Some months after 'After Bathing at Baxter's' - an often great but a bit indulgent acid-bath undermined by studio noodling and other experiments, Jefferson Airplane finally came down to earth...more or less. On this, their fourth album, JA was able to meld their full blown psychedelic sound with their commercial interests, and they put together an LP more like their second- listenable all the way through, with a number of songs that could or should have been hit singles.
Founder folk-rocker Marty Balin, missing in action for most of Baxters's, re-appeared, singing writing or co-writing some great songs. Vocalist Grace Slick, guitarists Paul Kantner and Jorma Kaukonen, bassist Jack Cassidy, and drummer Spence Dryden are all playing and singing better than ever.
Slick's odd and folky Lather- about the growing numbers of brain or otherwise damaged American youth?- and her meatier sounding Greasy Heart have her typically literate and surreal lyrics. On the group's tasteful arrangement of Triad ( David Crosby's folk-jazz ballad about free love and polygamy ) Grace's voice is controlled and expressive, and shows how good a singer she really was. And the first side of the original LP, opening with Lather, has a more mellow feel and works nicely as a chill-out antidote to what came next- the subsequent songs and lyrics are heavier stuff.
That side starts off happily enough with Balin's ode to freedom, If You Feel, fading in on little wah wah guitar licks, bouyed by Jack Cassidy's fluid electric bass. Next comes the title tune, Paul Kantner's blend of apocalyptic sci-fi and a youth revolution call to arms. The Jorma Kaukonen penned and sung Ice Cream Phoneix calms things down only a shade. Greasy Heart precedes the albums closer and highlight, the communally sung House at Pooneil Corners- more apocalyptic revolutionary sci-fi lyrics, and someway related to the band's folk hero Fred Neil. But the interplay of three or four strong vocalists, plus the stop and start changes and feedback guitars, were unlike anything by any American group at the time. They wail, and America wasn't quite ready for it, even on FM. How about you, now?
You will need the remastered version, but the bonus cuts are not up to par and diminish the effect of the original. Play side 2 first, at least sometimes.