych chorus on the other. The definitive version is the live rooftop performance they gave for Godard in New York, beautifully filmed by the master filmmaker. Search for it on YouTube, it's there in all it's glory. For the record they pulled this rooftop stunt two months before the Beatles copied it.

I'm afraid things go downhill from there. "Triad" is Grace doing a boring Crosby track, being as hypocritical about relationships as Kantner would later be about wealth. She chooses to exalt how sophisticated an open three-way relationship is, then she later admits in an interview she'd want no part of such a relationship...ok, thanks Grace. Marty sounds especially deflated on tracks like "Star Track" where he essentially lets the boys noodle for long stretches. Kaukonen and Casady were outstanding players who were stretching out on Crown as they were in the live shows, but their jamming isn't enough to elevate these proceedings to masterpiece level. The title track is particularly boring and repetitive, perhaps as uninspired as I've ever heard this line-up. Don't get me wrong, Crown is still a good album with enough to make it worth owning-it simply falls a bit short of the other three Airplane classics. Most rock fans are going to want to own all four albums by the classic line-up, from Surrealistic Pillow to Volunteers. An amazing band.

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 The Worst Of Jeffreson Airplane by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1970
3.09 | 10 ratings

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The Worst Of Jeffreson Airplane
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by the philosopher

3 stars This could be a nice introduction record to Jefferson Airplane, which is one of the bands associated with the west coast psychedelic movement together with the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, United States of America, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Love and It's a Beautiful Day. The basic sound of Jefferson Airplane is rooted within folk and bluesrock with some slightly psychedelic effects. The band plays these styles with a great amount of enthousiasm which is especially hearable within the many multivocal parts. This collection covers Jefferson Airplane's most succesful period from Jefferson Airplane takes Off to Volunteers. The songs come forth in a chronically following.

Because Jefferson Airplane did change a lot in songwriting, but far less in sound, this compilation listens like a studio record. That makes this compilation a lot better then most others. Further it contains their greatest hits "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" and a good selection of less known songs. My favourite songs seem to come from the "Crown of Creation" record with its titlesong, the instrumental (and by far the most psychedelic of this record) "Chusingura" and "Lather" (an artrock song with lots of added sound effects like typing, explosions, etc., etc.).

This record is a nice buy for those who are not welknown to Jefferson Airplane. It's however not progressive and should not be tried by prog purists and the like. 3,5 stars.

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 After Bathing at Baxter's by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.80 | 101 ratings

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After Bathing at Baxter's
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars The Airplane's masterpiece

The Summer of Love? As mentioned in my Pillow review Kantner (and others) have stated that the true magical moment in San Fran was '66, not the "summer of love" 1967. The Airplane were coming off the success of "Surrealistic Pillow" and its hit singles. They had taken on Bill Graham as manager and were working very hard trying to record the follow-up while gigging, all throughout that magical summer when tour buses began rolling through the Haight and young people were flocking there from across the country. It was one of those situations where something quite special had taken place but the magic was unsustainable and would be ruined ultimately by human nature. The initial innocence and the taste of freedom and expression were wonderful combined with the intoxicant of youth, but within another year the scene would degenerate into excess, hard drugs, scam artists, and eventually poisonous politics. Despite the chaos of 1967 or perhaps because of it, Baxters would be the masterpiece of Jefferson Airplane. It stands with "Piper" and "Sgt. Pepper" and the other great albums of 1967.

Recording began May 22nd 1967 making "Baxters" the product of the craziness of that summer. It was recorded mostly in the middle of the night by a band trying to turn their previous album on its head. With the success of Pillow the band had nearly complete carte blanche to do whatever the hell they wanted without concerns about the commercial potential, and they were smart enough to realize such attitudes among the suits would not last, so they made the best of it. The album was pretty much written in the studio without central planning, mostly by Kantner, the band bursting with creative intent and fueled by copious amounts of hallucinogens.....along with heavy drinking by Grace and Spencer. But it mattered not...this was the party, this was the time where they could do little wrong, and this was the album that would capture Jefferson Airplane at the peak of their career.

While it's true that the album was experimental and ambitious, what makes it a masterpiece is something much simpler: "Baxters" was change mostly unsullied by cynicism and dysfunction. While true that darker topics were entering the writing, by sheer luck, magic, or something else, this is the album that listeners can inhale to experience life, joy, sunny June morning dew on the grass, children laughing, first kiss innocence. For the band descent had already started via egos, factions and cocaine, but for the listener the album captured a moment that could always be held tight. These feelings were not only a San Fran thing. Young people everywhere would soon feel a longing for escape. All these years later the escape wasn't all it was cracked up to be, and what was seen as old fashioned has in some ways been redeemed. Still, one has to hand it to the musicians for leaving such documents of the period.

This masterful rallying cry of chaos begins with an erupting bit of feedback before the "Pooneil" track becomes a textbook example of what Grace could do with her voice. The multi-vocalist approach was so instrumental in Airplane's vibe, Grace's sultry and powerful wail, Marty's smooth and comforting piece of the puzzle. At the same time the Casady/Kaukonen wing were making their greatest leaps forward in their playing. The track bleeds into "A small package" which is a direct result of the band trying their hand at being Zappa/Mothers. It is a bit silly and indulgent as its critics charge and yet it works perfectly in the concept of this album. You have to remember, this is not an album to play here and there while running errands. This is a piece that is to be savored in its entirety when you have time to shut out the world and dissolve into it.

Marty was feeling marginalized by this point, being openly ridiculed by Jack and Jorma for his "square" tastes. Sadly his only writing contribution here is the lovely "Young Girl Sunday Blues" which is probably the albums most "normal" track. "Martha" is this lovely, lilting, kaleidoscope ode to a young mischievous girl who hung out in the band's social circle. It turns into "Wild Tyme H" which famously finds the band exclaiming proudly "I'm doing things that haven't got a name yet." In "The Last Wall of the Castle" Jorma is ferocious, the fuzz guitar leads entering a new and heavier territory. He would become very enamored with the Cream approach which would lead he and Casady to Hot Tuna.

"I wrote what was interesting to me assuming people had read this stuff. But there's a larger record-buying audience out there that doesn't know [&*!#]." -Grace, about "rejoyce"

And then we get to "rejoyce" which is the album's finest moment for me and proved that Grace was indeed more than a charismatic singer. Loosely based on Joyce's "Ulysses" Slick twists the lyrics and takes them different places, while coming up with some of the Airplane's most interesting recorded music. With the guitars mostly quiet she conjures epic dreaminess and fantasy with her voice and piano, utilizing disjointed sections, some eastern influences, and "discordant, brooding, ominous chord sequences" aptly described by Airplane biographer Jeff Tamarkin (Got A Revolution - The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane.) "rejoyce" always leaves me to wonder what could have been had the Airplane veered this direction with their next album, had they went for a sparser and more experimental studio mind bomb as opposed to heading more in the rock direction favored by the grooving Tuna boys.

On Halloween 1967 the singers were not around, so the future Tuna and Dryden set about laying down what became the 9 minutes of pure improvisation known as "Spare Chaynge." A bit long winded but largely successful if you like guitar noodling, it again fits this particular album just fine. After Grace's witty "Two Heads" the album closes with Paul's tribute to "acid, incense and balloons" at the park. "Saturday Afternoon" evokes the spirit of the hippy celebration as well as any song ever did. Baxters is one in a series of triumphant albums by this great American band, your favorite will depend on your tastes. All of albums through Volunteers belong in every respectable rock collection.

"To us, Baxters was a performance and artistic success because, like spoiled little brats, we got to do whatever we wanted to do. But I say "spoiled little brats" with a certain amount of fondness." -Jack Casady

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