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Microscope: Surrealistic Pillow (Jefferson Airplane)

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I want to do another Microscope, this time about the best record of one of my very favourite bands: Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane. Released in early 1967, between their Byrdish debut Jefferson Airplane Takes Off and the extra-acidified After Bathing At Baxter's, it has an equitative mixture of folk and acid rockers. Certainly one of the best pre-Sgt. Pepper's albums and in my opinion the best record that came out from the San Francisco scene.

She Has Funny Cars. A great opener, with a wonderful drumming intro by new drummer Spencer Dryden. Good use of fuzz bass, sounding almost like a car running. Fine vocals by Marty Balin and Grace Slick. The song ends with a short but magnificent acidified guitar solo.

Somebody To Love. One of the two hits of the album, and probably the most well known song of the band. Great lead vocal by Grace, no wonder why she's my favourite female singer (sorry Janis). Drums don't sound very inspiring, but maybe the song didn't need more. Jack Casady's bass is thunderous as usual and Jorma Kaukonen's lead guitar almost makes the song, especially at the end with another superb solo.

My Best Friend. This time a folkish song, written by the Airplane's ex-drummer Skip Spence (who had left the band and went to play guitar in Moby Grape). It's a nice tune and the performance is good as usual, but it never was one of my favourite songs.

Today. The great ballad of the album. It captures some of the best things of the band's debut album. Sweet tambourine. Love the ascending volume of the psychedelic drumming. A highlight.

Comin' Back To Me. The longest song of the album (5:24), and at first listen it may be pretty boring because of its slow melody and the absence of drums. But this is Balin's special moment in the album, with delicious flute and acoustic guitars.

3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds. Back to the acid rock sound again. I needed some time to dig this song, but now I really like it. Bass is awesome, Casady is up there with the best ones; and Kaukonen smokes on his guitar solo, he deserves much more credit than he usually gets.

D.C.B.A.-25. The only song 100% written by Paul Kantner, who at this point had a secondary role but later became the main songwriter of the band. Good bass intro, beautiful vocal duet of Paul and Grace, excellent guitar solo and suitable tambourine. I love this nice folk rocker.

How Do You Feel. The only cover of the album, another pleasant folk tune. Here we can hear the fine vocal harmonies of the band along with jangly guitars.

Embryonic Journey. This is just Kaukonen on acoustic guitars. A marvelous instrumental.

White Rabbit. The other hit of the album, written and sung by Grace. Lyrics are heavily inspired by "Alice in wonderland". The classic bass intro is like a fingerprint of the song. The song volume is constantly increasing, with those marching drums and ascending vocals. A classic 1960's song.

Plastic Fantastic Lover. A pretty funky song. Balin sings almost like rapping. Lead guitar is again very solid. A plastic fantastic closer.

Easily one of my Top 10 favourite albums. Highly recommendable for those who haven't listened to the band and much more accessible than their next records, which only fans like me seem to enjoy.

Great review, Hombre. I own this album but I haven't heard it yet. I am familiar with 'White Rabbit' and 'Somebody To Love' and I love them both. I'll give it a listen and I'll come back with opinions sometime on Monday, I think.

That's great 5th Beatle. If you enjoyed the Doors I think you will like this album; it also has a dark sound, but Jefferson Airplane had much more virtuosism than Jim & friends. Thanks for your response.

Great review. I'm embarrassed to admit that I dont own this one, but I was never knocked out by the stuff i've heard from them. Ironically, I love Jefferson Starship and own a bunch of stuff from them. Who would a thunk it?

Thanks tkitna. Wow! I can't stand Jefferson Starship at all, it's like the Beatles turning into Wings! ;D

Actually I didn't find many Beatles fans that really like Jefferson Airplane, don't know exactly why. I was very interested in their stuff since I listened to them for the first time on a Woodstock movie, but I can understand that some of their excesses annoys some music fans.


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