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I won't pretend to be an expert on Jefferson Airplane, undeniably one of the seminal musical groups and influences of the 1960s. I bought this album many years ago in order to get two fantastic songs: Somebody to Love and White Rabbit. At the time, Jefferson Airplane meant Grace Slick to me, so this compilation album of songs from the group's first six album releases provided me with quite a lesson in musical history. It also provided me with a number of great songs that display the true talent and depth of the group's music. I haven't run out to begin collecting the original albums themselves as of yet, but The Worst of Jefferson Airplane is certainly no stranger to my CD player still today.
The first two tracks, It's No Secret and Blues From an Airplane, are from the group's first album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off (September 1966). Kantner and Balin of course co-founded the group, but Grace Slick was not even yet a member, so these two songs have a different feel to them than the succeeding tracks. Musical maturity was achieved in remarkably short order by February 1967, which saw the release of the album Surrealistic Pillow. This album features two standouts tracks that will be played on radio stations from now until the end of time: the edgy, hard-driving Somebody to Love and the psychedelic masterpiece White Rabbit. Grace Slick made an instant splash with these two timeless tracks (the second of which she wrote herself), but this album showed that Jefferson Airplane was far more talented and diverse than its new female vocalist. The song Today, a Balin-Kantner creation, is really quite a beautiful love song that retains a vibrant 1960s spirit, while Embryonic Journey is a short but rich instrumental that further complements the group's heavier rocking strengths. A few months after the end of the Summer of Love, in December 1967, Jefferson Airplane released the album After Bathing at Baxter's. Two somewhat mellow pieces from the pen of Kantner, Martha and The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil, are included for our musical enjoyment here.
Crown of Creation was released in September 1968. The title track is perhaps more a product of its time than most Jefferson Airplane tracks because I just can't really connect with this song. The short instrumental Crushingura also remains a mystery to me personally. Then there is Lather, featuring Grace Slick on lead vocals. I love Lather; it seems to betoken the start of the inevitable transition of the young generation of the 1960s to the future, encapsulated most brilliantly in the lines wherein Lather, on his 30th birthday, asks "Is it true that I'm no longer young?" and an almost mournful Slick laments that "I should have told him no, you're not old." On the day I turned 30, I set aside a special moment to listen to this song in an almost reverential way. Of course, the band was by no means going soft, as proven on Plastic Fantastic Lover, the sole track included here from the February 1969 live album Bless Its Pointed Little Head. The passage of time does seem to bear influence on the sixth album sampled on this collection. From November 1969's Volunteers, we are treated to what can be equated to a slow gospel song in Good Shepherd. We Can Be Together, the longest song on the album by far, seems to mark a change in vision on the part of the 60s generation looking the 1970s right in the eye; proud of what they have done, they make the point that everyone should stop fighting and come together to make the world a better place. No one who hears the track Volunteers can doubt their determination to pursue this goal.
All in all, The Worst of Jefferson Airplane makes for an excellent introduction to one of the 1960's most important musical groups. I cannot say whether it truly represents the ideas and sounds from the group's formative years because I am not acquainted with the entire scope of their work at the time, but I do know that this is a compilation album that not only harnesses some great music from a golden era in rock and roll, it also seems to convey at least a little bit of the optimism and ideals of the generation of young people who came of age during that dramatic era in American history.
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For thoses still in love with the classics of the sixties ( and most of us from then were not too spaced out then , or senile now , to remember it) , this is an original classic , somewhat rare now outside the US
This CD is from a double album vinyl released in 1970 and has the advantage of selecting 15 tracks from all 6 of of JA's original and main main albums in order. The CD uses the original vinyl album art.
With collections there will always be something missing - others may correct me as to what they feel was essential. The recorded sound is still good but you may have to wind up the volume somewhat.
There is a more modern "Best of Jefferson Airplane " with some 21 tracks (compiled 1996/2001 by BMG) but the original albums are not cross referenced. Of course completists may want to rely on the original albums - certainly " Surrealistic pillow" and maybe " After bathing at Baxters" could be investigated
Otherwise this is a good historical album which charts the development of the group until they re-emerged as Jefferson Starship ( check out "Red Octopus") and will serve as an excellent introduction to the group and its music.Other reviewers go into more detail as to individual tracks - check them out.
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on 19 June 2004
I first heard this album while i was a Kibbutz volunteer out in Israel in 1989. one of the Kibbutzniks played it for me, well I loved it, the track, Volunteers really meant something to me but the one that got me was of course White Rabbit the lyrics, Grace Slicks' voice everything there are so many memories attached to this album that i will always rate this as a favourite, I realise that this wasn't supposed to be a personal review but I only had this album on tape that my dear Kibbutznik friend (Mikey) taped for me all those years ago, so to finally get it on cd is just great, I can be 20 yrs old again and remember a great time in my life while listening to The Worst Of.........
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