[Review] Jefferson Airplane Takes Off (1966)

Marty Balin is your captain, Signe Anderson is your air hostess, and it’s blues skies ahead for thirty minutes. Next stop, San Frantastic.

Kronomyth 1.0: Into the blues.

Folk music was fueling a psychedelic revolution that produced an exciting new sound but few viable heroes for rock and rollers. The Byrds seemed poised to bring rock fans with them into the psychedelic era, then quickly turned into a country/rock band. The Mamas and The Papas were little more than a hip version of Peter, Paul and Mary. Sonny and Cher were, well, Sonny and Cher. Then Jefferson Airplane arrived on the horizon. Here was an actual psychedelic rock band. They played the blues, jammed their two- and thee-minute sounds with creative instrumentation and had one of the best bass guitarists this side of the Atlantic in Jack Casady. (He and Jack Bruce were a pair of Jacks for the ages.)

Marty Balin, the Airplane’s original captain, wisely salvaged the best parts of the psychedelic scene (ringing guitars, male/female vocal harmonies, free love imagery) and fit it with a powerful blues/rock engine led by Casady, Kaukonen and Kantner. In a sense, Jefferson Airplane was to the psychedelic scene what The Rolling Stones were to The Beatles: a guerilla force that liberated its beloved music from the machine and returned it to the masses.

Their debut, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, is an amazing debut. Every song seems essential, every drop is received like manna in a new world of sound. Of course, everything would change in a year or two, and the heights reached here would be eclipsed by “White Rabbit,” Cream, The Velvet Underground, etc. Grace Slick would expand the role originally played by Signe Anderson and the songs became longer, more experimental and more controversial. Compared to their later albums, songs like “It’s No Secret,” “Blues From An Airplane” and “Come Up The Years” have a certain innocence to them. At the time, however, this was radical and revolutionary stuff, which just goes to show how fast music was evolving in the second half of the 60s.

Read more Jefferson Airplane reviews

Original LP Version

A1. Blues From An Airplane (Marty Balin/Alex Spence) (2:10)
A2. Let Me In (Marty Balin/Paul Kantner) (2:55)
A3. Bringing Me Down (Marty Balin/Paul Kantner) (2:22)
A4. It’s No Secret (Marty Balin) (2:37)
A5. Tobacco Road (Clay Warnick) (3:26)
B1. Come Up The Years (Marty Balin/Paul Kantner) (2:30)
B2. Run Around (Marty Balin/Paul Kantner) (2:35)
B3. Let’s Get Together (Chet Powers) (3:32)
B4. Don’t Slip Away (Marty Balin/Alex Spence) (2:31)
B5. Chauffeur Blues (Lester Melrose) (2:25)
B6. And I Like It (Marty Balin/Jorma Kaukonen) (3:16)

Expanded CD reissue bonus tracks
12. Running ‘Round This World
13. High Flying Bird
14. It’s Alright
15. Go To Her (early version)
16. Let Me In (original uncensored version)
17. Run Around (original uncensored version)
18. Chauffeur Blues (alternate version)
19. And I Like It (alternate version)

The Players

Signe Toly Anderson (vocals), Marty Balin (leader and singer), Jack Casady (bass), Paul Kantner (rhythm guitar and vocal), Jorma Ludwik Kaukonen (solo guitar), Alex (Skip) Spence (drums). Produced by Matthew Katz and Tommy Oliver; recording engineered by Dave Hassinger.

The Plastic

Released on mono and stereo elpee on August 15, 1966 in the US (RCA Victor, LPM/LSP-3584 RE).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1969 in the US (RCA, LSP-3584) {orange label}.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1974 in Germany (RCA, PJL 1-8017) with different cover.
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1978 in Japan (RCA, PG-101) with lyric insert.
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1980 in the US (RCA, AYL1-3739) {Best Buy Series}.
  5. Re-released on remastered compact disc and cassette in 1989 in the US (RCA, 3584-2/4).
  6. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2003 in the US (BMG Heritage, 0137-2).
  7. Re-issued on mono elpee in 2005 in the US (Sundazed, LP 5186).
  8. Re-issued on compact disc on July 20, 2005 in Japan (BMG, BVCM-37624).
  9. Re-released on 180g blue vinyl elpee in 2015 in the US (Friday Music, FRM-3584).

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