Flying High. And I Mean Really High.
The Airplane continued to fly into the outer fringes of rock with the psychedelic masterpiece, After Bathing At Baxter’s. Presented as a series of themed sections (e.g., Streetmasse, The War Is Over, etc.), the songs were actually written over several months and likely conceived as individual acid trips (“bathing” is a code word for tripping). Although not as accessible as their last album—nothing here has the immediacy of a “White Rabbit” or “Somebody To Love”—the album contains some indelible moments of music: “The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil,” “Martha,” “Watch Her Ride,” “Two Heads.” I get the sense that Kantner and Slick were actively hijacking the Airplane at this stage, steering it into higher altitudes of consciousness. Balin is merely a passenger, present on vocals but contributing only one track (albeit a good one), “Young Girl Sunday Blues.” A second song written by Balin during this period, “Things Are Better In The East,” reveals him to be the straight man in a band of kooks. Whether it was mutiny or mutation, the Airplane quickly became something bigger than Balin first imagined, from psychedelic balladeers to psychedelic pioneers. When it was released, Baxter’s was at the edge of progressive music, making heavy use of distortion, stream-of-consciousness and other advanced studio techniques, for which producer Al Schmitt was along for the ride, not an architect. If you were to make the case for Jefferson Airplane as a progressive rock band (and it would be a short argument relegated to a few albums), After Bathing At Baxter’s would be Exhibit A. It is an album that rewards repeated listenings and (presumably) altered states, with rich lyrical imagery to mine for meaning, particularly from Grace Slick. Like I said, it doesn’t have a readymade hit on which to hang your hat, but there’s enough mind candy here to occupy two heads.
Original LP Version
A1. The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil (Paul Kantner) (4:30)
A2. A Small Package of Value Will Come To You, Shortly (Spencer Dryden/Gary Blackman/Bill Thompson) (1:42)
A3. Young Girl Sunday Blues (Marty Balin/Paul Kantner) (3:30)
The War Is Over
A4. Martha (Paul Kantner) (3:26)
A5. Wild Tyme (H) (Paul Kantner) (3:08)
Hymn To An Older Generation
A6. The Last Wall of the Castle (Jorma Kaukonen) (2:44)
A7. rejoyce (Grace Slick) (3:59)
How Suite It Is
B1. Watch Her Ride (Paul Kantner) (3:12)
B2. Spare Chaynge (Jack Casady/Spencer Dryden/Jorma Kaukonen) (9:10)
Shizoforest Love Suite
B3. Two Heads (Grace Slick) (3:10)
B4. Won’t You Try (Paul Kantner) / Saturday Afternoon (Paul Kantner) (5:08)
CD reissue bonus tracks
12. The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil (live—long version)
13. Martha (mono single version)
14. Two Heads (alternate version)
15. Things Are Better In The East (demo version)
Marty Balin (rhythm guitar, vocals), Jack Casady (bass), Spencer Dryden (drums, percussion, horn arrangement), Paul Kantner (rhythm guitar, vocals), Jorma Kaukonen (lead guitar, sitar, vocals), Grace Slick (piano, organ, recorder, vocals) with Gary Blackman (vocals), Bill Thompson (vocals). Produced by Al Schmitt; engineered by Richie Schmitt.
Album cover by Ron Cobb. Photography by Alan Pappe.
The Plastic Fantastic
Released on mono & stereo elpee on November 27, 1967 in the US (RCA Victor, LOP/LSO-1511) and the UK (RCA Victor, RD 7926) with gatefold cover. UK version features unique cover variation. Re-issued on elpee in the US (RCA, LSP-4545 on orange dynaflex label), in 1970 in the UK (RCA, SF 7926 on orange label) and Germany (RCA, LSP-4545) with gatefold cover. UK and German versions feature unique cover variations. Re-issued on elpee in the US (RCA, AFL1-4545 on black label) and in the US (RCA, AYL1-4718 on black dynaflex label) and Germany (RCA, NL 84718). Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1989 in the US (RCA, 4545-2-R). Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2003 in the US (BMG Heritage) and Japan (BMG, BVCM-37626) with four bonus tracks. Re-issued on 180g vinyl & 180g red vinyl mono elpee in 2005 in the US (Sundazed, LP 5187) and in 2014 in the US (Music on Vinyl, MOVLP1317) with gatefold cover.