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JEFFERSON AIRPLANE

Proto-Prog • United States


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Jefferson Airplane picture
Jefferson Airplane biography
Founded in San Francisco, USA in 1965 - Disbanded in 1972 - Reunited briefly in 1989

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...
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JEFFERSON AIRPLANE discography


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

3.18 | 89 ratings
Takes Off
1966
3.65 | 238 ratings
Surrealistic Pillow
1967
3.81 | 143 ratings
After Bathing At Baxter's
1967
3.89 | 141 ratings
Crown Of Creation
1968
3.59 | 120 ratings
Volunteers
1969
2.77 | 56 ratings
Bark
1971
3.12 | 52 ratings
Long John Silver
1972
3.58 | 33 ratings
Paul Kantner, Grace Slick & David Freiberg: Baron Von Tollbooth & The Chrome Nun
1973
1.79 | 32 ratings
Jefferson Airplane
1989

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

3.47 | 35 ratings
Bless Its Pointed Little Head
1969
2.93 | 23 ratings
Thirty Seconds Over Winterland
1973
4.03 | 17 ratings
Live At The Monterey Festival
1991
2.78 | 17 ratings
Live At The Fillmore East
1998
4.33 | 3 ratings
Through The Looking Glass
1999
4.04 | 7 ratings
At The Family Dog Ballroom
2007
3.97 | 12 ratings
The Woodstock Experience
2009
3.88 | 8 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
4.00 | 5 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)

3.10 | 14 ratings
The Worst Of Jeffreson Airplane
1970
4.40 | 10 ratings
Early Flight
1974
3.67 | 4 ratings
Flight Log
1977
4.00 | 5 ratings
The Best Of Jefferson Airplane
1978
4.11 | 9 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
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Box Set Series
2014
3.00 | 1 ratings
White Rabbit - The Ultimate Collection
2015

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
2.00 | 1 ratings
My Best Friend
1966
5.00 | 3 ratings
Somebody to Love
1967
4.05 | 3 ratings
White Rabbit
1967
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil
1967
2.00 | 1 ratings
Watch Her Ride
1967
0.00 | 0 ratings
Surrealistic Pillow EP
1967
4.00 | 1 ratings
Greasy Heart
1968
0.00 | 0 ratings
If You Feel Like China Breaking
1968
4.00 | 1 ratings
Crown of Creation
1968
0.00 | 0 ratings
Plastic Fantastic Lover (live)
1969
3.05 | 3 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
3.81 | 143 ratings

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After Bathing At Baxter's
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by Progexile

4 stars JA's 3rd album and totally different from the previous 2. The songs are organised into suites but feel like they're sometimes stitched together to form a suite rather than because they are overly connected. For that reason, I'll review by song rather than by suite to be fair to each song.

This collection is more consistent than their first 2 which, to my ears contained a few songs off the (high) standard they set with their classic songs.

The album starts with sustained feedback that breaks into "Ballad of Me and You and Pooneil", a great opener containing some Casady fuzz bass to enjoy. The suite continues with the strange "A Small Package of Value" before "Young Girl Sunday Blues" lead sung by Balin (and very well too).

"Martha" is a lovely song to start the next suite. A Kantner song with good bass line and recorder? played by Grace when she isn't singing the chorus. Good guitar break from Jorma too. "Wild Thyme" follows and is the first item with Grace leading the choir on the album.

"The Last Wall of the Castle" opens the 3rd suite strongly with the choir now led by Jorma. In future Jorma would tend to sing his contributions sans choir but he sounds better on this track with the stronger voices behind him. Grace's "rejoyce" is a great side closer with the immortal line "I'd Rather Have My Country Die For Me". You tell 'em Grace!

Side 2 opened with the driving "Watch Her Ryde" with another great Casady bass line before the real gem on this record starts. "Spare Chaynge" is a long instrumental starting with Casady playing flamenco on his bass with Jorma contributing feedback and Dryden some cymbals before erupting into a full guitar/bass/drums frenzy. Dryden never drummed better than on the second half of this track. The Airplane always had some Spanish/Mexican influences but never more than here.

The final suite opens with "Two Heads", another Grace lead vocal before closing with the "double song" of "Won't You Try/Saturday Afternoon" written by Kantner.

My CD version also has a long excellent live version of "Pooneil" and altenative versions of "Martha" and "Two Heads" as bonus tracks with a Balin -penned rarity "Things Are Better in the East" finishing off the album.

Overall, much more consistent than their 1st 2 albums with a stronger presence of the instrumental side of the band. Casady's bass is superb throughout (I am an unashamed fan of his) and, noticeably, Balin seems to be less prominent than before, both as writer and lead singer. There was too much talent in this band!

A deserved 4 stars for the most proggy thing they did.

 Surrealistic Pillow by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.65 | 238 ratings

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Surrealistic Pillow
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by Dapper~Blueberries
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The late 60s were upon the world and with it, the popularity of psychedelia bloomed to new heights. The early forms of psych rock in the 60s were in their infancy, with many elements that are taken from folk, blues, and jazz, being precursors to many traits genres like Neo-Psychedelia, Krautrock, and Progressive Rock would utilize. Psych could be considered the precursor to many of those genres, especially concerning albums like The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators, Electric Ladyland, and The Doors' self-titled release. While those are influential throughout the world, it should also be noted that in these early days the more pop-centered rock was still in a state of a high, especially if we take into account the popularity The Beatles and The Rolling Stones had on the world through this decade. This meant that in a confused state, psychedelic rock and psychedelic pop were almost indistinguishable, however, after the 70s we would see the separation be made, especially about acts like Pink Floyd, and Gong. With that, it'd go without saying that this release by Jefferson Airplane has a striking influence on the whole of psych rock, while also on the whole of psych-pop.

She Has Funny Cars start the album off proper, and with it, we get that classic 60s pop rock in full. Lots of vibrant guitars and melodies shape the song into a sparkling mass of feel-good emotions. By this time in the 60s, this type of music was still fresh in people's minds since when this was recorded, The Beatles would release their album, Revolver, and The Beach Boys would release Pet Sounds, so this more typical pop rock music would still be all the rage. In it, we do get a sort of peak in that style of music, where you can tell that they are still within the blindfolds of the eccentric pop era, but they start to see out the window more and see more of the world's colors. A fun, yet still a bordered-up song of this era.

This album contains 2 hits, with Somebody To Love being the first one. This is more of a lovey-dovey-type song that is meant to all feel good. Out of the 2 hits on this album, this is the weakest one. Not that it is bad, it's super fun and has a great melody and chorus, but it is meant to be exceptionally commercial. The commercial doesn't mean it's bad, but it does mean some artistic liberties have been lost.

Besides rock, psychedelic music has had some folk influences, and this stays true with the track My Best Friend. The lack of electric guitars does make this a fairly interesting listen, since when I think of psych rock and psych-pop I think of more distorted guitars and wild and crazy sounds, but here when it is set back a bit with more acoustic instruments we get a new flavor of the psyche that I also enjoy. A very lush and pretty sound that does make for an instantly more enjoyable experience.

That is only the bridge to the more folk adjacent sound since Today carries it even more. The only thing here in the instrumentation is the acoustic guitar, with only a few percussion instruments in the back. This is where the band lets their voices soar. Lush Beatles-like vocals take you back into the fresh hippie era of the United States. Back when Woodstock was fresh in people's minds and the best way to experience music is to puff a blunt and let your mind soar. It isn't nostalgic for me since I wasn't born into that era, but I can get the feeling that might've been when that type of stuff was going on. Super well made, and I think it is the highlight of this record.

Comin' Back To Me is also a more folky song, heck in the same caliber. There are two sides to this record, not in the literal sense but there are the more rock-oriented songs and the folk-oriented songs. This leaves the band having two different moods, the calm and cool folk and the bouncy rock. These were sort of the mindsets the 60s era of rock had where bands were experimenting with different genres to produce different sounds, this is as evident with acts like The Doors. It doesn't have the same punch that Today has, but it still is a pretty folk song that I do think can have a good deal of love and appreciation in it.

We get back into the pop-psych with ⅗ of a Mile in 10 Seconds. This song I noticed does allow the instruments to talk the talk so to speak more than not, with a mini guitar anthem after the middle part. It is fully developed too, not just a one-note thing but something that takes a few seconds to develop, and honestly, I like this about Jefferson Airplane. They know how to make some stellar poppy but great songs that can develop into something even more stellar.

We get more of this stellar portrayal of music with D. C. B. A.-25. This bizarre title of a song is another of the band's highlights. How the song starts slow and starts to go faster and faster, not too fast to be intense, but fast enough for you to notice and groove along to. Not only that but the more bluesy atmosphere this song radiates makes it even more fun, and unique. Weird how the album is a bit more bottom-heavy, but that is a no-brainer when most record companies would put the more poppy songs upfront on the records before the ones with the most uniqueness.

We get back to the folk territory, now mixed with some of the blues with How Do You Feel. We get some interesting guitar strumming and vocalizations from the singers of the band. It radiates a sort of worker song that people would sing for hours and hours on end, breaking their back to labor after labor. It is a song that can be used effectively in a setting like that, and I think it does work for what it is intended to be. It is vibrant, yet almost melancholic song that I think works incredibly well. It can also be considered a melody with the short 1-minute guitar strumming song of Embryonic Journey being right after, having a similar feel yet with no lyrics. It is short and sweet but does deliver the feels quite nicely.

It would be a shame to not talk about the starlight of this album, White Rabbit. This Alice in Wonderland, drug and insane trip of a song has a chokehold on me at the current moment. I am surprised this song still sounds so relevant even today, despite the production being less clean. It holds so much in so little time and how it just evolves into more and more brilliance elevates this song for me. I can say it is one of psychedelic rock's many masterpieces throughout the years and one that is a no-brainer for being the band's most popular and influential song.

The album end's on a pretty high note with Plastic Fantastic Lover. Ending with a more bluesy song is a good choice in my opinion since it expresses all three of the key features this album deploys. The fun rock songs, the calm folk twists, and the psychedelic wonderlands end up creating a pretty great experience overall. At the end of the day, Plastic Fantastic Lover does a good job of being a good song and a good ending to this good album.

One of the key bands of the psych-rock movement, Jefferson Airplane is one that I did not expect to find so enjoyable. Their work will influence more generations of psychedelic fans to come, and while this is an imperfect album, it does leave a lot to enjoy. Some really good stuff on here, despite it being more bottom-heavy on the record.

 Surrealistic Pillow by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.65 | 238 ratings

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Surrealistic Pillow
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by Progexile

3 stars The Airplane's second album and one that introduced Grace Slick and Spencer Dryden as their new singer and drummer respectively. Both were good acquisitions.

The cover once again (as per their 1st album) shows what looks like a group of college kids carrying odd instruments (nothing too" rocky") as if they were waiting for their music teachers to appear and had a photo taken to pass the time.

Slick brought with her the 2 best songs on this effort and the one that switched me on to this great band. More of that soon.

Again, Balin dominates this album with some of his best vocals (he was always better in the studio) and he co-penned the opener "She Has Funny Cars" with Kaukonen. This song opens with a Dryden drumbeat before Balin takes on the lead vocal with the choir backing him well.

But then comes the tune that first made me an Airplane passenger - "Somebody To Love". Driven by Cassidy's bass line Grace belts this out as if she means it - so much better than the version she used to sing with the Great Society. Kaukonen's guitar also excels.

"My Best Friend" is a twee little tune before Balin and Kantner's "Today" which quietens down the album at this point. Sadly, the closer on the original Side 1, "Comin' Back To Me" is an overlong dirge to my ears. I often feel that Balin's songs with the Jefferson Starship's backing were better arranged (Listen to "Miracles" or "Caroline"). This one loses me less than halfway through as it seems to have the weakest melody on the album.

"3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds" opened side 2 on the original and points the way for REM's wierd titles (The Airplane loved strange titles) years later. Not bad as are the next two tracks "DCBA-25" and "How Do You Feel", the latter showing a relaxed Caribbean feel to it that would later also show on their live version of "Fat Angel".

"Embryonic Journey" is a Kaukonen driven short instrumental and is the best track other than "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" on the album.

Then comes the innovative and haunting "White Rabbit" with Grace again bringing this from her old band and making it an Airplane classic. Wonderful atmosphere created by Kaukonen and Cassidy allowing Slick's vocie to dominate an unusual tune - great stuff.

Balin's "Plastic Fantastic Lover" concludes the album solidly.

The instrumental side of the band was definitely more prominent than on their debut and the presence of 2 early Airplane classics makes this a good album to have but I feel the term "Not Bad" applies to too many items on it for it to be better than 3 stars.

The Airplane were to make better albums than this.

 Takes Off by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Studio Album, 1966
3.18 | 89 ratings

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Takes Off
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by Progexile

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

 White Rabbit - The Ultimate Collection by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2015
3.00 | 1 ratings

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White Rabbit - The Ultimate Collection
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
3 stars Recently I realized I've never had a closer look at Jefferson Airplane, the legendary American psych rock band whose biggest hits ('White Rabbit' and 'Somebody to Love') were pretty much all I knew. This situation was best repaired by borrowing a multi-disc compilation from library. This 3-disc set is among the latest ones released, and it turned out to be a more suitable choice for my purpose than I thought in advance.

Why so? Because of the way this set represents the majority of the band's studio album material from 1966 to 1972. On the outside this set is rather cheapish and minimalistic which would have been so easily avoided. The package itself misses the album source information (and the track lengths as usual), but I did some research and found out that it proceeds chronologically in an album by album manner, even so symmetrically that discs 1 and 2 draw from two albums each, while disc 3 is almost of the same approach except for ending with three tracks from the seventh studio album. Each disc has 15 tracks, no live cuts or rarities are included. So, for the actual contents it's almost ideal for a newcomer -- a pity for the missing information though. Under the transparent disc holders you can try and read the recording years and composers for tracks, and there are no supplementary leaflets or anything like that.

Of course being unfamiliar with the original albums I cannot very deeply evaluate the track choices, but as the number of songs per album is around seven, one can assume that the compilation gives a fairly good picture of those albums. The debut Takes Off (1966) is musically dominated by guitarist Marty Balin who both wrote and sang the majority of the material. Surrealistic Pillow (1967) is by far the most celebrated and most interesting of JA's albums as the new member Grace Slick proved to be not only a phenomenal performer but also a gifted songwriter. The two big hits mentioned above were hers.

The following albums After Bathing at Baxter's (1967) and Crown of Creation (1968) represented on disc 2 seem to be more uneven to me. The group's sound turned a bit heavier, influenced by Jimi Hendrix and Cream. Slick's songs such as 'Lather' tend to be the best ones. As a side note, let it be mentioned that the blues oriented guitarist Jorma Kaukonen -- whose name is purely Finnish -- has Finnish grandparents. He and the Jefferson bassist Jack Casady formed Hot Tuna in '69/70. By the third disc here I began to feel some disappointment of this band being less about Grace Slick's vocals and songwriting than I had wished. Volunteers (1969) has two highlights, Slick's lengthy 'Hey Frederick', and 'Wooden Ships' that Paul Kantner co-wrote with David Crosby and Stephen Stills. The final albums Bark (1971) and Long John Silver (1972) are considerably less interesting, mostly devoid of any psychedelic flavour.

Despite the cheap outlooks this compilation functions very well as a representation of Jefferson Airplane's original existence (they reunited in the late 80's but that's another story). 3 stars rounded down for the missing information.

 White Rabbit by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1967
4.05 | 3 ratings

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White Rabbit
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars This is my first review for this San Francisco based classic psychedelic/proto-prog band. 'White Rabbit' is such an important song of its time that I wanted to give it some attention, even though I'm not very familiar with the band's output in general.

It's no wonder that JA's debut album Takes Off (1966) has been largely forgotten whereas their breakthrough album Surrealistic Pillow (1967) is very famous. The key member Grace Slick replaced the original female singer Signe Toly Anderson after the band's debut. Slick had been in a psych band called The Great Society, and she had written 'White Rabbit' for them. Interestingly the song appears -- in a notably longer form -- also on the former band's debut album Conspicuous Only in Its Absence, recorded in 1966 but released in 1968.

Of all songs inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass (1871), 'White Rabbit' is undoubtedly the most famous -- possibly only topped by the theme song from Disney's animated film (1951). Carroll's surreal fantasy became dear to the psychedelic movement, thus enhancing it from being mere CHILDREN's literature. "One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small..." The echoed sound of the brief song is typical for the time, the production is slightly muddy, but nevertheless both Slick's songwriting and the gloomy musical interpretation function well: an instant rock classic was born. It still captivates the listener.

Some further background from Wikipedia: "Slick wrote the lyrics first, then composed the music at a red upright piano with eight or ten keys missing (...) the music was heavily influenced by Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain, particularly Davis's treatment of the Concierto de Aranjuez." The white rabbit indicates following your curiosity. For Slick and others in the 60s, "drugs were a part of mind expansion and social experimentation. With its enigmatic lyrics, 'White Rabbit' became one of the first songs to sneak drug references past censors on the radio." The song was a commercial success and later on it has appeared on various lists of all-time greatest rock songs.

The B side song 'Plastic Fantastic Lover' was also taken from Surrealistic Pillow. The vocals are by guitarist Marty Balin who wrote the song. This is a more straight-forward rocking blues-rock song with an emphasis on the electric guitar. Missing Grace Slick's vocals, one could think this was recorded by entirely another band.

 Surrealistic Pillow by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.65 | 238 ratings

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Surrealistic Pillow
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars After a turbulent start JEFFERSON AIRPLANE tried but fell short for "Take Off" on their debut despite the positive affirmations present in the album title. While the band got their feet wet in the gigging circuit and were a local cult favorite in the San Francisco Bay Area, the band was unsuccessful in making a dent further abroad however soon after the debut was released there were a few developments which sent the band in new directions and accidentally landed them in the worldwide spotlight as "The Summer Of Love" descended upon the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco. The original female vocalist Signe Anderson left the band only two months after "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off" was released because of her recently born daughter taking focus away from the band. Secondly drummer Skip Spence was sacked due to an unannounced vacation to Mexico but would go on to found Moby Grape. Spencer Dryden was recruited to fill the drummer's shoes.

The female vocalist role was, of course, filled by the prodigious contralto vox box of Grace Slick, whom the band had already known from her former band The Great Society which had played with JEFFERSON AIRPLANE on many occasions. Just a little trivia: Grace Slick is lineally descended from passengers of the Mayflower! The classic lineup of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE was complete and in early 1967 the band released their second album SURREALISTIC PILLOW just in time for the Beat Generation inspired movement of the "turn on, tune in, drop out" youth who were reinventing society and of course they needed a new soundtrack for a totally new way of thinking! JEFFERSON AIRPLANE were poised to be first in line to fill this new unforeseen need and soon they would find a pot of gold where no rainbow yet touched the ground!

In many ways SURREALISTIC PILLOW continues the sound laid down on the debut album. Although described as psychedelic rock by many, album number two primarily consists of Byrds inspired folk rock that take the influences of other contemporary artists like The Mamas & The Papas, Bob Dylan, The Yardbirds, The Beatles and Kingston Trio and added a touch of psychedelia to become one of the biggest hits of the entire year. The band's distinct sound of the combo vocal effect of Slick and Marty Ballin was the extra boost of mojo they needed to finally get their AIRPLANE flying high in the friendly skies. The album was released in February 1967 and shot up to number 3 on the Billboard charts in only a month and a half where it stayed for over a year and provided the only two top 10 hits of their entire career as a band. "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit" both hit the top 10 and became two of the biggest anthems of the entire 60s music scene not to mention the band's best known tracks.

SURREALISTIC PILLOW is one of those albums that divides my senses. On the one hand, this album is absolutely essential for a complete understanding of the hippie scene and The Summer Of Love in 1967. It is an inextricable part of a unique place and time in history and therefore has earned that mandatory placement in my music collection. However from an artistic point of view, i have never been blown away by this one. Personally i find only six of the eleven songs to be interesting and the rest are sort of throwaway tracks that do little for my senses. Secondly i find the album to be horribly paced with no rhyme or reason as to how the tracks are placed. Some of them sound like leftovers from the earlier album sessions. The album starts out quite strong with the catchy semi-psychedelic rock opener "She Has Funny Cars" which instantly shows how the band had improved over the debut as Grace Slick rocks the house with her magnetic charisma accompanied by the rockin' rhythms and fuzzed out bass. It is immediately followed by the excellent "Somebody To Love" which was actually recorded by Slick's brother-in-law Darby Slick for her previous band The Great Society." Somehow the song jumped ship with Slick and the rest is history!

Unfortunately the album derails from then on as "My Best Friend" sounds like a very bad attempt to imitate The Mamas & The Papas" which JEFFERSON AIRPLANE wasn't quite equipped to pull off. It only gets worse as the rest of the album is littered with forgettable folk ballads like "Today" and "Comin' Back To Me." Of the remaining tracks i only find "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds," "White Rabbit" and "Plastic Fantastic Lover" to be interesting. Of course, someone could write an entire novel about "White Rabbit" which really is one of the best songs ever written and its larger than life Summer Of Love spirit completely overwhelms anything else on the album and was incidentally the only track completely written by Slick herself. Considering that the two best tracks on the album were written by humans with the last name Slick, i wish that Ballin and Kantner would have given the Queen of Acid a bit more free reign in both the lyrical contributions as well as the songwriting.

For me SURREALISTIC PILLOW somewhat lives up to its name, not for the fact that the music is trippy as hell but more for the fact that it creates the cognitive dissonance of being an album that is utterly essentially as someone interested in the peace and love hippie era but leaves me cold when listening to as a whole. It's one of those albums that someone apparently had to be there at the time to appreciate in its proper context but for someone like me who wasn't around to see the movie to which the soundtrack was playing, it just doesn't hold up very well. Musically speaking other 1967 albums ranging from "The Doors," "Sgt. Pepper's," "Are You Experienced?" and "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" are much more suitable to my imagined Summer Of Love experience. So as an album for listening pleasure i only find SURREALISTIC PILLOW to be a good album for the six tracks and nothing more and personally find this album woefully overrated. Still though, it contains a few of the greatest tracks not only of JEFFERSON AIRPLANE's entire career but also in all the history of rock music and for that it deserves to be heard by all. For me this is only a 3 star album but i'll add an extra half star for its cultural significance but not here so rounded down!

 Takes Off by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Studio Album, 1966
3.18 | 89 ratings

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Takes Off
Jefferson Airplane Proto-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator 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.

 After Bathing At Baxter's by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.81 | 143 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.

 Crown Of Creation by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE album cover Studio Album, 1968
3.89 | 141 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.

Thanks to Sean Trane for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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