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Pop/Rock - Released January 21, 2002 | RCA - BMG Heritage

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
The second album by Jefferson Airplane, Surrealistic Pillow was a groundbreaking piece of folk-rock-based psychedelia, and it hit like a shot heard round the world; where the later efforts from bands like the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and especially, the Charlatans, were initially not too much more than cult successes, Surrealistic Pillow rode the pop charts for most of 1967, soaring into that rarefied Top Five region occupied by the likes of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and so on, to which few American rock acts apart from the Byrds had been able to lay claim since 1964. And decades later the album still comes off as strong as any of those artists' best work. From the Top Ten singles "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love" to the sublime "Embryonic Journey," the sensibilities are fierce, the material manages to be both melodic and complex (and it rocks, too), and the performances, sparked by new member Grace Slick on most of the lead vocals, are inspired, helped along by Jerry Garcia (serving as spiritual and musical advisor and sometimes guitarist). Every song is a perfectly cut diamond, too perfect in the eyes of the bandmembers, who felt that following the direction of producer Rick Jarrard and working within three- and four-minute running times, and delivering carefully sung accompaniments and succinct solos, resulted in a record that didn't represent their real sound. Regardless, they did wonderful things with the music within that framework, and the only pity is that RCA didn't record for official release any of the group's shows from the same era, when this material made up the bulk of their repertory. That way the live versions, with the band's creativity unrestricted, could be compared and contrasted with the record. The songwriting was spread around between Marty Balin, Slick, Paul Kantner, and Jorma Kaukonen, and Slick and Balin (who never had a prettier song than "Today," which he'd actually written for Tony Bennett) shared the vocals; the whole album was resplendent in a happy balance of all of these creative elements, before excessive experimentation (musical and chemical) began affecting the band's ability to do a straightforward song. The group never made a better album, and few artists from the era ever did. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released March 7, 1990 | RCA - BMG Heritage

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
The Jefferson Airplane opened 1967 with Surrealistic Pillow and closed it with After Bathing at Baxter's, and what a difference ten months made. Bookending the year that psychedelia emerged in full bloom as a freestanding musical form, After Bathing at Baxter's was among the purest of rock's psychedelic albums, offering few concessions to popular taste and none to the needs of AM radio, which made it nowhere remotely as successful as its predecessor, but it was also a lot more daring. The album also showed a band in a state of ferment, as singer/guitarist Marty Balin largely surrendered much of his creative input in the band he'd founded, and let Paul Kantner and Grace Slick dominate the songwriting and singing on all but one cut ("Young Girl Sunday Blues"). The group had found the preceding album a little too perfect, and not fully representative of the musicians or what they were about, and they were determined to do the music their way on Baxter's; additionally, they'd begun to see how far they could take music (and music could take them) in concert, in terms of capturing variant states of consciousness. Essentially, After Bathing at Baxter's was the group's attempt to create music that captured what the psychedelic experience sounded and felt like to them from the inside; on a psychic level, it was an introverted exercise in music-making and a complete reversal of the extroverted experience in putting together Surrealistic Pillow. Toward that end, they were working "without a net," for although Al Schmitt was the nominal producer, he gave the group the freedom to indulge in any experimentation they chose to attempt, effectively letting them produce themselves. They'd earned the privilege, after two huge hit singles and the Top Five success of the prior album, all of which had constituted RCA's first serious new rock success (and the label's first venture to the music's cutting edge) since Elvis Presley left the Army. The resulting record was startlingly different from their two prior LPs; there were still folk and blues elements present in the music, but these were mostly transmuted into something very far from what any folksinger or bluesman might recognize. Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, and Jack Casady cranked up their instruments; Spencer Dryden hauled out an array of percussive devices that was at least twice as broad as anything used on the previous album; and everybody ignored the length of what they were writing and recording, or how well they sang, or how cleanly their voices meshed. The group emerged four months later with one of the rawest, most in-your-face records to come out of the psychedelic era, and also a maddeningly uneven record, exciting and challenging in long stretches, yet elsewhere very close to stultifyingly boring, delightful in its most fulfilling moments (which were many), but almost deliberately frustrating in its digressions, and amid all of that, very often beautiful. The album's 11 songs formed five loosely constructed "suites," that didn't ease listeners into those structures. Opening "The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil" (a Kantner-authored tribute to Fred Neil) amid a cascading wash of feedback leading to a slashing guitar figure, the band's three singers struggle to meld their voices and keep up. A softer, almost folk-like interlude, highlighted by Slick's upper-register keening, breaks up the beat until the guitar, bass, and drums crash back in, with a bit of piano embellishment. Then listeners get to the real break, an almost subdued interlude on the guitars, and a return to the song at a more frenzied pitch, the guitar part dividing and evolving into ever more brittle components until a crescendo and more feedback leads to "A Small Package of Value Will Come to You, Shortly." This brilliantly comical and clever percussion showcase co-authored by Spencer Dryden and the band's manager, Bill Thompson, is a million miles beyond any drummer's featured number in any popular band of that era, and it leads into Marty Balin's "Young Girl Sunday Blues," the most rhythmically consistent song here and one of a tiny handful of moments that seem to slightly resemble the band's past work. The aforementioned tracks comprise just the first suite, designated "Steetmasse." "The War Is Over" suite opens with "Martha," the album's folk-style interlude, almost a throwback to the group's original sound, except that the listener suddenly finds himself in the midst of a psychedelic delirium, heralded by the dissonant accompaniment and a high-energy fuzztone guitar solo (spinning out sitar-like notes) coming out of nowhere and a speed change that slows the tempo to zero, as though the tape (or time, or the listener's perception of it) were stretching out, and the pounding, exuberant "Wild Tyme," a celebration of seemingly uninhibited joy. "Hymn to the Older Generation" is made up of Kaukonen's "The Last Wall of the Castle," an alternately slashing and chiming guitar pyrotechnic showcase that rivaled anything heard from Jimi Hendrix or the Who that year, and Grace Slick's gorgeous "Rejoyce," a hauntingly beautiful excursion into literary psychedelia, whose James Joyce allusions carry the Lewis Carroll literary allusions of the previous album's "White Rabbit" into startlingly new and wonderful (if discursive) directions and depths. "How Suite It Is" opens with the album's single, the lean, rhythmic "Watch Her Ride," whose pretty harmonies and gently psychedelic lyrics persuaded RCA that this was their best shot at AM airplay and, true to form on an album filled with contradictions, it leads into "Spare Chaynge," the crunching, searing, sometimes dirge-like nine-minute jam by Kaukonen, Dryden, and Casady that wasn't ever going to get on AM radio -- ever -- and, indeed, might well initially repel any Airplane fan who only knew their hit singles. "Shizoforest Love Suite" closes the album with Slick's "Two Heads," with its vocal acrobatics and stop-and-go beat, and "Won't You Try"/"Saturday Afternoon," the latter Kantner's musical tribute to the first San Francisco "Be-In" (memorialized more conventionally by the Byrds on "Renaissance Fair"); it features many of the more subdued, relaxed, languid moments on the record, divided by a killer fuzz-laden guitar solo. Needless to say, this is not the album for neophytes -- "Spare Chaynge" remains an acquired taste, a lot more aimless than, say, the extended jams left behind by the Quicksilver Messenger Service, though it did point the way toward what Kaukonen and Casady would aim for more successfully when they formed Hot Tuna. But most of the rest is indisputably among the more alluring musical experimentation of the period, and Kantner's "The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil" and "Watch Her Ride," as well as Balin's "Young Girl Sunday Blues," proved that the group could still rock out with a beat, even if not so prettily or cleanly as before. © Bruce Eder /TiVo

Pop/Rock - Released May 19, 2003 | RCA - Legacy

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RCA/Legacy's 32-track Jefferson Airplane retrospective focuses on the influential psychedelic rock collective's late-'60s/early-'70s heydays. From 1966 (Jefferson Airplane Takes Off) through 1972 (Thirty Seconds Over Winterland), the group released nine albums that effectively shadowed the era, blending social themes with drugs, paranoia, and youthful rebellion/revolution. Essential may be a bit much for the casual fan, as its two discs delve deep into the group's eclectic catalog, stacking lost gems like "Eskimo Blue Day" and "Third Week in the Chelsea" alongside radio staples like "Somebody to Love," "White Rabbit," and "Volunteers," but those who are willing to take the plunge will be rewarded with the band's most thorough, informative, and thoughtfully paced anthology to date. © James Christopher Monger /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released June 21, 2004 | RCA - BMG Heritage

Controversial at the time, delayed because of fights with the record company over lyrical content and the original title (Volunteers of America), Volunteers was a powerful release that neatly closed out and wrapped up the '60s. Here, the Jefferson Airplane presents itself in full revolutionary rhetoric, issuing a call to "tear down the walls" and "get it on together." "We Can Be Together" and "Volunteers" bookend the album, offering musical variations on the same chord progression and lyrical variations on the same theme. Between these politically charged rock anthems, the band offers a mix of words and music that reflect the competing ideals of simplicity and getting "back to the earth," and overthrowing greed and exploitation through political activism, adding a healthy dollop of psychedelic sci-fi for texture. Guitarist Jorma Kaukonen's beautiful arrangement of the traditional "Good Shepherd" is a standout here, and Jerry Garcia's pedal steel guitar gives "The Farm" an appropriately rural feel. The band's version of "Wooden Ships" is much more eerie than that released earlier in the year by Crosby, Stills & Nash. Oblique psychedelia is offered here via Grace Slick's "Hey Frederick" and ecologically tinged "Eskimo Blue Day." Drummer Spencer Dryden gives an inside look at the state of the band in the country singalong "A Song for All Seasons." The musical arrangements here are quite potent. Nicky Hopkins' distinctive piano highlights a number of tracks, and Kaukonen's razor-toned lead guitar is the recording's unifying force, blazing through the mix, giving the album its distinctive sound. Although the political bent of the lyrics may seem dated to some, listening to Volunteers is like opening a time capsule on the end of an era, a time when young people still believed music had the power to change the world. © Jim Newsom /TiVo
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Rock - Released October 12, 2001 | Digimusic

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Pop/Rock - Released June 30, 2003 | RCA - BMG Heritage

Crown of Creation appeared ten months after their last album, After Bathing at Baxter's, and it doesn't take the same kind of leap forward that Baxter's did from Surrealistic Pillow. Indeed, in many ways, Crown of Creation is a more conservative album stylistically, opening with "Lather," a Grace Slick original that was one of the group's very last forays (and certainly their last prominent one) into a folk idiom. Much of what follows is a lot more based in electric rock, as well as steeped in elements of science fiction (specifically author John Wyndham's book The Chrysalids) in several places, but Crown of Creation was still deliberately more accessible musically than its predecessor, even as the playing became more bold and daring within more traditional song structures. Jack Casady by this time had developed one of the most prominent and distinctive bass sounds in American rock, as identifiable (if not quite as bracing) as John Entwistle's was with the Who, as demonstrated on "In Time," "Star Track," "Share a Little Joke," "If You Feel" (where he's practically a second lead instrument), and the title song, and Jorma Kaukonen's slashing, angular guitar attack was continually surprising as his snaking lead guitar parts wended their way through "Star Track" and "Share a Little Joke." The album also reflected the shifting landscape of West Coast music with its inclusion of "Triad," a David Crosby song that Crosby's own group, the Byrds, had refused to release -- its presence (the only extant version of the song for a number of years) was a forerunner of the sound that would later be heard on Crosby's own debut solo album, If I Could Only Remember My Name (on which Slick, Paul Kantner, and Casady would appear). The overall album captured the group's rapidly evolving, very heavy live sound within the confines of some fairly traditional song structures, and left ample room for Slick and Marty Balin to express themselves vocally, with Balin turning in one of his most heartfelt and moving performances on "If You Feel." "Ice Cream Phoenix" pulses with energy and "Greasy Heart" became a concert standard for the group -- the studio original of the latter is notable for Slick's most powerful vocal performance since "Somebody to Love." And the album's big finish, "The House at Pooneil Corners," seemed to fire on all cylinders, their amps cranked up to ten (maybe 11 for Casady), and Balin, Slick, and Kantner stretching out on the disjointed yet oddly compelling tune and lyrics. It didn't work 100 percent of the time, but it made for a shattering finish to the album. © Bruce Eder & Al Campbell /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released February 21, 2006 | RCA - Legacy

Its smirky title notwithstanding, The Worst of Jefferson Airplane provides a fine recap of the band's first six albums. Released in 1970 shortly before Marty Balin's initial departure from the band, the album marked not only the end of the decade but, unwittingly, the end of the group's most stable phase in terms of membership. The track selections are evenly divided among the first-generation albums; only the live Bless Its Pointed Little Head is represented by a single entry. Pains were also taken to include songs featuring lead vocalists Balin, Grace Slick, Paul Kantner, and guitarist Jorma Kaukonen. A few omissions are striking, most notably the chart single "Greasy Heart" and the signature Kantner track, "Wooden Ships." Nevertheless, the songs chosen for this album accurately summarize the distinct feel of each Jefferson Airplane album of the '60s, and thus the disc represents an ideal way to introduce oneself to the band's early, most psychedelic material. © Joseph McCombs /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released August 15, 1966 | RCA - BMG Heritage

The debut Jefferson Airplane album was dominated by singer Marty Balin, who wrote or co-wrote all the original material and sang most of the lead vocals in his heartbreaking tenor with Paul Kantner and Signe Anderson providing harmonies and backup. (Anderson's lead vocal on "Chauffeur Blues" indicated she was at least the equal of her successor, Grace Slick, as a belter.) The music consisted mostly of folk-rock love songs, the most memorable of which were "It's No Secret" and "Come up the Years." (There was also a striking version of Dino Valente's "Get Together" recorded years before the Youngbloods' hit version.) Jorma Kaukonen already displayed a talent for mixing country, folk, and blues riffs in a rock context, and Jack Casady already had a distinctive bass sound. But the Airplane of Balin-Kantner-Kaukonen-Anderson-Casady-Spence is to be distinguished from the Balin-Kantner-Kaukonen-Casady-Slick-Dryden version of the band that would emerge on record five months later chiefly by Balin's dominance. Later, Grace Slick would become the group's vocal and visual focal point. On Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, the Airplane was still Balin's group. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released June 30, 2009 | RCA - Legacy

Sony/BMG's Legacy imprint decided to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Woodstock by issuing a slew of double-disc deluxe packages by catalog artists who played the festival. Each slipcase contains the featured artist's entire performance at Woodstock and as a bonus, an LP sleeve reproduction of a classic album issued near the time the festival occurred, as well as fine, individually designed 16" X 24" double-sided posters. Of the five volumes in the Woodstock Experience series, the Jefferson Airplane's volumes is simultaneously one of the most compelling and frustrating. Musically, this is one of, if not the greatest live performances we have on tape of the band at the peak of their ability and creativity, prefacing the release of their Volunteers album (included here as well) three months after this gig. There are five previously unissued tracks in this set -- six if you include the introduction. They include Fred Neil's "The Other Side of This Life,"(that kicks off the set), "3/5 of A Mile in 10 Seconds" "Wooden Ships," "The Ballad of You, Me & Pooneil," the traditional blues "Come Back Baby," and the Airplane's set closer "The House at Pooneil Corners." The Airplane's set is a long one, the longest in the Woodstock Experience series, clocking in at over 90 minutes, but it's enthralling throughout. Whether it's the electrified versions of the tunes from Surrealistic Pillow -- "Plastic Fantastic Lover," "White Rabbit," and "Somebody to Love," or the 14-minute space rock in "The Ballad of You, Me & Pooneil," from After Bathing at Baxter's with its massive bass solo by Jack Casady, or the ragged but righteous "House at Pooneil Corners" from Crown of Creation, the Airplane prove here that they could rock with the best of them. Their set as a whole is explosive and full of surprises, with excellent vocal work from Grace Slick and Marty Balin, and very sophisticated interplay between Jorma Kaukonen, Paul Kantner, Casady, guest pianist Nicky Hopkins, and drummer Spencer Dryden. That's the good news. The bad news is the package itself: Sony Legacy blew it by following a format rather than considering the music first. The other volumes in the series also include a catalog album. And it's always the first disc. This presented a problem because the Airplane's set was so long. The label's design department chose to follow format rather than serve the music properly. They sequenced the band's concert performance to begin after the last track of Volunteers on disc one -- it can be a complete buzzkill unless you just begin disc one at track 11. What would have made more sense would have been to either issue these CDs by themselves, or to begin Volunteers after the last song of the Woodstock gig to better preserve the integrity of the gig itself. It's true that the concert would still have been broken up on two discs, but the break would have come at the beginning of the long encore. Marks off for this, but the music itself is simply stellar throughout. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released June 18, 2004 | RCA - Legacy

Jefferson Airplane's first live album demonstrated the group's development as concert performers, taking a number of songs that had been performed in concise, pop-oriented versions on their early albums -- "3/5's of a Mile in 10 Seconds," "Somebody to Love," "It's No Secret," "Plastic Fantastic Lover" -- and rendering them in arrangements that were longer, harder rocking, and more densely textured, especially in terms of the guitar and basslines constructed by Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady. The group's three-part vocal harmonizing and dueling was on display during such songs as a nearly seven-minute version of Fred Neil's folk-blues standard "The Other Side of This Life," here transformed into a swirling rocker. The album emphasized the talents of Kaukonen and singer Marty Balin over the team of Paul Kantner and Grace Slick, who had tended to dominate recent records: the blues song "Rock Me Baby" was a dry run for Hot Tuna, the band Kaukonen and Casady would form in two years, and Balin turned in powerful vocal performances on several of his own compositions, notably "It's No Secret." Jefferson Airplane was still at its best in concise, driving numbers, rather than in the jams on Donovan's "Fat Angel" (running 7:35) or the group improv "Bear Melt" (11:21); they were just too intense to stretch out comfortably. But Bless Its Pointed Little Head served an important function in the group's discography, demonstrating that their live work had a distinctly different focus and flavor from their studio recordings. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo

Rock - Released September 1, 1971 | RCA - Legacy

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Bark, Jefferson Airplane's seventh album, was an album of firsts: it was the first Airplane album in almost two years, the first made after the arrival of violinist Papa John Creach and the departure of band founder Marty Balin, and the first to be released on the group's own Grunt Records label. It was also the first Airplane album made after the onset of that familiar rock group disease, solo career-itis. Rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner had released his Blows Against the Empire, and Hot Tuna, the band formed by lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady, had released two albums since the last Airplane group release, Volunteers. Bark, perhaps as a result, was not so much a group record as a bunch of songs made by alternating solo artists with backup by the other group members. (Did someone say White Album?) Kantner's tunes were science-fiction epics reminiscent of Blows; Kaukonen's "Feel So Good" and the instrumental "Wild Turkey" were indistinguishable from Hot Tuna music, while his lilting ballad, "Third Week in the Chelsea," was nothing less than his resignation from the band, rendered in song; while Grace Slick's two contributions were characteristically idiosyncratic. The album's surprise was "Pretty as You Feel," a chart single that emerged out of a jam between new drummer Joey Covington, Casady, and Kaukonen. All of which is to say that there were some excellent songs on Bark (as well as some mediocre ones), even if the whole added up to less than the sum of the parts. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 1, 1973 | Rhino

By the summer of 1972, the Jefferson Airplane were on their final approach to the eventual evolution that would produce Jefferson Starship, arguably the most drastic difference being the absence of Jorma Kaukonen (guitar, vocals) and Jack Casady (bass), both of whom were several years into Hot Tuna, a project that began as a musical diversion for the pair and rapidly developed into a permanent roots rock unit. Released in 1973, Thirty Seconds Over Winterland (cleverly named after the Mervyn LeRoy-directed 1944 film Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo) would become the Airplane's swansong. Included were seven tracks taken from the band's last tour of the 1970s, specifically, August 24 and 25 at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago and the last two gigs the Bay Area combo played in its native San Francisco on September 21 and 22, fittingly held at the band's longtime stomping grounds of the Winterland Arena. Only Kaukonen, Casady, and Paul Kantner (guitar, vocals) remained from the first lineup. They are joined by Grace Slick -- who took over from Signe Anderson just prior to the recording of 1967's landmark Surrealistic Pillow -- and violinist Papa John Creach. Former Turtles and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young drummer Johnny Barbata had come aboard in the previous year, and the latest addition was Quicksilver Messenger Service co-founder David Freiberg, whose contributions at the time were primarily vocal. The bulk of the effort was drawn from 1971's Bark and 1972's Long John Silver. Although they were still performing "Somebody to Love," "Volunteers," and "Wooden Ships" in concert, a cursory stab at "Crown of Creation" is the earliest cut on this package that harks back to their acid rock persona. Despite some questionable intonations from Kaukonen on "Have You Seen the Saucers," the opener quickly establishes the Jefferson Airplane's harder edge. Kaukonen's "Feel So Good" is the jewel in this otherwise thorny rock & roll tiara. The tune stretches over ten minutes, spotlighting Casady's quake-inducing contributions and Creach's unmistakable fiddle. Speaking of Papa John, he shines on the propelling "Milk Train," featuring a seminal lead from Slick. An outtake of note from the September 22 show made its way onto the 1992 Jefferson Airplane Loves You box set. Marty Balin returned for the one-off, albeit incendiary, "You Wear Your Dresses Too Short." © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Rock - Released March 9, 2019 | Play Music

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Rock - Released March 22, 2019 | RCA - Legacy

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Rock - Released July 20, 1972 | Rhino

The final Jefferson Airplane studio album -- if their half-hearted 'reunion' from 1989 isn't (and really shouldn't be) counted -- presented yet another alteration in the band's lineup. Not only would Long John Silver (1972) be the second project minus co-founder Marty Balin (vocals), who left after Volunteers (1969), but Joey Covington (drums) also split before the long-player was completed, forming his own combo, the short-lived Black Kangaroo. Covington contributes to a pair of Paul Kantner's (guitar/vocals) better offerings "Twilight Double Leader" and "The Son of Jesus," while Hot Tuna kinsman Sammy Piazza (drums) lends a hand to Jorma Kaukonen's (guitar/vocals) whimsical "Trial by Fire." Eventually, Turtles' and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young percussionist John Barbata (drums) would fill the drummer's stool for the remainder of the Airplane's rapid descent. He would likewise make the transition alongside Kantner, Grace Slick (piano/vocals) and Papa John Creach (violin) into the brave new world of Jefferson Starship. Even more so than on their previous platter, Bark (1971), the material featured on Long John Silver rather blatantly exposes the two disparate factions to have emerged from the once unified Airplane. The Kaukonen/Jack Casady (bass) offshoot -- à la Hot Tuna -- and Kantner/Slick, whose Blows Against the Empire (1970) from two years earlier clearly pointed to the exceedingly cerebral approach evident on Slick's indistinct "Aerie (Gang of Eagles)" and "Easter?," or the mid-tempo meandering of Kantner's "Alexander the Medium." The edgy, blues-infused rocker "Milk Train" is one of the few standouts on Long John Silver, giving Creach a platform for his ever-adaptable and soaring fiddle. Quite possibly the heaviest selection on the package is the Slick/Kaukonen co-composition "Eat Starch Mom." Appropriately, it concludes the effort on a positive charge with the Airplane hitting on all cylinders before landing the craft (for all intents and purposes) the last time. When the LP hit store shelves in the summer of 1972, it became instantly notorious for the cover that transformed into a cigar (read: stash) box. The inner sleeve went as far as reproducing the image of tightly compressed domestic ganja, replete with sticks, seeds and stems. © Lindsay Planer /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released April 17, 1998 | RCA - Legacy

RCA Records released Live at the Fillmore East in April 1998, nearly 30 years after it was recorded. At the time, Jefferson Airplane was coming down from the peak of Takes Off, Surrealistic Pillow and After Bathing at Baxter's, and they were performing material form their forthcoming record, Crown of Creation. In other words, they were at a peak, and the record has a raw, exciting energy that illustrates why the group were considered one of the greatest bands of their era. © Thom Owens /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 27, 2016 | Westmill

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Rock - Released November 18, 2015 | Burning Girl Productions

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Pop/Rock - Released January 28, 2011 | RCA - Legacy

The historical significance of this archival live recording is signaled in the subtitle, "Signe's Farewell," as this performance by Jefferson Airplane at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco on October 15, 1966, marks the final one for the band's original "girl singer" (as Marty Balin puts it), Signe Anderson. It is also the first concert recording from the Airplane's early days to see release, and it gives a better sense of the group than its then-recently issued debut LP, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. That studio recording gave the impression of a somewhat lightweight folk-rock ensemble, but from the opening nine-minute instrumental "Jam," the live Airplane heard here is much closer to the style of the other San Francisco bands playing the city's ballrooms around the same time. It is also very much a band led by Balin, whose high-tenor wail dominates the vocals, notably on a version of the yet-to-be-recorded "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds" that is slower than the one soon to appear on the second Airplane album, Surrealistic Pillow. And it is already recognizable as the group that, two and a half years later, would issue its first live album, Bless Its Pointed Little Head, already boasting a cover of Donovan's "Fat Angel" (with its tribute line, "Fly Jefferson Airplane, gets you there on time"), which at this time had only just appeared on his Sunshine Superman LP. The version of Wilson Pickett's "Midnight Hour" is a welcome surprise (annotator Craig Fenton quotes Balin as saying it was worked up as a potential New Year's Eve number), but unfortunately is incomplete "due to original source material." Balin's stage announcement about Anderson's departure is brief but gracious, and she follows it appropriately with her showcase number, "Chauffeur Blues," which demonstrates her vocal power. Pipes she had, but not the charisma (and hit songs) Grace Slick was about to bring to Jefferson Airplane, so this album gives a sense of what the band was just before its career changed dramatically. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop/Rock - Released November 29, 1989 | Epic

The one-off reunion of Jefferson Airplane in 1989, which consisted of a tour and a new album, got it about half right, which is to say that the group's live performances were fine, but their self-titled album was a disappointment. Jefferson Airplane had always been a musical collective. Though it was founded by singer Marty Balin in 1965, the band consisted of strong personalities -- guitarists Paul Kantner and Jorma Kaukonen, bass player Jack Casady, and singer Grace Slick (who replaced Signe Anderson in 1967). (Drummer Spencer Dryden, who was part of the group's classic 1967-1969 lineup, was not invited to join the reunion.) All but Casady were songwriters and vocalists, and the albums always represented a mixture of prominent talents. In that sense, nothing had changed 20 years later; Balin, Kantner, Kaukonen, and Slick each got his or her songs on Jefferson Airplane. And their familiar proclivities remained in place. Kantner's complicated song structures were still at the service of his discursive lyrics, mixing left-wing political sentiments with fanciful personal reflections. Slick's concerns were even more idiosyncratic, as she devoted her lyrical piano ballads to such subjects as the plight of panda bears. Kaukonen's songs were, as usual, showcases for his guitar playing. And Balin was still the romantic heart of the band, willing to lead them through the one outside composition, the pop-ish "True Love," contributed by Toto's Steve Porcaro and David Paich (who were also session musicians on the album) and also happy to recall the past nostalgically in "Summer of Love." But somehow, this collection of oddballs seemed far less compelling than they had in the late '60s, and Ron Nevison's slick production, which may have been intended to update the sound and give it coherence, was just an annoyance. Thus, Jefferson Airplane, despite some characteristically good and interesting material, failed to make a good and interesting reunion record, and that was that. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo