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Jefferson Airplane - Surrealistic Pillow CD (album) cover


Jefferson Airplane



3.62 | 193 ratings

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3 stars "Surrealistic Pillow" is a trippy psychedelic album that bristles with kaleidoscopic lyrics and unusual time sigs, like mood swings that may occur under the influence. The main drawcard is the two quintessential Jefferson Airplane tracks, 'Somebody To Love' and 'White Rabbit'. However there are other songs on offer that are worthy of attention. There is the jaunty rhythmic 'She Has Funny Cars' with a pounding drum beat and jangly guitars driving it. The rocking '3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds' is terrific with strong harmonies and silver lined with simplistic guitar riffs. 'Plastic Fantastic Lover' is short burst of psych rock to close the album. Given the lyrics it is focussing on the "Space Age" where everything had to be modern, made of plastic, and computerised, hence the reference to "IBM", and the electron tube was replaced by the transistor, hence the references to the "TV program waste".

Grace Slick, formerly of the Great Society is a welcome addition to the lineup and remained with them for many years. This lineup is hyped as the most essential and it is hard to disagree once you hear Slick's powerhouse vocals. Jerry Garcia had some input as spiritual adviser (!) and it features some incredible bass playing from Jack Casady.

'Somebody To Love' is a grand excursion into passionate vocals and a melody that jams into your brain, and has haunted airwaves for decades. One has to admire the powerful vocals of Grace Slick who is a tour de force on this album. Once you hear 'White Rabbit' you will never forget that melody. It has a raga rhythm and psychedelic lyrics based on Alice in Wonderland; "one pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small, and the ones that mother gives you don't do anything at all, go ask Alice when she's ten feet tall." Other characters are drawn into the bizarre lyrics such as the "hookah smoking caterpillar" the white rabbit, the white knight who is "talking backwards", the red queen, who is "off her head", and the dormouse. One can take from the mushroom and acid soaked lyrics what they wish, but the final sentiment culminates with the enigmatic "Feed your head!" Perhaps this was the catch cry of the flower power movement. It is all captured in 2 and a half minutes, a perfect conceptual masterpiece. Even the way Slick sings in an Arabic Eastern lilt, along with the Bolero rhythm, is completely out of the box. The song simply stands alone in the canon of Haight Ashbury counterculture and psychedelia.

Certainly it is not a perfect album though, with dated sugar coated songs such as 'My Best Friend' that could be mistaken for something from The Partridge Family. I am no fan of the quieter moments on the album that are not sung by Grace such as 'Today', and 'Coming Back To Me', sung by Marty Balin. It is a real hit and miss affir for me, with moments of grandeaur and some moments that are dated and dreary. The album was groundbreaking in 1966, it rings with a distinct reverberation, a result of the large recording room's high ceilings at RCA studios, and the placement of the microphones. This is of course part of its charm. Nevertheless, despite all its flaws, "Surrealistic Pillow" has been touted as a milestone album and as a spawn of 1966, a year of change, pre-Woodstock era, it is a pillar of importance; and the best thing from Jefferson Airplane.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 3/5 |


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