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Jefferson Airplane - Crown Of Creation CD (album) cover

CROWN OF CREATION

Jefferson Airplane

 

Proto-Prog

3.90 | 129 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
5 stars This aptly titled album is really exactly that: the crown of their creation. And the artwork is simply a good explanation of what this music can do to your mind. Actually all these compliments I throw at the airplane are always better than the rockets fired at those flying Nam at the time. Because no doubt about it, JA were depicting sarcastically what some (obviously those that detested JA) considered the crown of human creation: the a-Bomb. And this sombre (in theme because this bright coloured photo is anything but dark) artwork is also a bit appropriate to describe the apocalyptically stunning beauty of the album's content.

After the excellent experimental (but sometimes patchy) ABAB (resulting in lower sales too), Jefferson Airplane decided to pull themselves together and make a much tighter album, which would turn out to be their master decision. By now the group had bought a huge house close to the Golden Gate Bridge (where the flower-power be-ins where held at the park down the street), where the band chose to live under the same roof and make the band's headquarters. This resulted in the band becoming even tighter, and does it ever show in this album. Never has the Airplane wrote such an immaculate bunch of songs, even if they returned to the more concise Pillow album rather than creating a "son of" Baxter's. This hardly meant that these eternal rebels would be heading down the commercial alley though, and the progressive experimentations would still go on, as JA was still a step ahead of most of their cross-town rivals, but also cross-state, and around the globe with only The Beatles keeping up (the Fab Four even paid them a visit!).

Still keeping the raunchy RnR sound that was their rebellious foundation, JA goes a long way to make delicious-sounding melodies, where Grace is now taking the spotlight, but the other sun is bassist Casady and his bass thunder. Jack was not only one of the three greatest bassist of his time, but his extreme hippy look and demented playing made him one of the fan's centre of attention on stage. And the lyrics of this group were rarely left behind as they were often humorous: Lather and the age where you are too old (Grace's partner Spencer Dryden at reached the big three O) and the famous nose-blowing solo, Triad's call for a ménage-à-trois (Dave Cosby's song) and its ban and call to boycott from the establishment or the sombre humour Share A Little Joke. But this was not overshadowing the musical twist such as the type-writer percussions, the booming descending bass lines scattered throughout the album, the great acoustic guitar touches of In Time, the oppressive ambiances (JA did some of the darkest song ever before being finally topped by Univers Zero) .

None the least, the way the three singers are meddling in their voices is something spine-chilling, with Grace's voice almost-literally making love with Balin's or other times caressing the mike and our ears, they outdid some of the best folk rock duos from across the Atlantic, with Kantner always ready to triple the dose and Kaukonen holding in reserve for Star Track (he was the very worthy lead singer in the offshoot Hot Tuna) and Casady unleashing the thunderous bass behind him with his hollow-bodied Gibson E. Just in case you thought Baxter's Small Package was an accident, get a load of Chushingura and its electronic experimental diddles (well before a certain German trio) close to "musique concrete", written by their Dryden drummer! Just remember this is spring 68.

So far I've only described the tracks on the first side, but much more is to come! If the opening If You Feel is relatively straightforward, the title track's gloomy descending vocal line and the frightening lyrics (they are denouncing the fascism of certain authorities) and Casady's bed of bass lines. Greasy Heart is Grace's answer to Balin Plastic Lover in the Pillow album, and unfortunately the comparison does not sit well for Marty, whose role will soon decrease in the group. Grace superstar! Her constant acts of provocation were the newspapers of the establishment, which was not realizing this made her even bigger in life. Have I talked of the almost 6-min finale, yet? No? All the better, because this track is the absolute apex of the group!! For the second time in a few month, Robert Kennedy's dog Pooneil gets national attention (a great close-up picture graces the inner sleeve) a few months before his master's murder (he was on friendly term with the band). This is the emblematic track that they played on a rooftop downtown Manhattan (filmed by French avant-garde director JL Goddard), a full year before the Beatles would attempt the trick with more success. The song's apocalyptic atmosphere, certainly convinced the cops to close up shop before the song was over. Again the masterstroke is Casady's incredible bass, but everyone shines like the sun (or the explosion on the sleeve).

The bonus tracks in the remastered version could not possibly be of the calibre of the album, but they hold their own. Dryden's drum experiments with jazz buddies (including scatting) and the collaboration between Zappa and Grace Slick are ultra experimental, but unfortunately are not fitting with the album. But those two tracks will finish convincing everyone of the Airplane's prog credentials. And Dryden's Saga Of Sydney Space with its 8-min is simply flabbergasting, that his jazz credentials and will to experiment were not given as much attention as he should've gotten, but one thing for sure, he was the most adventurous of the lot.

Although this album is often overlooked compared to Pillow and Baxter's and less talked about the Volunteers, it is no small coincidence that this album bears its name. Clearly this record is the Airplane cruising at maximum altitude, soaring majestically like an eagle over the rest of the planet. If have probably placed 25 albums in my favourite 10, but I'll make it 26 with this one. Impeccable, implacable, outstanding and astounding.

Sean Trane | 5/5 |

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