Friday, January 21, 2011

Pat Thomas Reviews Two Previously Unreleased 'Jefferson Airplane' Discs

***WSG would like to welcome our new contributor, Pat Thomas! Pat will be frequently offering commentary on the Grooviness of 60s/70s pop culture! Enjoy!***

Jefferson Airplane

RETURN TO THE MATRIX 02/01/68 (COLLECTOR’S CHOICE)

WE HAVE IGNITION: LIVE AT THE FILLMORE 11/25/66 & 11/27/66
(COLLECTOR’S CHOICE)

Jefferson Airplane fans come in many forms; those who prefer their early electric-folk-blues excursions (such as the song “It’s No Secret”), the classic mid-period psychedelic madness that put them on the map (“White Rabbit,” “3/5ths of a Mile in 10 Seconds,” “The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil”) and the later political era reflected in albums like Volunteers and songs like “Up Against the Wall.” Sadly in 2010, most of the Airplane’s great legacy is over-shadowed by the later period “Starship,” which gave us crap like “We Built This City on Rock n Roll” or mildly interesting stuff like the pop hit “Jane.” So what am I trying to say?

Basically, that this fat stack of previously unreleased Airplane live recordings from the Collector’s Choice label (there are two other releases besides the ones mentioned above that document two historic shows from the fall of 1966) will sadly not pick up any new fans along the way. For the hard-core fan, you’ve heard some of these recordings on low-fi cassettes for decades, but now you’ve got them direct from the master tapes and they sound wonderful – so you know you need them. For the casual fan, I’m gonna say, you must pick up the 1968 Matrix show, as it’s the Airplane at their creative peak.


So while I listen to these discs (some 6 hours of 1966-68) Airplane, I applaud the band and the label for getting these discs out, and I pity the ignorant people who will let their bias towards the 1980’s “Starship” keep them from hearing some of the best 1960’s psychedelic rock to ever come out Haight-Ashbury. For my money, the Matrix show has the best sound and the best performances – but I would also strongly suggest We Have Ignition: Live at The Fillmore 11/25/66 & 11/27/66, a double CD set that reveal songs you probably haven’t heard live before; “JPP McStep B. Blues” (written by Moby Grape’s Skip Spence), Paul Kantner’s “DCBA-25” and Jorma Kaukonen’s “In the Morning” – and also what made San Francisco in 1968 so wonderful; long winded mind-expanding jams like nearly 10 minutes of “The Other Side of Life” (written by folk legend Fred Neil) or 7 minutes of Donovan’s “Fat Angel.”

If you’ve made it this far in the review, you’ll be especially excited to know that the other two releases document original lead singer Signe Anderson’s final show with the band; Live at the Fillmore 10/15/66 and Grace Slick’s debut, the very next night 10/16/66 on the same Fillmore stage. Needless to say, they reveal a period of transition with Airplane originals mixed with covers like “Tobacco Road,” “High Flying Bird,” and a version of Leiber & Stoller’s standard; “Kansas City” – which most readers will remember as being done by The Beatles amongst others. Well, The Beatles never vamped on it for 7 minutes like the Airplane did.

By Pat Thomas

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