Jefferson Airplane Takes Off
The Music Box's #7 specialty package for 2003
First Appeared at The Music Box, September 2003, Volume 10, #9
Written by John Metzger
The San Francisco music scene in the mid-1960s was, perhaps, the most fertile hotbed of rock ínĎ roll ever witnessed. The sheer number of bands that not only made the big time, but also remain popular nearly forty years after the fact is absolutely astounding. Jefferson Airplane, for all intents and purposes, started it all, being the first to score a major label deal and put a national face on the burgeoning locale. Itís a real shame that with the passage of time, the groupís legacy has been so significantly diminished. This partially is due to the extension of the project through increasingly dismal outings from Jefferson Starship, followed by Starship as well as a half-baked reunion in 1989, though classic rock radioís endless barrage of the signature hits White Rabbit and Somebody to Love while ignoring the rest of the bandís phenomenal catalog also didnít help matters. It appears now, however, as if Jefferson Airplane might finally get some much deserved attention. To coincide with the recent release of Got a Revolution!, Jeff Tamarkinís biography of the band, its collection is being treated to remastered and expanded editions that correct the disconcerting sound quality of the original CDs and augment them with a plethora of additional material. The first wave will hit store shelves on August 19 and will cover the groupís first four albums. What follows is a closer examination of each with high hopes that the rest will be slated for similar treatment in the not too distant future.
Jefferson Airplane Takes Off
Though its line-up was still a work in progress, Jefferson Airplane could not have picked a more appropriate title for its debut. In naming the album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, the band opted for the type of confident, brash statement that came to define much of its work. The core of the group ó Marty Balin, Jorma Kaukonen, Paul Kantner, and Jack Casady ó was intact, and its members knew where they wanted to wind up, even if the final pieces had yet to be put into place. Signe Anderson provided a strong, female presence within the band, and guitarist-turned-drummer Skip Spence understood the nuance of rhythm. Both would soon depart to make room for Grace Slick and Spencer Dryden, two definite improvements that helped the group build upon the sounds explored on Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. As one might expect, the song suite wasnít a perfect one, but it was still a rather remarkable debut, laying the seeds that sprouted into the soundtrack of many peopleís lifetimes. Already, Casady was exploring the bass as a lead instrument, and the swirling electric guitar of Kantner fueled the tunesí acid-drenched tonalities. Itís No Secret and Run Around were two of the albumís most memorable tracks, adding a edgy restlessness to sterling í60s pop grooves. Interestingly, Andersonís remake of Chauffeur Blues fares better on the bonus track included on this edition than it did on the original album, carrying a looser swing in its recently unearthed incarnation. The same is true of Balinís And I Like It, and the second version featured on the disc is given an expansive treatment that takes a much more soulful turn while perfectly capturing Jefferson Airplaneís concert sound. Yes, on Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, the group unquestionably was learning to fly, and it was only a matter of time before the band would soar to the highest of heights. Granted, the album isnít necessarily essential nor is it widely considered a classic, but itís still a vital piece of history about the band and the Bay Area that holds together quite well in retrospect.
Jefferson Airplane Takes Off is available from Barnes & Noble.
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