Sweeping Up the Spotlight: Jefferson Airplane Live at the Fillmore East 1969
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Performer: Jefferson Airplane
Distributor: Sony BMG
Notes: Jefferson Airplane were less focused in 1969 than they had been in the Summer of Love two years before. Recorded at the Fillmore East, these performances find the Airplane coming off their most recent album, Volunteers, released a month earlier, with the band a lot looser (drug use aside) and fractured. The factions in the group were presenting themselves during performances, and this set is no exception. Guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady connected and jammed like they would have been just as content without the vocals getting in the way, Grace Slick and Paul Kantner combined their voices and played off each other, while Marty Balin screamed and crammed lyrics together, leaving little space for anyone else. During this era, harmonizing seemed out of the question, especially when the older tracks, like "Plastic Fantastic Lover," were being played at warp speed. Slick and Balin mainly yell over each other, a combination of clashing personalities and competition with the sheer volume of the instruments. In the era of Cream and Hendrix, the Airplane had become entwined with jazz-influenced improvisation and the distorted, electric end of the blues; the softer, folkie side of the band was nowhere to be found. For what the Airplane were doing at the time, there's no doubt that this was exciting and adventurous music, albeit without the intimate yin to the blazing yang. Collectors will want to pick up this set, at the very least, for the inclusion of the rarely heard "Uncle Sam Blues," "You Wear Your Dresses Too Short," and "Come Back Baby." ~ Al Campbell
One of the quintessential San Francisco psychedelic bands, the Jefferson Airplane brought together interests in acoustic blues, folk, and rock music. Add political topicality and modal improvisations, and you have an inspired, mind-bending sound that could have only sprung forth from the late '60s. In their initial, most beloved phase, they were powered by the powerful dual lead vocals of Grace Slick and Marty Balin and the serpentine guitar of Jorma Kaukonen. They went through a traumatic series of personnel and name changes over the decades (they ventured into commercial AOR in the late '70s and early '80s) but their early work retains its seminal power.
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