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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Jefferson Airplane

Surrealistic Pillow

Review by Gary Hill

The debut disc by Jefferson Airplane, many tout this as being some kind of near perfect release. I’d have to disagree on that. Frankly, it’s a bit uneven at times. The real strength, though is in the variety and the talent displayed. The fact that it seems to be done by a band, people who know that they don’t have to be the star of each and every song because the full band treatment is what really counts. There are some soaring highlights here and nothing is what you’d really call “weak,” except when compared to some of the other music here. All in all, it’s a fine release, but not perfect.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
She Has Funny Cars

A shuffling sort of percussion line opens this and holds it for a time. As the other instruments kick in, it resembles the Grateful Dead just a bit. From there they launch into more pure psychedelia. This is bouncy and tasty. It has a great vocal arrangement with alternating lines (and at times simultaneous) of male and female vocals. This is classic Jefferson Airplane.

Somebody To Love
Well, this cut was one of Jefferson Airplane’s biggest hits, so it’s a very good chance that if you are reading this review, you’ve heard it. It’s still a great tune that holds up very well. A driving psychedelic musical arrangement melds with a killer multilayered vocal delivery to create a piece of sublime 1960s rock. The closing guitar solo on this is just so tasty.
My Best Friend
Feeling a bit like a combination of bubble gum pop of the 1960s, the Grateful Dead and Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, this is OK, but certainly not a highlight of the set by a long shot.
Today
Starting with acoustic based psychedelia and building gradually on that, this is an awesome piece of music. The drama and mood here is wonderful and it’s really one of the highlights of the set.
Comin' Back To Me
This mellow, and incredibly tasty balladic piece also has a great tone and mood. It’s another highlight of the set.
3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds
A more energized and hard rocking classic Jefferson Airplane sound makes up this killer number. There is some great psychedelic guitar soloing. While I prefer the last couple moodier tracks, this brings us back into some energized territory in a good way.
D. C. B. A.-25
Mellower psychedelia is the order of the day here. It’s not as stripped down as the “Today” or “Comin’ Back to Me,” but it’s definitely more laid back. Comparisons to the Dead would not be out of place, but this is definitely the Airplane.
How Do You Feel
There are some hints of country and bluegrass on this piece, but overall it’s good Jefferson Airplane psychedelia. Once again, it’s not that far removed from the Grateful Dead.
Embryonic Journey
This is an intricate and potent acoustic guitar solo.
White Rabbit
Well, this is probably the biggest hit ever from Jefferson Airplane. Once again, if you’ve never heard this, you probably aren’t reading this article. It’s a great classic piece of psychedelia that both captures the time in which it was recorded and still holds up well in the modern world. Grace Slick’s vocal performance on this is particularly noteworthy.
Plastic Fantastic Lover

Here’s another hard rocking bit of psychedelia. It’s a bit bluesy. The guitar solos all over this thing and it’s a cool tune, if not quite a highlight of the set.

In The Morning
This is a full on blues treatment, including a wailing harmonica. It moves more into the psychedelic realm with the extended guitar solo section.
P. P. Mc Step B. Blues
Just sort of an average Airplane cut, this is far from a standout. Still, it’s not bad.
Go To Her
This is stronger. It has a great tone and mood and a great vocal arrangement. Although, parts of it make me think a bit of “Somebody to Love.” The guitar solos throughout, and that’s quite cool.
Come Back Baby
A bluesy number, this is a strong piece, but perhaps not a standout. The guitar soloing on it is killer, though.
Somebody To Love (Mono Single Version)
As the title suggests, this is a variant on the earlier piece. It’s included as a bonus here.
White Rabbit (Mono Single Version)
Again, there is truth in advertising with this bonus track.
 
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