Jefferson Airplane-Takes Off

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE-TAKES OFF
JEFFERSON AIRPLANE-TAKES OFF(1966)

 

The Jefferson Airplane is a psychedelic rock band that formed in San Francisco, California in 1965. They are considered the seminal band that helped shape the San Francisco Sound in the psychedelic era in the mid to late 1960’s. The band is considered one of the most influential groups of the era from San Francisco, rivaled only by The Grateful Dead.

Early Jefferson Airplane with Signe Toly Anderson.

The original, “classic” members of the group were Grace Slick, Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen, Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, and Spencer Dryden. However, their debut record was recorded before Grace Slick joined the band. Signe Toly Anderson was on the first record, but left shortly after it’s release in 1966, and was replaced by Slick.

The Jefferson Airplane’s debut record, Takes Off, was released in August 1966. As stated before, Grace Slick was not on the album.

Takes Off is considered to be the beginnings of a genre of music that was to define the counterculture movement of the middle to late sixties and into the early seventies. It is an important work, with a fresh, new sound that would become known as the San Francisco Sound. It was not, in my opinion, a record that broke new ground musically, there was no great surprises here, just a well executed debut record that was very listenable and enjoyable. What was to become by the next record would be monumental in the history of rock music. But the debut was something new, but unextraordinary.

There are two notable cover songs on the record, Tobacco Road, and Let’s Get Together. Both songs are covered by other bands also, and are very popular in American culture. The Youngbloods had a big hit with their version of Let’s Get Together, titled Get Together in 1967. The Jefferson Airplane did a good job of covering both songs.

The song that kicks off  Jefferson Airplane’s recording career, and arguably the psychedelic movement in general, is Blues From An Airplane, the first song on Takes Off. It is a worthy track, and shows the musical proficiency of the band, and the formation of a new sound.

The second song on the record, Let Me In, was considered highly sexual for the times, and there are two versions, one censored, and one uncensored. By today’s standards, it wouldn’t be an issue. It is a great song, with some excellent guitar work in the middle of the track. Great early psychedelia.

Bringing Me Down is a classic psychedelic song with that psychedelic guitar style that would become so prevalent and recognisable in the genre.

It’s No Secret is my favorite song on the record, with Marty Balin’s spectacular vocals which make the song work so well. The guitar work in the middle of the track is classic psychedelia, a preview of what was to come.

Another one of the best songs on the debut is Come Up The Years, a track that starts out slow, with beautiful vocals and lyrics. It is a song about a man who is interested in a younger woman, and lamenting that she is not older. When I listen to this song, I get that feeling, as I so often do, that I wish I was a bit older, so I could experience that it was like to be around in the psychedelic era. The best music, from the greatest era, in my opinion.

Run Around is another song that was considered controversial, and has a censored and an uncensored version. It starts off with a twangy guitar intro, and great vocals. This is another highly enjoyable tune, classic sixties feel.

Don’t Slip Away is a good track, one of the weaker songs on the record, in my opinion, but nevertheless quite enjoyable. There are no bad songs on the record, and even the weaker one’s are very musically  sound, and all have great vocals.

Chauffeur Blues is a song that is lead by Signe Toly Anderson singing lead vocals, and is a straightforward blues piece. It is a good song, but I consider it to be one of the weaker songs on the record, considering that the majority of the rest of the album is excellent.

The last song on the record, And I Like It, is a bluesy piece that starts of with some jazzy drums, and is sung beautifully by Marty Balin. A good tune made great with the Balin vocals.

When listening to this record, there is some important musical history taking place. It is a great debut for one of the most influential bands in rock history. The Jefferson Airplane help launch a revolution, both musically and culturally, and are considered the cream of the crop in the world of psychedelic music.

Rating: A-

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grace Slick & The Great Society-Collector’s Item

GRACE SLICK & THE GREAT SOCIETY-COLLECTOR’S ITEM(Reissue single cd 1971. Recorded 1965-1966)

 

 

The Great Society was a psychedelic band that got it’s start in San Francisco, California in 1965. Though the band was a unit for only around a year, they laid the groundwork for the psychedelic, counterculture movement that originated in San Francisco. The band had a very popular, and soon to be mega famous  lead singer, Grace Slick. She was at the head of the psychedelic era, and although famous in the San Francisco area at the time of  The Great Society, she would become an absolute star when she joined The Jefferson Airplane in 1966, around a year after The Great Society began.

The Great Society included Grace’s then husband Jerry Slick, as well as her brother in law, Darby, Jerry’s brother. They were inspired by The Beatles, and got their name from President Lyndon Johnson, who was President at the time, who’s policies of The Great Society was a popular phrase of the time.

Grace Slick & The Great Society Collector’s Item is a reissue of their previous two albums, Conspicuous Only In Its Absence and How It Was released as a double album and single cd. It is considered a precursor to the Psychedelic music scene known as The San Francisco Sound.  

Both of the Great Society’s only records were concerts performed at The Matrix in San Francisco. The sound quality is not bad and it catches the band playing some covers and originals, and Slick’s voice is beautiful. One can tell that she would be a rising star in psychedelic music. Every song, in my opinion is quality, both musically and vocally. This is one of the best records to listen to in order to get a great taste of what was to be forthcoming in the genre of psychedelic rock.

The first song on the record is a cover tune called Sally Go Round’ The Roses, originated by a group called the Jaynetts. The Great Society does an excellent cover of this song. It starts of the record nicely and shows the musicianship of the band, and the voice of Slick.

Didn’t Think So is another song that is mellow, and brings out the beauty in Slick’s voice. Someone To Love is the name of the original song performed by the band, and though normally associated with the Jefferson Airplane, is actually a Grace Slick original written by her brother in-law Darby, before she became the lead singer of the Airplane. It was the only song by The Great Society that charted. Of course, the Airplane would make it their own, change the name to Somebody To Love, and turn it into a bigger hit. Both versions are different, and personally, I like The Great Society’s version a bit better.

The Great Society played a cover of Bob Dylan’s Outlaw Blues on the record, and shows the range of Slick’s voice, from singing psychedelic rock, to the blues, without missing a beat. Her singing shines throughout the record, and would become unmistakable in rock music for years to come.

White Rabbit was another hit for the Jefferson Airplane that was first Slick’s song with The Great Society, and would become one of the Airplane’s finest. As with Somebody To Love, the Great Society’s version was quite different than that of the Airplane. And once again, I like the Society’s version better. This version is quite a bit longer than the Airplane’s hit, with a much longer, and in my opinion, better intro. Although, the radio version is more haunting sounding, just much shorter.

The last song on the record is Father, the longest song, and an awesome instrumental that features great guitarwork, sax, and though no vocals on this one, Grace Slick contributes in other ways. This is an excellent way to wind down the brief recording career of The Great Society. Though their career was very short with the lineup that the band had, they are considered important in the development of the San Francisco Sound, and psychedelic music in general. And the band propelled Grace Slick onto The Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, and then finally, Starship. She is considered one of the best female vocalists in rock music. A must have album for psychedelic music fans.

Rating: A


 

The Best Of Eric Burdon And The Animals 1966-1968

THE BEST OF ERIC BURDON AND THE ANIMALS 1966-1968

 

Eric Burdon, along with The Animals, was a British rock band who got their start in Newcastle upon Tyne, Great Britain in 1962. They actually had two distinct periods, along with different band members, first having their home base in Newcastle upon Tyne, and then after some success they moved to London. Their most recognisable song was released in 1964 and was a number one hit in both the United Kingdom and the United States, House of the Rising Sun. Eric Burdon was a deep voiced very recognisable vocalist through the 1960’s, and under the name Eric Burdon and the Animals, the grouped traveled from the United Kingdom to the United States, settling in San Francisco around the time that the psychedelic era got its start.

The Best of Eric Burdon and the Animals 1966-1969 is a compilation record of their most popular songs after they came to the United States in the mid sixties. It is a record filled with songs about the psychedelic era and some of its most defining moments, and tries to explain some of the situations in Burdon’s youth, that he is conveying to his listeners through his lyrics. It is a very entertaining record, and on of my favorites of the era.

The first song on the compilation is Don’t Bring Me Down, a soulful song that stresses that a man does not always live up to a woman’s expectations, and Burdon extolls a women to “please don’t bring me down.” It was a top ten record in the U.K. and just barely missed the top ten in the States in 1966.

Hey Gyp is a popular Donovan song, that The Animals covered on the compilation. There is a great rendition of the song being sung by Eric Burdon on the documentary, Rock City 1964-1973, that really brings the song to life. Just watching the brief video is a ride through how a sixties outdoor concert was performed, both featuring the band performing, as well as the reaction of the crowd that was attending. A great documentary well worth getting ahold of.

When I Was Young was a song written by Eric Burdon and his bandmates and was released in 1967. It is considered a song about the psychedelic era, but was also a song about Burdon’s life as a youngster, revealing certain milestones in his life, such as smoking his first cigarette, his first shot at love with a girl, and also mentions his father, who was a soldier. It also features the use of a sitar and a violin. The sitar was a much used instrument in the psychedelic era, and The Animals used it on a few of their songs.

The next song was called A Girl Named Sandoz, and interestingly, it is actually a song about the company who first invented LSD, a large part of the psychedelic movement, and the main drug of choice at the time.

San Franciscan Nights was a song that was written, in part, to honor the people of San Francisco, especially in the Dragnet snippet at the beginning of the tune, but it was also an anti Vietnam War song. It contrived images of being in San Francisco high on LSD, and questions the validity of the war. At one point, Eric Burdon hints that the song was about a night with Janis Joplin in San Francisco. Funny how many artists and musicians were somehow interrelated in the psychedelic sixties scene!

The next song, Good Times is about a man who looks back on his life and regrets the time he has wasted, and has chosen the path that ultimately leads him to not being what he could have been. The song, as a whole, has a relatively depressed feel to it.

Anything is a slow, psychedelic piece that is a celebration of life, friends and all good things, and it was one of Eric Burdon’s favorite songs that he wrote. It is a purely positive song, among other more negative and pessimistic one’s, and brings to the compilation a lighthearted and whimsical feel as we progress through it’s many messages.

Eric Burdon and the Animals played at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, which was the first outdoor concert of the psychedelic movement, during the time known as the Summer of Love. The song, Monterey, is a celebration of the concert, and an explanation of some of the events that they encountered there. There were many famous, and would be famous musicians and bands there, and the Animals listed some of the acts that they were most impressed with in the lyrics of the song. Mentioned were, Jefferson Airplane, The  Who, The Byrds, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and others, and it is nice recognition for some great bands that performed at Monterey Pop. This song also features Indian musical influences.

Sky Pilot is one of the Animals most popular songs, and is broken into two distinct parts due to it’s length. To me, it seems to be an anti war tune, with the beginning of the song alluding to a Sky Pilot, who is a military chaplain, lamenting his soldiers as they go off to war, and waiting around for their return. Some of the soldiers, upon returning, question the reasons that they were fighting for. The song features bagpipes, and has a long interlude in the middle. It is one of the Animals great songs.

The last song on the compilation, River Deep, Mountain High, is a song that the Animals covered originally performed by Tina Turner. It was one of Turner’s biggest hits, and was considered the best song produced by the legendary Phil Spector.

Eric Burdon and the Animals remain a very important piece of the psychedelic music scene. Their early career did not produce the same type of music, but they were popular in their own right then, while still in the United Kingdom. But it would be their move to San Francisco, when their careers really took off to produce some great psychedelic music. It is interesting to note, that perhaps their best identified song was House of the Rising Sun, which was more at the beginning of their career. Great band!

Rating: A


 

The Electric Flag-A Long Time Comin’

THE ELECTRIC FLAG-A LONG TIME COMIN'(1968)

 

The Electric Flag was a blues, psychedelic rock and soul band started in San Francisco, California in 1967. The three main members of the band were, Mike Bloomfield(guitar), Barry Goldberg(keyboard), and Buddy Miles(drums). They are considered psychedelic rock, because of the time period when they were active, and the associations with some of the band members with other psychedelic musicians. Buddy Miles, for instance, was to play with Jimi Hendrix, in The Band of Gypsies after leaving The Electric Flag. However, in my opinion, they were less psychedelic rock, and more blues, jazz, and at times soul. They were an important part of the psychedelic scene however, playing at The Monterey Pop Festival, and making a soundtrack for the movie, The Trip, in 1967, before releasing A Long Time Comin’.

The first song on the record is Killing Floor, and was a cover song, as was many of the songs that The Electric Flag recorded. This is a jazzy blues piece, very well played, as was all of the covers by the band. Though very short lived, The Electric Flag did very well, and may have had a longer career, except for the fact that some of it’s members had drug problems, particularly heroin. Nonetheless, the band recorded very tight on the record, and every song sounds great.

The next song on the record is Groovin’ Is Easy, a song with a lot of horns, which the band uses a lot throughout the album. I sounds to me like a quintessential sixties pop song at the beginning. Many of the songs on A Long Time Comin’ sounds like other bands that were popular around this time, such as Blood, Sweat and Tears and Chicago, who took some of the elements that were used by The Electric Flag, and made them their own. The Electric Flag made use of horns and keyboards before these other bands, which makes them somewhat pioneers of the sound, precursors of sounds that would emerge in other bands later on.

The song, Wine, is a jazzy song with a southern feel, and there is a great video of the band playing it at the Monterey Pop Festival, before it was released on record.

Mike Bloomfield was a great guitarist, he is one of my favorites, and he is featured throughout the album with some screeching blues solos that give the album that deep bluesy feel.  This is why I think this record is more of a blues and jazz oriented album, as opposed to being psychedelic. Though there are moments on the record where a bit of psychedelia comes through.

Sunny is a cover version of the song written by Bobby Hebb, and it is one of the most recorded songs of all time. This Electric Flag version is one of the greatest covers of this song, they did an awesome job. Look Into My Eyes is a tune that reminds me of the band Chicago, another great song on the album. All the music on A Long Time Comin’  is excellent, and Bloomfield really shines on guitar, and the horn arrangements are really stellar. One of the best records of 1968 in my opinion. It is unfortunate the core of the band was so short lived, but they made some really memorable music. Well worth a listen.

Rating: A