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#146 – Surrealistic Pillow (Jefferson Airplane)

In 150-125, Top 150 on April 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm

 

Album Art for Surrealistic Pillow, Jefferson Airplane‘s 1967 release.

Surrealistic Pillow is the album that brought Jefferson Airplane into international eyes and really helped the band take-off, from my understanding. Marty Balin, the band’s founder, had a desire to combine elements of The Beatles’ brit-rock influence with a more folk sound. The result of this desire was Jefferson Airplane, and their second album was Surrealistic Pillow, a 60s-70s flower-power, psychadelic, folk-rock album that has a few standout points and a few really recognizable tracks.

Side One

  1. She Has Funny Cars
  2. Somebody to Love
  3. My Best Friend
  4. Today
  5. Comin’ Back To Me

Side Two

  1. 3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds
  2. D.C.B.A. – 25
  3. How Do You Feel
  4. Embyronic Journey
  5. White Rabbit
  6. Plastic Fantastic Lover

For reference, I’ve been listening to albums a few times as background music, and a few times just listening to the lyrics and instruments. I’ve also been researching some basic information through Google and Wikipedia, to get some kind of understanding of the situation surrounding the release of different albums. I’ve also been checking out lyrics online.

As I mentioned, there are a few really recognizable tracks on this album that most people (including myself) would recognize, even if you didn’t realize you were listening to Jefferson Airplane (exhibit A, me). “Somebody to Love” and “How Do You Feel” both are familiar tracks. Oh, and “My Best Friend”.

Throughout this whole album, I definitely can hear that West-coast U.S.A., San Francisco free-spirited rock sound in this album. Especially in “My Best Friend”. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album, actually. I love the transition from verse to chorus, and the great vocals to back it up. This is just a really great, laid back tune that shows off how tight they play together.

Now at this point, I’m not sure what else to write. Listening to this album, once again, I guess I can hear why this is an iconic album. Like I’ve already mentioned, its got that sort of flower-power, San Fran sound that combines a more rootsy, folk sound with some great rock elements. I’m not sitting here listening to this album thinking “WOW, I LOVE THESE TRACKS”, but I definitely appreciate the significance of them in the evolution of music over the last 60 years. (Oh, I should mention that “Embryonic Journey” just came on as I’m writing this, and that’s definitely a track that stands out to me on this album. Funny, but true. It’s a really beautiful guitar track with a great sense of clarity from start to finish. It kind of feels like a 2-minute breath of pure, fresh air. I love it.)

In my research, I found that “White Rabbit” was one of two singles off this album that did really well. The other was “Somebody to Love”. I didn’t love White Rabbit actually, but I loved the album-ender, “Plastic Fantastic Lover” and how the lyrics forever place this album at the beginning of the personal computer era.

Interestingly enough, Jefferson Airplane only played together for about 6 years, and played their last gig in ’72. There were other bands that formed after, including Jefferson Starship and just Starship. Still, the original band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. That’s a pretty big accomplishment for a band that only last 6 years. Very cool.

Have a listen to this album. I think you’ll enjoy it. Or at least most of it.

#148 – Deja Vu (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)

In 150-125, Top 150 on March 21, 2011 at 2:58 pm
Cover of "Deja Vu"

Cover of Deja Vu

So here’s the interesting thing about this project for me so far, aside from listening to all this great music, clearly.

First off, I’m moving through the albums much slower than I anticipated. I’m only on 147! What the deuce!? But to be honest, I’m okay with that. Although right now I’ve listened to one album and written something about once per month. At that rate, it will take me 12 years and 2 months to finish this project. I should probably pick up the pace, eh? Alas. I will go as I please and enjoy.

So number 147…here we are!

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I am loving this project already so much because I am making a ton of connections with different bands and understanding so much about the development and restructuring of different artists and groups, and how it leads to other groups and legendary records. Very cool. For one (and I feel ridiculous saying this), I had no CLUE that “Young” in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young is Neil Young. What the hell!? How did I miss that! Wild. Anyway, now I do. So long story short, The four members of this group decided to use their last names to identify their group for a few reasons. One, to keep identification with their own individuality, and make sure that people knew them as their own artist as well. And the second (which is partially what caused the first reason) is that two members of the band were part of The Byrds and The Hollies, and when they left their respective groups, the bands continued performing without them. So to use CSNY to identify themselves meant that if one of them left (which, of course, did happen later on down the road) then they were still always known by the names of the musicians in the band. Makes sense to me!

My immediate thought when I put on this album is Flower Power! This has got such a 60s-70s rock sound to it, whatever that means. I guess lots of raging, experimental, sometimes ethereal rock-guitar riffs mixed with exasperated vocals. And that early classic-rock effect on the guitar. I have no clue what it is, but its so distinct.

The vocal harmonies on this album definitely stick out as well. But how could they not, I guess. Especially after listening to the Springsteen album (OH GOD, here he goes again, talking about how much he hates The Boss).

Side note: I was running yesterday and a Springsteen song came on my iPod, and I actually thought to myself, “You know, this Bruce Springsteen guy is growing on me”. So there.

Here’s the track listing for this radical album called Deja Vu, released in March 1970 (after their second-ever live performance at the infamous Woodstock festival).

Side One

  1. Carry On
  2. Teach Your Children
  3. Almost Cut My Hair
  4. Helpless
  5. Woodstock

Side Two

  1. Deja Vu
  2. Our House
  3. 4+20
  4. Country Girl: Whiskey Boot Hill, Down, Down, Down, Country Girl (I Think You’re Pretty)
  5. Everybody I Love

When I first listened to this album, I remember a friend here on Jeju wrote me a message on Facebook and said something along the lines of “This is my favourite album!” and I was, admittedly, a bit shocked. I didn’t appreciate this album nearly enough. The more I’ve listened to this disc, the more I appreciate CSNY.

Favourite tracks? Carry On, Teach Your Children, Woodstock, Our House, Everybody I Love You. I don’t know why, to be honest. But they’re great.

Track One, Carry On. There’s a great intro to this album at the beginning of this track. The guitar sets a driving beat and adds momentum to the track, and then 10 seconds in, the great vocals start. The recording sounds really controlled and precise, which I love about it as well. I don’t want to say constrained, because I don’t think it is, but its almost as if the first track is a teaser for something bigger and better to come.  And I would say that the first side of the album ends a bit grittier, a bit more relaxed, and more wild with “Woodstock” (Track 5).

So overall: new appreciation for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, definitely. And its awesome! I’m loving all these connections I’m making while I listen to these albums. This is exactly what I wanted to get out of this experience, so I’m pretty pleased.

Onwards to the next album!!


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