Top positive review
35 people found this helpful
White Rabbit Gets You There On Time
on 11 July 2004
This album really marked the start of the Jefferson Airplane, when they found their voice. True, they had already released Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, with such treasures as It's No Secret, Come Up The Years and Don't Slip Away. These featured the powerful folk rock vocals of Signe Tole Anderson and Marty Balin, but had been recorded back in late 1965 and the band were to find their métier as spokespersons for the psychedelic generation, not as electrified tambourine-bashing folkies, however good, and had been changing direction throughout the tumultuous social upheavals of 1966.
Signe Tole Anderson left the band to have a baby, performing her last gig with the band on 15 October 1966 at the Fillmore in San Francisco CA. The following night at the same venue new member Grace Slick stepped into her shoes, and on 31 October 1966, less than three weeks later, she went into the RCA Studios in Hollywood with the band to begin work on the album that became Surrealistic Pillow. When the sessions were completed on 22 November, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off was only just appearing in the shops but was already obsolete.
Grace Slick had been singer with the Great Society and came with two songs she used to perform with them. Someone To Love (written by her brother-in-law Darby Slick)was rearranged and reworked as Somebody To Love to become the first single taken from the album after its release, and a million-selling US Top Five hit. The other was its follow up, her own Carrollian ode, White Rabbit, another million seller. If Jefferson Airplane had never released anything but White Rabbit, their place in the hall of fame would be beyond doubt.
Both signified the direction their music was to take. However, Surrealistic Pillow is probably the most rounded of all the Airplane albums in terms of group members' contributions as it also features songs by Marty Balin, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen and ex-drummer Skip Spence. These included the surreal She Has Funny Cars, beautiful ballads like Today and Comin' Back To Me, the Donovan-esque protest song Plastic Fantastic Lover and the more psychedelically experimental DCBA-25 and 3/5ths Of A Mile In 10 Seconds. It also featured the magnificent virtuoso guitar instrumental Embryonic Journey, written by Jorma Kaukonen in 1962.
The bonus tracks are mostly outtakes from the album sessions and are all excellent. Additionally, there is a stray Lightnin' Hopkins cover arranged by Jorma Kaukonen, recorded in March 1967, the month after Surrealistic Pillow was first released; and the reverb-free mono single mixes of Somebody To Love and White Rabbit which some prefer.
This re-issue edition has been produced and mastered by Bob Irwin, who remastered the Byrds albums so successfully, although there has been some doubt as to whether he had access to the original multi-tracks. The sound is certainly superior to the 1987 German pressing I was familiar with, though the timings are consistently shorter by a couple of seconds than on that edition, suggesting some speed correction may have been made?
British purchasers wishing to replace ancient vinyl records should note that the original British album, released 7 months after the US version, dropped a couple of tracks in favour of older recordings from the first album, which RCA had never released here