Tuesday, 13 February 2018

"Crown Of Creation" by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE (2003 RCA/BMG Heritage 'Original Masters' Expanded Edition CD Reissue - Bob Irwin Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Pictures Of Mountains..."

Like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones – musically Jefferson Airplane grew in staggering leaps and bounds in the mid to late Sixties. The songwriting difference between their rather cutesy Byrds-like debut "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off" in August 1966 and their fourth platter "Crown Of Creation" delivered in September 1968 is frankly breathtaking. It was rightly revered back in the day and still is now.

They really did live up to that space-age-music moniker foisted on them by RCA Records on the rear cover of their 1966 debut album – here comes the 'Jet Age Sound'. Let's get to the details of this digital doozy...

UK and USA released August 2003 - "Crown Of Creation" by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE on RCA/BMG Heritage 82876 53226 2 (Barcode 828765322621) is an Expanded Edition 'Original Masters' CD Reissue with Four Bonus Tracks (one of which is Previously Unissued) and pans out as follows (50:22 minutes);

1. Lather [Side 1]
2. In Time
3. Triad
4. Star Struck
5. Share A Little Joke
6. Chushingura
7. If You Feel [Side 2]
8. Crown Of Creation
9. Ice Cream Phoenix
10. Greasy Heart
11. The House Of Pooneil Corners
Tracks 1 to 11 are their fourth studio album "Crown Of Creation" - released September 1968 in the USA on RCA Victor LSP-4058 (Stereo-Only) and December 1968 in the UK on RCA Victor RD 7976 (Mono) and SF 7976 (Stereo). The STEREO Mix is used for this CD reissue.

12. Ribump Ba Bap Dum Dum
13. Would You Like A Snack
Tracks 12 and 13 first appeared on the 1992 US 3CD Box Set compilation "Loves You" on RCA 61110-2. "Would You Like A Snack" is a co-write between Grace Slick and Frank Zappa
14. Share A Little Joke (With The World) (Mono Single Mix)
Track 14 is the B-side of the US 7” single to "Greasy Heart" released March 1968 on RCA Victor 47-9496
15. The Saga Of Sydney Spacepig – Previously Unreleased (7-minute Spencer Dryden song recorded May 1968)

MARTY BALIN – Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar
GRACE SLICK – Lead Vocals, Organ and Piano
JORMA KAUKONEN - Lead Guitars and Vocals
PAUL KANTNER – Rhythm Guitars and Vocals
SPENCER DRYDEN – Drums, Vocals, Piano, Organ and Percussion

The 12-page liner notes are courtesy of band-expert and uber-fan JEFF TAMARKIN who authored "Got A Revolution! The Turbulent Flight Of Jefferson Airplane" issued on Atria Books the same year as the CD reissues (2003). Amidst the text you get several black and white and colour snaps of the sextet looking hip in varying shades, beany hats and pudding-bowl haircuts (the six-plate photo in the centre two-pages is very cool).

But a major disappointment and laziness is that the inner lyric sheet that came with original US LPs with the picture of a contented looking Brumus on the front is missing. Robert Kennedy’s dog Brumus (the band hung out with such luminaries) was supposed to counter the Hiroshima Atom Bomb photo on the front and rear of the album – a sort of a nod towards easy-going peacefulness if you want it. And of course the lyrics are missing too as is that Inner Bag advertising their other audio wares (I want a complete RCA Victor Catalog for 25c). Bit of a bummer that...

Grace Slick, Marty Balin and Kaukonen all get quotes in the text – Grace a 27-year old model at the time and a huge out-front focus for such a radical band. As the songs had way more depth lyrically that the boy-girl slots on the debut – age (turning 30), politics (Vietnam) and coping with life and fame all seep into view. It’s a good read and an enlightening one too.

But the big news here is a BOB IRWIN Remaster from original tapes. Listening to brilliant tunes like the sophisticated and beautiful "Lather", the San Francisco Sound of multi-voiced cool in "Ice Cream Phoenix", the heavy-guitars social-commentary of "The House Of Pooneil Corner", the put-your-lips-close-to-my-face sweetness of "In Time" or even their fabulous take on David Crosby’s ethereal "Triad" – the album is a virtual showcase for what happens when a band is allowed to go for it – allowed to grow. Irwin had a lot of his Audio Engineer plate when he stepped up to Remaster this most beloved of West Coast bands and especially this album and right from the off - you can hear he did a bang-up job. "Lather" sounds fantastic and it just doesn’t let up from there on in.

Other moments include is the jabbing guitar of "If You Feel" where you can’t work out if the "...feel like laughing...feel like love..." lyrics are an invitation or a sly slag off. Kantner’s "Crown Of Creation" tells the youth to believe in themselves. The Bonus "Ribump Ba Bap Dum Dum" turns out to one and half minutes of the band goofing off on silly words and even with a great drum sound is a bit of nonsense. "Would You Like A Snack" sounds like Grace fronting The Mothers Of Invention and is again hard to take in that Trout Mask Replica kind of a way. The 10:25 minutes of the Previously Unreleased "The Saga Of Sydney Spacepig” Is a sprawl of guitars, band jamming and rants at the CIA and is probably the Plane at their wildest. Nice one baby...

"...You are afraid...embarrassed too...no one has ever said such a thing to you...you cannot do that...it breaks all the rules..." – Grace Slick sang on the quietly hurtful "Triad" wondering what can we do – why can’t life be simple –how do we navigate relationships and the heart. Although it was someone else’s song (David Crosby) – it’s words somehow sum up the turmoil and beauty that was this great American band. Buy and enjoy (and it's cheap too)...

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