Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Jefferson Airplane - Surrealistic Pillow

Continuing in my Airplane mode, this second album by the band is the first with Grace Slick (replacing Signe) and drummer Spencer Dryden joining Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, Jack Cassidy and Jorma Kaukonen to form the best know and most successful version of the group. For most people, this record heralded the San Francisco psychedelic scene.

Dryden starts things off with a semi-Bo Diddley beat for "She Has Funny Cars", with its varied rhythms, vocal interplay and mix of hard-edged chords and fuzz guitar. Grace shows how important she is in the band with her powerful "Somebody To Love", their rockin' first hit single - still a spine-tinglingly terrific song to this day - and wow, what a psyched out solo from Jorma! Ex-drummer Skip Spence still gets  a tune on this album in "My Best Friend", a light-hearted ballad. Also slow, in a more psychedelic vein is Balin and Kantner's "Today", a beautifully haunting love song - one of my faves. This feel continues in side one's closer, Balin's "Comin' Back to Me" - with Grace on recorder, which adds a nice feel.

They come back swingin' on side two with the fantastic riff-rocker "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds" follower by a nice folk-rock number from Kantner, oddly named "DCBA-25" - great vocal interplay here. "How Do You Feel" has more multi-layered harmonies which leads into an excellent acoustic guitar workout by Kaukonen in "Embryonic Journey". Of course, one of their most (in)famous songs is Grace's Alice In Wonderland-on-acid "Go Ask Alice", an all-too-short psych-rocker with Slick's incredible vocals leading the way. Balin closes the record with another fine piece of psychedelic rock'n'roll, the hard-edged "Plastic Fantastic Lover" - dig Jorma's leads here!

Excellent record that showed the variety of sounds coming from San Francisco at the time. Supposed Jerry Garcia contributed to the album, as well, though how much he added seems to be debatable. Regardless, that simply shows that the scene was cohesive and worked together. Essential 60's time capsule!