The Music Box's #7 specialty package for 2003
First Appeared at The Music Box, September 2003, Volume 10, #9
Written by John Metzger
Just a few short months after the release of its debut, Jefferson Airplane underwent several personnel changes, replacing Signe Anderson with Grace Slick and Skip Spence with Spencer Dryden, thereby forming the combustible line-up that lasted through the end of the ’60s. Surrealistic Pillow, the group’s first outing with its new structure, was not only its best effort, but it undeniably also was one of the finest albums ever created. Sandwiched between the driving rock of She Has Funny Cars and the foreshadowed punk of Plastic Fantastic Lover, the band wove together a magic carpet ride of material that from start-to-finish was picture perfect.
Surrealistic Pillow spawned Jefferson Airplane’s only Top 40 hits (White Rabbit and Somebody to Love), and unfortunately that seems to be all that most people remember. The other nine tracks, however, were equally blissful and included two of the most exemplary and moving songs that Marty Balin ever penned (Today and Comin’ Back to Me) as well as Jorma Kaukonen’s first compositional contribution to the group — the elegant instrumental Embryonic Journey. Lyrically, the band was beginning to change, too. The love songs of its debut had become more heady, and its counterculture-driven, socio-political agenda was starting to reveal itself. It wasn’t so forceful, however, as to turn off (or frighten) the mainstream — largely because they didn’t know what was happening — but it was strong enough to reach the youth of America, launching what became known as the "Summer of Love."
Adding bonus tracks to an album such as Surrealistic Pillow is a tricky endeavor. On the one hand, the song cycle is so pleasingly peerless that any additional material tacked on to its conclusion can serve only to diminish the original product. On the other hand, losing tunes such as the burning blues of In the Morning or the driving rock of Go to Her would be a real shame. Fortunately, the extras that round out this updated set are strong enough to mitigate the contrarian argument.
Surrealistic Pillow is available
from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
Jeff Tamarkin's biography Got a Revolution! The Turbulent Flight of
Jefferson Airplane is available from Barnes & Noble. To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2003 The Music Box