Monday, 12 February 2018

"Jefferson Airplane Takes Off" 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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"...Let's Get Together..."

Some debut albums do literally 'take off' into the stratosphere - open up a whole new world of music - and Jefferson Airplane's August 1966 starter is one of those records. Under thirty-minutes all told - and 52-years on in 2018 - the San Francisco sound is still influencing and shaping today’s Rock.

Five guys and one gal - the six-piece were young and primed - ready to take on the world and the edginess of the music reflects this (at this stage they were fronted by Folk Singer Signe Toly Anderson who would be replaced with Grace Slick). They would pump out "Surrealistic Pillow" only months later (December 1966) and sell over a million albums of that monster breakthrough – itself followed by "After Bathing At Baxter’s" in December 1967 and the mighty "Crown Of Creation" in September 1968. Heady days indeed...

But here is where those creative engines began to roar. And despite the more famous and critically acclaimed platters that followed – I’d argue that its time to look back in affection at the beginnings of the ‘Jet Age Sound’. Let's get to the details of this rather cool digital doozy...

UK released September 2003 (July 2003 in the USA) - "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off" by JEFFERSON AIRPLANE on RCA/BMG Heritage 82876 50352 2 (Barcode 828765035224) is an Expanded Edition 'Original Masters' CD Reissue with Eight Bonus Tracks (two of which are Previously Unissued) and pans out as follows (61:57 minutes);

1. Blues From An Airplane [Side 1]
2. Let Me In
3. Bringing Me Down
4. It's No Secret
5. Tobacco Road
6. Come Up The Years [Side 2]
7. Run Around
8. Let's Get Together
9. Don't Slip Away
10. Chauffeur Blues
11. And I Like It
Tracks 1 to 11 are their debut album "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off" - released August 1966 in the USA on RCA Victor LPM-3584 (Mono) and LSP-3584 (Stereo) and October 1971 in the UK on RCA Victor SF 8195 (Stereo only). The STEREO Mix is used for this CD reissue.

BONUS TRACKS:
12. Runnin' 'Round The World (Mono Uncensored Single Version)
Track 12 first issued as the B-side to their February 1966 debut US 45 "It's No Secret" on RCA Victor 47-8769
13. High Flying Bird
14. It's Alright
Tracks 13 and 14 first appeared on the 1974 US compilation LP "Early Flight" on Grunt Records CYL1-0437 (recorded December 1965)
15. Go To Her (Early Version - Version 1)
Track 15 first appeared on the 1992 US 3CD Box Set compilation "Loves You" on RCA 61110-2
16. Let Me In (Original Uncensored Version)
17. Run Around (Original Uncensored Version)
18. Chauffeur Blues (Alternate Version - Previously Unissued)
19. And I Like It (Alternate version - Previously Unissued)

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE was:
MARTY BALIN – Lead Vocals
SIGNE TOLY ANDERSON - Vocals
JORMA KAUKONEN - Lead Guitars
PAUL KANTNER - Guitars and Vocals
JACK CASADY - Bass
ALEX 'SKIP' SPENCE - Drums 

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 and picture of a battered Master Tape box on Page 6 - you get several black and white and colour snaps of the sextet looking hip in varying dark-glasses, stripped shirts and flying jackets - carrying self-monikered guitar cases like they were the Second Coming. Cited as one 'the' great debut albums (they’d only been together a year) - Tamarkin makes a good case for that being so - even if the lack of initial US sales and a September 1966 chart debut at No. 208 reflected a not-so-together record label and an American Music Press still in its Pop Culture infancy ("Pet Sounds", "Blonde On Blonde" and "Revolver" were busy re-writing the musical landscape during that epoch-making year).

But the big news here is a BOB IRWIN Remaster from original tapes. As lovers of the band will know "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off" came out Stateside in three different variants in 1966 (Mono and Stereo LPs in all three cases). Using the Bonus Tracks provided (12, 16 and 17 specifically for the first two pressings) - this CD reissue will allow fans to sequence all three STEREO versions. Shame the Mono isn’t here but you can’t have it all. Speaking of aural delights - famously the album didn't arrive in the UK until October 1971 when RCA Victor put out only the 'RE' STEREO version (England never did get the Mono mix).

A bit about those variants. The first pressing had an 'uncensored' version of "Let Me In" as Track 2, an extra track at the end of Side 1 called "Runnin' Round The World" and an 'uncensored' version of "Run Around" over on Side 2. Both "Let Me In" and "Run Around" were deemed to have had racy and drug-orientated lyrics - so were dropped and re-recorded - finally appearing on Version No. 3.

Using this CD - you can sequence 'almost' all of the rare 12-track original 1st version in Stereo as follows:
Side 1: Tracks 1, 16, 3, 4, 5 and 12
Side 2: Tracks 6, 17, 8, 9, 10 and 11
Track 12 is unfortunately the "Mono Uncensored Single Version' and not the Stereo Cut but you get the picture

The second 11-track version drops "Runnin' Round The World" but still has the 'uncensored' "Let Me In" and "Run Around" - sequence as follows:
Side 1: Tracks 1, 16, 3, 4 and 5
Side 2: Tracks 6, 17, 8, 9, 10 and 11

The third and final 11-track version (used to this day) again doesn't have "Runnin' Round The World" but does have the re-recorded 'censored' versions of "Let Me In" and "Run Around" - sequenced as per Tracks 1 to 11 on the CD above

BOB IRWIN had a lot of his Audio Engineer plate when he stepped up to Remaster this most beloved of West Coast bands and right from the off - you can hear he did a bang-up job. The drums and guitars of "Blues From An Airplane" may be crudely panned across the speakers but man are they clear and what a great 'hey hey make me happy' opening salvo - even if they do sound too dangerously close to The Byrds. Balin and Kantner provide the edgy Monkees vibe of "Bringing Me Down" - a wicked 60ts raver - while they return to Byrds territory again with "It's No Secret" - a hooky little winner and easy to see why it was chosen as their debut 7" single.

John D. Loudermilk's "Tobacco Road" is one of those adaptable tunes Rock bands just can't leave alone. Originally issued in 1960 - Loudermilk's own '...my Mama died and Daddy got drunk...' version on Columbia Records wasn't a hit. But England's 'Nashville Teens' thought otherwise and charted it big in October 1964 (probably heard the Frank Ifield version in 1963). Alerted to its nasty little groove thereafter - the song became G-L-O-R-I-A unstoppable. Lou Rawls did a Soul cover of it (also in 1964) - Blues Magoos psyched it in 1966 – War and Eric Burdon funked it up in 1970 – pushing the song to a staggering thirteen and a half minute social workout. Hell even Dave Lee Roth of Van Halen had a go in 1986 (Dr. John voodoo big hair and all). But it's the Airplane's version that has that fabulous Sixties cool about it. I love it...

Side 2 opens with another Balin/Kantner shuffling ballad - "Come Up The Years" - a 'love me' and 'somebody help me before I fall apart' song - beautiful sound off the Remaster. For me "Run Around" is the first emergence of a distinctive Jefferson Airplane sound - Balin having enough of his girly's hands running around his brain. Chet Powers' gorgeous "Let's Get Together" is another adaptable beauty - come on people get together and love one another - Signe finally getting her moment to vocally shine (Chet Powers would later join Quicksilver Messenger Service).

The tragically fragile 'Skip' Spence gets his second contribution "Don't Slip Away" (the other is the album opener "Blues From An Airplane") - both co-written with Marty Balin and it's a melodic winner too. Memphis Minnie would probably have loved the Airplane's spirited cover of the song she made famous "Chauffeur Blues" (written by Lester Melrose). Given full-throated lead - Signe goes for it and wins. Lead Guitarist Jorma Kaukonen ends the album with his Balin co-write "And I Like It" - a fabulous Bluesy amble where the band already show that soon-to-be legendary obstinacy in the defiant lyrics. 

"...This is my time...this is my dream...and you know I like it..." - Paul Kantner sang on the whacking album closer with a conviction that spelt out their future. And man was he right...even if it did mean casualties and well as joy along that crazy flight path...

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