Friday, October 29, 2010

Several Species Of Small Furry Thoughts- Fly Translove Airways

For their second installment of vintage live recordings, Collector’s Choice Live has unearthed four tremendous Jefferson Airplane concerts from four very different and pivotal periods in their career. Kicking off with original singer Signe Anderson’s final performance with the band, the October 15th, 1966 show at The Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco was the biggest surprise to me. I assumed that it would be the least interesting since I know the least about Anderson and there is so little stuff out there about her. Well the show is an emotional powerhouse as the band, the audience and even famously curmudgeon-like promoter Bill Graham all take turns making their feelings known to this singer. The little speech Marty Balin makes saying goodbye and her reaction that she is going to be a mother is a classic bit of 60’s nostalgia not to be missed. The band is tighter than expected and their repertoire is classic ballroom fare. The second release in the series comes the very next night as new singer Grace Slick doesn’t waste a minute in making her presence known. They perform a largely different set that shows Grace unafraid to get her feet wet with new material and comfortable singing with three other male lead singers. It bodes well that over the course of two sets you can hear her become more confident and the band responds by becoming more excited.

The third set skips ahead a month to two shows at the Fillmore that bring us a fully engaged Grace and a band that is really feeling their oats. Two full shows loaded with classics from the first two albums as well as a bonus couple of songs that were played at a late night photo session. The version of “The Other Side Of This Life” from the late session clocks in a almost 10 minutes and presents the Airplane in full flight. The final release is from February 1, 1968 and is a very special show the band was asked to play at the their old stomping grounds The Matrix. The Airplane had become much bigger than The Matrix (a small club) would indicate, but they good-naturedly loaded in to the club they used to own and proceed to tear the place down! The set now boasts material from the third album After Bathing At Baxter’s and even a couple of the not yet released Crown Of Creation songs and the presence of LSD is quite evident in their music as lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen lights up one solo after another with high-octane rocket fuel. The band is now a live musical beast on a par with their contemporaries The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service. The Airplane were always the best songwriters and singers but now their musical muscle is bursting Hulk-like out of their Bruce Banner sized clothes and it is something to hear. All four of these sets are fantastic recordings, and far surpass some of the dicier live Airplane releases of the last few years. The packages are beautifully illustrated with vintage photos of the band and informative liner notes. This is a great series.

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