The Essential Jefferson Airplane
First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2005, Volume 12, #6
Written by John Metzger
When it was released in 1987, 2400 Fulton Street: An Anthology was the most comprehensive glimpse at Jefferson Airplane’s varied output that ever had been assembled, but while the effort undoubtedly was valiant, it also was fatally flawed. Rather than presenting the group’s songs in chronological order, it unnecessarily jumbled them together in an extraordinarily frustrating fashion. The recently issued 32-track, two-CD package The Essential Jefferson Airplane corrects that egregious mistake while offering a more even-handed examination of the San Francisco-based band’s turbulent existence. Culling nearly equal amounts of material from each of Jefferson Airplane’s seven studio outings while augmenting it with several concert cuts drawn from its two live recordings and adding a handful of rarities — the monophonic versions of Martha and Share a Little Joke as well as the vital, single-only releases Have You Seen the Saucers? and Mexico — the compilation provides an informative overview of an ensemble that grew from and eventually stood at the forefront of a countercultural revolution. Granted, one certainly could quibble about the absence of several significant songs from the collective’s canon — most notably, its lovely interpretation of David Crosby’s Triad, its mind-melting expansion of Donovan’s Fat Angel, and Paul Kantner’s "Summer of Love" reminiscence Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon. Likewise, it’s puzzling that the set entirely ignores Kantner’s superlative science-fiction epic Blows Against the Empire, which not only fits within the time frame of the anthology’s focus, but also unquestionably is closer in tone to Jefferson Airplane’s endeavors than it is to those of Jefferson Starship. In spite of these oversights, The Essential Jefferson Airplane touches all of the requisite bases — from the psychedelic march of White Rabbit to the apocalyptic Wooden Ships; from The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil’s raging, acid-drenched rock to Lather’s sad reflection on the loss of innocence; and from the eco-conscious Eskimo Blue Day to the gentle folk of Third Week in the Chelsea — while tracing the transformative arc of the ensemble’s legendary career. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box