Jefferson Airplane Biography by William Ruhlmann
Jefferson Airplane was the first of the San Francisco psychedelic rock groups of the 1960s to achieve national recognition. Although the Grateful Dead ultimately proved more long-lived and popular, Jefferson Airplane defined the San Francisco sound in the 1960s, with the acid rock guitar playing of Jorma Kaukonen and the soaring twin vocals of Grace Slick and Marty Balin, scoring hit singles and looking out from the covers of national magazines. They epitomized the drug-taking hippie ethos as well as the left-wing, antiwar political movement of their time, and their history was one of controversy along with hit records. Their personal interactions mirrored those times; the group was a collective with shifting alliances, in which leaders emerged and retreated. But for all the turmoil, Jefferson Airplane was remarkably productive between 1965 and 1972. They toured regularly, being the only band to play at all the major ’60s rock festivals – Monterey, Woodstock, even Altamont – and they released seven studio albums, five of which went gold, plus two live LPs and a million-selling hits collection that chronicled their eight chart singles. Rather than formally breaking up, they mutated into other configurations, Hot Tuna and Jefferson Starship, and went on to further success in the 1970s and ’80s, before reuniting for an album and tour in 1989.
The initial idea for the group that became Jefferson Airplane came from 23-year-old Marty Balin (born Martyn Jerel Buchwald in Cincinnati, OH, January 30, 1942), a San Francisco-raised singer who had recorded unsuccessfully for Challenge Records in 1962 and been a member of a folk group called the Town Criers in 1963-1964. With the Beatles-led British Invasion of 1964, Balin saw the merging of folk with rock in early 1965 and decided to form a group to play the hybrid style as well as open a club for the group to play in. He interested three investors in converting a pizza restaurant on Fillmore Street into a 100-seat venue called the Matrix, and he began picking potential bandmembers from among the musicians at a folk club called the Drinking Gourd. His first recruit was rhythm guitarist/singer Paul Kantner (born Paul Lorin Kantner in San Francisco, CA, March 17, 1941; died in San Francisco, CA, January 28, 2016), who in turn recommended lead guitarist/singer Jorma Kaukonen (born Jorma Ludwik Kaukonen in Washington, D.C., December 23, 1940). Balin, who possessed a keening tenor, wanted a complementary powerful female voice for the group and found it in Signe Toly (born Signe Ann Toly in Seattle, WA, September 15, 1941; died in Beaverton, OR, January 28, 2016). The six-piece band was completed by bass player Bob Harvey and drummer Jerry Peloquin. The group’s unusual name was suggested by Kaukonen, who had once jokingly been dubbed «Blind Thomas Jefferson Airplane» by a friend in reference to the blues singer Blind Lemon Jefferson.
Jefferson Airplane made their debut at the Matrix on August 13, 1965, and began performing at the club regularly. They attracted favorable press attention, which – at a time when folk-rock performers like Sonny & Cher, We Five, Bob Dylan, the Byrds, the Beau Brummels, and the Turtles were all over the charts – led to record company interest. By September, Jefferson Airplane was being wooed by several labels. At the same time, the band was already undergoing changes. Peloquin was fired and replaced by Skip Spence (born Alexander Lee Spence, Jr. in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, on April 18, 1946; died in Santa Cruz, CA, April 16, 1999). Spence considered himself a guitarist, not a drummer, but he had some drumming experience. Also in September, Signe Toly married Jerry Anderson, who handled lights at the Matrix, becoming known as Signe Anderson. In October, Harvey was fired and replaced by Jack Casady (born John William Casady in Washington, D.C., April 13, 1944), a friend of Kaukonen’s. On November 15, 1965, this lineup – Balin, Kantner, Anderson, Kaukonen, Spence, and Casady – signed to RCA Victor Records. They had their first recording session in Los Angeles on December 16, and RCA released their debut single, Balin’s composition «It’s No Secret,» in February 1966; it did not chart. Meanwhile, Jefferson Airplane began to appear at more prestigious venues in San Francisco and even to tour outside the Bay Area. In May 1966, Anderson gave birth to a daughter, and caring for the child while performing with the band became a challenge. Meanwhile, Spence became increasingly unreliable as his appetite for drugs increased, and he was replaced in June by session drummer Spencer Dryden (born Spencer Dryden Wheeler in New York, April 7, 1938; died in Petaluma, CA, January 11, 2005). Spence went on to form the band Moby Grape.
Following a second non-charting single, Balin and Kantner’s «Come Up the Years,» in July, Jefferson Airplane released their debut LP, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, on August 15, 1966, just over a year after the band’s debut. The album had modest sales, peaking at only number 128 during 11 weeks on the Billboard chart. (A third single, Balin and Kantner’s «Bringing Me Down,» was released from the album, but did not chart.) At this point, Anderson’s commitment to her family caused her departure from the group. Jefferson Airplane was able to find a strong replacement for her in Grace Slick (born Grace Barnett Wing in or near Chicago, IL, October 30, 1939), the lead singer for the San Francisco rock band the Great Society, which happened to be in the process of breaking up at the same time. Slick joined Jefferson Airplane in mid-October 1966, and by the end of the month was with them in the recording studio. She brought with her two songs from the Great Society repertoire: the rock tune «Somebody to Love,» written by her brother-in-law Darby Slick, the Great Society’s guitarist, and her own composition, the ballad «White Rabbit,» set to a bolero tempo, which used imagery from Alice in Wonderland to discuss the impact of psychedelic drugs. Both songs were recorded for Jefferson Airplane’s second album, Surrealistic Pillow.
RCA did not release either of them as the advance single from the album, opting instead for the departed Spence’s «My Best Friend» in January 1967; it became the group’s fourth single to miss the charts. Surrealistic Pillow followed in February. It debuted in the charts the last week of March, and its progress was speeded by the release of «Somebody to Love,» the first Jefferson Airplane single to feature Grace Slick as lead vocalist. By early May, both the album and single were in the Top 40 of their respective charts; a month later, both were in the Top Ten. With that, RCA released «White Rabbit» as a single, and it too reached the Top Ten. Surrealistic Pillow became Jefferson Airplane’s first gold album in July.
Meanwhile, the band, which, naturally, had attracted national media attention (much of it focusing on Slick’s photogenic looks), began recording a new album and continued to tour. On June 17, 1967, they performed at the Monterey International Pop Festival, which was celebrated for introducing many of the new San Francisco rock bands (as well as the Jimi Hendrix Experience) and launching the «Summer of Love» that the season was touted to be in 1967. Jefferson Airplane’s performance was filmed and recorded. Two songs from their show, «High Flying Bird» and «Today,» were featured in the documentary film Monterey Pop, released in 1968. The concert recording was heavily bootlegged and over the years has turned up on numerous gray-market releases as well.
The nature of Jefferson Airplane’s commercial breakthrough, and the nature of the band itself, restricted their commercial appeal thereafter. AM Top 40 radio, in particular, became wary of a group that had scored a hit with a song widely derided for its drug references, and Jefferson Airplane never again enjoyed the kind of widespread radio support they would have needed to score more Top Ten hits. At the same time, the group did not think of itself as a hitmaking machine, and its recordings were becoming more adventurous. Kantner’s «The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil,» the band’s new single released in August, featured him as lead singer with Slick and Balin harmonizing. It reached number 42 on the strength of the band’s prominence, but they never again crossed the halfway mark in the Hot 100. At the same time, the rise of FM radio, attracted to longer cuts and the kind of experimental work the group was starting to do, gave them a new way of exposing their music. Nevertheless, their third album, After Bathing at Baxter’s, its songs arranged into lengthy suites, was not as successful as Surrealistic Pillow when it appeared on November 27, 1967, reaching the Top 20 but failing to go gold. Also notable was the diminished participation of Marty Balin, who co-wrote only one song, and now was being marginalized in the group he had founded.
After Kantner’s «Watch Her Ride,» released as a single from After Bathing at Baxter’s, stalled at number 61, RCA released a new Jefferson Airplane single written and sung by Slick in the spring of 1968. But radio was even more resistant, and «Greasy Heart» stopped at number 98. It was included in the band’s fourth album, Crown of Creation, released in August. The title track got to number 64 as a single, and the LP, which featured more concise, less experimental tracks than After Bathing at Baxter’s, marked a resurgence in the group’s commercial success, reaching the Top Ten and eventually going gold. Jefferson Airplane’s live appeal was chronicled on the concert album Bless Its Pointed Little Head, released in February 1969. In August, the group appeared at the Woodstock festival, and it was featured on the million-selling triple-LP soundtrack album to the resulting film in 1970, though it did not appear onscreen in the version initially released. The band’s fifth studio album, Volunteers, appeared in October 1969 as its title song became a minor singles chart entry. Volunteers stopped short of the Top Ten, but it went gold in three months. On December 6, 1969, the band played at the Rolling Stones’ disastrous Altamont free concert in California, its performance (complete with Balin’s beating at the hands of Hell’s Angels) captured in the 1970 documentary film Gimme Shelter.
Jefferson Airplane released one more single, the non-charting marijuana anthem «Mexico,» in 1970 in its familiar configuration, but the turn of the 1970s brought great changes in the group. Already, Kaukonen and Casady, with assorted sidemen, had begun to play separately as Hot Tuna while maintaining their membership in Jefferson Airplane; they had recorded shows the previous September for a self-titled debut album issued in May 1970. Spencer Dryden was fired early in the year and replaced by drummer Joey Covington (born Joseph Michno in East Conemaugh, PA, June 27, 1945; died in Palm Springs, CA, June 4, 2013). At shows performed in October 1970, violinist Papa John Creach, who had been performing with Hot Tuna, first played with Jefferson Airplane. Creach (born John Henry Creach in Beaver Falls, PA, May 18, 1917; died February 22, 1994) was a journeyman musician decades older than any of the other members of Jefferson Airplane, and his recruitment was evidence of the ways in which the band’s approach was changing. An even more radical change was the departure of Marty Balin, who left the band at the end of the fall tour in November. (His resignation was formally announced in April 1971.)
Jefferson Airplane did not have a new album ready for release in 1970, and RCA filled the gap with a compilation, sarcastically dubbed The Worst of Jefferson Airplane and released in November. The album went gold quickly and was later certified platinum. Issued on its heels was Paul Kantner’s debut solo album, Blows Against the Empire, featuring most of the members of Jefferson Airplane as well as various other musical friends. Due to that long list of sidemen and the album’s science fiction theme about a group of hippies hijacking a spaceship, Kantner co-billed the disc to «Jefferson Starship.» As yet, there was no such entity, but Kantner would use the name for a real band later.
Having completed their recording commitment to RCA, Jefferson Airplane shopped for a new label, but was wooed back when RCA offered them their own imprint, Grunt Records. Grunt bowed with the release of the sixth Jefferson Airplane studio album, Bark, in August 1971. The album stopped just short of the Top Ten and quickly went gold. Covington, Casady, and Kaukonen’s «Pretty as You Feel,» later issued as a single, gave the band its final placing in the Hot 100 at number 60 early in 1972. Grunt issued albums by bandmembers including Creach and Hot Tuna, as well as discs by friends, but Jefferson Airplane remained its most successful act.
In the early ’70s, the members of Jefferson Airplane became increasingly preoccupied by their side projects. Hot Tuna, having issued a second live album, First Pull Up, Then Pull Down, in the spring of 1971, put out their first studio effort, Burgers, in February 1972. Kantner and Slick, who had become a couple and had a child, China Kantner (who went on to be an MTV VJ in her teens), issued a duo album, Sunfighter, in December 1971. In April 1972, Covington left the band and was replaced by veteran drummer John Barbata (born in Passaic, NJ, April 1, 1945), formerly a member of the Turtles and a backup musician for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The group then recorded its seventh studio album, Long John Silver, which was issued in the summer of 1972. It reached the Top 20 and went gold within six months. For the accompanying tour, they added singer/multi-instrumentalist David Freiberg (born in Boston, MA, August 24, 1938), formerly a member of the San Francisco rock band Quicksilver Messenger Service, to provide the male lead vocals formerly sung by Balin.
The tour concluded at the Winterland ballroom in San Francisco on September 22, 1972, in effect marking the end of Jefferson Airplane, although no formal announcement was ever made. Kaukonen and Casady went back to performing as Hot Tuna. Kantner, Slick, and Freiberg recorded a trio album, Baron von Tollbooth & the Chrome Nun, issued in the spring of 1973 and featuring the rest of Jefferson Airplane as side musicians. Slick’s debut solo album, Manhole, issued in early 1974, also featured many of the same performers. Kantner and Slick then organized a new band along the same lines as Jefferson Airplane, but without Kaukonen and Casady, and called it Jefferson Starship. Meanwhile, a second Jefferson Airplane live album drawn from the 1972 tour, Thirty Seconds Over Winterland, was issued in the spring of 1973. Early Flight, a collection of stray tracks, appeared in the spring of 1974. Grunt issued the compilation Flight Log (1966-1976) at the start of 1977, filling the two LPs with tracks by Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, and various other spinoff acts. 2400 Fulton Street: An Anthology, named after the address of a house owned by the band in the 1960s, was a two-disc set released in 1987. All of these albums sold well enough to reach the charts.
The various members of Jefferson Airplane went through various solo efforts and group affiliations in the 1970s and ’80s, plus considerable litigation with an old manager and each other. This was all cleared up by the late ’80s, however, and in 1989 Kantner, Slick, Kaukonen, and Casady (who, with manager Bill Thompson, still owned the rights to use the name Jefferson Airplane) brought in Balin (who had sold out his share in the group in 1971) and reunited as Jefferson Airplane for a tour and album. The tour, which ran from August 18 to October 7, was well received; the album, Jefferson Airplane, released by Epic Records, was only a modest success. After that, the band again became inactive. Slick retired. Kaukonen and Casady resumed performing as Hot Tuna. Kantner eventually resurrected the Jefferson Starship name, sometimes including Balin and even occasionally Slick, and playing Jefferson Airplane songs. RCA continued to release archival recordings, its most interesting issues being the 1992 box set Jefferson Airplane Loves You and the 1998 concert recording Live at the Fillmore East. On January 28, 2016, Kantner died of multiple organ failure in San Francisco at the age of 74 – the same day, and at the same age, that original Airplane singer Signe Anderson died at her home in Beaverton, Oregon.
Jefferson Airplane – Crown of Creation 
Crown of Creation is the fourth studio album by the San Francisco psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane, and was released in September 1968. It saw the band continuing their development of psychedelic music from their previous album, After Bathing at Baxter’s. The group had also been dabbling in electric rock with some references to science fiction in the lyrics. In most of their lyrics The Airplane expressed views regarding the hippie ethos, left-wing politics, and anti-war messages. For those reasons, they did not have a commercialized sound, and the singles the band released were not big hits. It would prove to be the pinnacle of The Airplane’s psychedelic experimentation, for their next studio album, Volunteers, explored more into country rock and hard rock.
Upon release, the album – while not the group’s best-selling work – was still a success and peaked at number six on the Billboard Pop Charts and was eventually certified gold. The opening single, «Greasy Heart», was released in April 1968 and became a modest hit on the Hot 100 chart. Even though the album brought the band back into the Top 10, it remains Jefferson Airplane’s most overlooked work.
Prior to recording, the group had their manager and promoter Bill Thompson purchase a large 20-room, three-story, home at 2400 Fulton Street near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco where the members would live communally. Costing $73,000, the home, known as «The Airplane» or simply «The Mansion» included a refurbished basement with a built-in recording studio. The band became a tight grouping and much of their composing began at their new headquarters. The combination of individuals continued the experimentation and visionary lyrical compositions that made them quintessential in the San Francisco psychedelic rock scene. Writing was generally equal between the group members as they all took part in one or more tracks. The band intended Crown of Creation to be their personal reflections on commercialism, crime, and coming of age in the face of the bohemian enclave assimilated with San Francisco during this period.
Recording took place in early 1968 well into the summer in RCA studios in which the band included distorted sound effects and guitar sections, and tracks enriched in overdubbing. Stylistically it was their most diverse album to date, taking everything the band had attempted previously and developing to that point. The Airplane included heavy-rock jams similar to their live act, and folk-rock compositions, a nod to their work on Surrealistic Pillow. Overall it was much more tightly structured than their previous effort. Track arrangements stand as complex and sophisticated further explaining why the band had no hit-ready singles. Several guest musicians were involved in the development of the album including David Crosby, Bill Goodwin, and Tim Davis. Jefferson Airplane was on a condensed schedule when considering their concerts and TV appearances. Sessions were completed in between their commitments, so recording was prolonged since they only had brief periods in which to work.
«Lather», a song written by Slick, was inspired by the occasion of drummer Spencer Dryden, whom she was having an affair with, turning 30. At the time, that was considered as old, and the song references the turning of age and the difficulties of aging in a youth culture. With the unfolding melody and chord progression, the young man is being pressured into the societal standards of growing older. Throughout, sound effects are dubbed in to coincide with a given lyric. For example, the line «commanding his own tank» is followed by the sound of a tank blast.
Following «Lather», is Paul Kantner’s/Marty Balin’s psychedelic-romance «In Time». The second track is soothing and is constructed around a dreamlike utopia with a profound sense of wonderment and innocence. Emotions are described with colors opening to a sensual environment. Vocals parallel the ambling bass line and echoing performed by Slick. This is also a prime example of the band’s vocal harmony. An acoustic guitar is used to create the most mellow of the album’s tracks.
The David Crosby-penned «Triad» is the only track not at least partly composed by an Airplane member. «Triad» was previously rejected for release by Crosby’s group The Byrds as being too risqué for its references to a three-way relationship. Slick’s interpretation of the acoustic ballad is sung confidently, disregarding any controversy within the lyrics. When Slick recorded «Triad», she sided with Crosby’s eventual departure from The Byrds stating «…This is 1968, what do you mean you don’t want me to play that? What is he saying that is bad? If two women want to live there, and he wants to live there, who cares? His band wouldn’t let him and, yeah, I’ll sing it!»
Jack Casady’s bass playing had been developed to the point of becoming one of the most distinctive sounds at his position. For the track «Star Track» Casady utilizes the wah-wah pedal and bass line with his hollow-bodied Guild Starfire to create a unique sound that goes hand in hand with the fast-paced vocals. «Star Track» features the most extensive interplay of instruments on the album. Chord ranges are borrowed by Gary Davis’s piece «Death Don’t Have No Mercy». It also, again, ponders the topics of love, life, and time. Much of the same concept goes into the development of the humorous «Share A Little Joke» track.
«Chushingura» ends the A-side and is the shortest of all the album’s tracks. It is a brief experimental electronic composition that contains no lyrics, but the fuzz distortion is highly associated with acid rock and the After Bathing At Baxter’s track «A Small Package of Value Will Come to You, Shortly». Although brief, «Chushingura» was pioneering in the way it was one of the first to attempt electronic music on a rock album.
The B-side of the album begins with a track reminiscent of the group’s folk rock compositions from their first two albums. «If You Feel» has another appearance of the wah-wah pedal that complements the vocals on the song. It calls the listener to love whenever and wherever one can and desires.
The title track and second single is one of Paul Kantner’s best-preserved anthems from the band. The song’s rhythm had been played by Kantner ever since his military school days and finally makes an appearance on the album. Its energy reflects the time period in which it was encased. The meaning is supposed to derive from life being created and destroyed through lengths of time, over and over again. Kantner took some phrases from the science-fiction novel The Chrysalids and slightly modified them for the composition. When asked in a 1996 interview regarding his use of other’s work, Kantner says «I have thousands of influences in literature and find it a turn on to leave a little thing like that for people to find…».
On «Ice Cream Phoenix», the group recorded something different compared to anything else they had performed. Slick’s profound vocals are evident on «Ice Cream Phoenix» which reflects on love and how much time one actually has to be able to love another. It expresses the desire to be accepted the way the individual is perceived and not be forced into changing. It is evident as one of the few tracks on the album to showcase the vocal harmonies and their range unlike on the others where the Airplane focuses on the complexity of their instrumentals.
The first single which was released prior to the album, «Greasy Heart» continues on a similar direction to the social commentary of «Ice Cream Phoenix», except in this instance the only vocals predominant are Slick’s. Slick’s lead performance is considered her best since the top ten hit «Somebody to Love». A piece about pretentious phonies and heavy use of makeup to hide one’s true self, Slick actually states the track reflects herself. What makes Slick’s performance dominant among the rest is how expertly she prolonged particular words like, for instance, «slow» on the line «he wants to sell his paintings, but the market is slow». Even the basic pronunciation of phrases like «automatic man» which, through its exaggeration, creates a memorable vocal by Slick.
Crown of Creation ends with «The House on Pooneil Corners», a dark, acidic piece mirroring the traumatic events of 1968, particularly the assassination Robert Kennedy, one of the few politicians The Airplane tolerated. This track holds similar themes to their previous album’s piece «The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil». Overall, with increased amplifiers and disorientating guitar riffs, «The House on Pooneil Corner» reiterated the dread and bleakness the band felt regarding conflicts of the period.
Crown of Creation was released in September 1968 to the United States on stereo as RCA LSP-4058 and on mono as RCA LPM-4058. It would be the last Jefferson Airplane album to be released in mono. The group continued to struggle on the singles charts. Slick’s composition and opening single, «Greasy Heart», stalled at number 98 on the Billboard Hot 100 after its release in April 1968. The single fell off the charts in three weeks. The album cover artwork featured the band members’ images duplicated in slightly different positions. In the background, there is a mushroom cloud from an atomic explosion courtesy of the USAF. Designing was produced by John Van Hamersveld in Los Angeles. Vinyl release included a «Brumus sheet», which offered song lyrics, and credits with an image of Robert Kennedy’s dog. The title track and second single, «Crown of Creation», fared better on the singles chart, but still only reached number 64. As for the album, chart wise, it was a success for the band as it marked a return into the Top 10, peaking at number six. Jefferson Airplane would continue the pattern of only faring well on album releases. Thanks to the then new FM Radio, the band received airplay for lengthier tracks and whole albums which kept them relevant, especially in the counterculture of the US.
Crown of Creation was released on compact disc on August 11, 2003. Four bonus tracks are included such as the Frank Zappa, Grace Slick cowritten track «Would You Like A Snack?». Other tracks include the mono single mix of «Share A Little Joke», the previously unreleased eight-minute song, «The Saga of Sydney Spacepig» and «Ribump Ba Bup Bup», which is a combination of noises, sound effects, and pop culture catch phrases. Along with the four bonus tracks is a hidden track called «Candy Man».
Allmusic 4/5 stars
Rolling Stone (neutral)
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. Lather Grace Slick 2:57
2. In Time Paul Kantner, Marty Balin 4:14
3. Triad David Crosby 4:55
4. Star Track Jorma Kaukonen 3:11
5. Share a Little Joke Balin 3:09
6. Chushingura (instrumental) Spencer Dryden 1:20
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. If You Feel Balin, Gary Blackman 3:21
2. Crown of Creation (lyric based on John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids) Kantner 2:54
3. Ice Cream Phoenix Kaukonen, Charles Cockey 3:02
4. Greasy Heart Slick 3:26
5. The House at Pooneil Corners Kantner, Balin 5:54
August 19, 2003 CD bonus tracks
No. Title Writer(s) Length
12. Ribump Ba Bap Dum Dum (instrumental) Dryden, William Goodwin 1:32
13. Would You Like a Snack? Frank Zappa, Slick 2:40
14. Share a Little Joke» (single version B-side RCA No 9496) Balin 3:09
15. The Saga of Sydney Spacepig Dryden 7:55
16. Candy Man (hidden track) Rev. Gary Davis 2:25
Marty Balin – vocals, rhythm guitar
Grace Slick – vocals, piano, organ
Paul Kantner – rhythm guitar, vocals
Jorma Kaukonen – lead guitar, electric chicken, vocals
Spencer Dryden – drums, piano, organ, steel balls, vocals
Jack Casady – Yggdrasil bass
∞ – percussion
Gary Blackman – nose solo
Charles Cockey – guitar, vocals
David Crosby – guitar
Tim Davis – congas
Bill Goodwin – talking drums
Dan Woody – bongos
Gene Twombly – sound effects
Al Schmitt – producer
Richie Schmitt – engineer
Maurice – 8-Track
Hiro – cover and back photo
USAF – bomb photo, sometimes attributed to the Hiroshima detonation, but is in fact one of the US desert testing explosions.
J. Van Hamersveld – album design, art direction
Bill Laudner – road manager
Chick Casady – equipment manager
Bill Thompson – manager
Released: September 1968
Recorded: February – June 1968 at RCA Victor Studios, Hollywood
Genre: Acid rock, psychedelic rock
Length: 38:23, 56:04 (2003 reissue)
Label: RCA Victor
Producer: Al Schmitt
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder
After Bathing at Baxter’s appeared ten months after their album, 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- but it made for a shattering finish to the album.
Jefferson Airplane – Crown Of Creation (Full Album)
1. Lather (2.55)
2. In Time (4.07)
3. Triad (4.54)
4. Star Track (3.09)
5. Share A Little Joke (3.04)
1. If You Fell (3.30)
2. Crown Of Creation ((2.52)
3. ice Cream Phoenix (2.59)
4. Greasy Heart (3.25)
5. The House At Poo Neil Corners (5.46)