THE BAD NEWS: By stopping at album #4, they missed the Airplane's classic live album, Bless Its Pointed Little Head and their best album (in my opinion), Volunteers. Hopefully, those two (and more) will still be coming.
Overall, these are terrific sounding reissues with a nice selection of bonus tracks. Essential for any Airplane fan.
Jefferson Airplane Takes Off
Takes Off is a solid debut that only really hints at what's to come. The harmonies between Marty Balin, Paul Kantner and Signe Anderson are a high point, but nowhere near as powerful as they would be when Grace Slick joined the band. If you've never heard this before, it'll surprise you a bit that it's Jefferson Airplane. It's a very good folk-rock album, but this is before the Airplane found its real sound. For fans only.
tracks: "Blues From An Airplane", "Let Me In", "Bringing Me Down", "It's No Secret", "Tobacco Road", "Come Up The Years", "Run Around", "Let's Get Together", "Don't Slip Away", "Chauffeur Blues", "And I Like It"
bonus tracks: "Runnin' 'Round This World", "High Flyin' Bird", "It's Alright", "Go To Her" [Version One], "Let Me In" [Original Uncensored Verison], "Run Around" [Original Uncensored Verison], "Chauffeur Blues" [Original Uncensored Verison], "And I Like It" [Alternate Version]
When Signe Anderson left the group, I doubt anyone realized that her replacement would push the band up the charts. Grace Slick brought a powerful voice, a commanding stage presence, and two classic songs: "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit", both originally recorded by Grace's old band, The Great Society. Those two are easily the band's best-known songs, but there's much more on this album. Marty balin's Ballad "Today" and Jorma Kaukonen's beautiful guitar piece "Embryonic Journey" show off the band's softer side, and "Plastic Fantastic Lover" and "She Has Funny Cars" show the band's rock and roll side. The band's first great album.
tracks: "She Has Funny Cars", "Somebody To Love", "My Best Friend", "Today", "Comin' Back To Me", "3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds", "D.C.B.A. - 25", "How Do You Feel", "Embryonic Journey", "White Rabbit", "Plastic Fantastic Lover"
bonus tracks: "In The Morning", "J.P.P. McStep B. Blues", "Go To Her" [Version Two], "Come Back Baby", "Somebody To Love" [Mono Single Version], "White Rabbit" [Mono Single Version]
After Bathing At Baxter's
Encouraged by the success of Surrealistic Pillow, the Airplane went the indulgent route and recorded the experimental, rambling After Bathing At Baxter's. It hasn't always been a critical favorite, but I love this album. "Won't You Try / Saturday Afternoon", "Martha", and "The Ballad Of You & Me & Pooneil" rank with anything in the band's catalog and the rest of the album holds up just as well. There a little bizarro tracks on here like "A Small Package Of Value Will Come To You Shortly" and "Spare Chaynge", but they don't distract from the power of the real songs. Indulgent, gutsy, and brilliant. Not the best starting point for newcomers, but once you're hooked, get this one quick.
The "alternate version" of "The Ballad Of You & Me & Pooneil" is the 13-minute "full" version from the old Jefferson Airplane Loves You box. Fantastic.
tracks: "The Ballad Of You & Me & Pooneil", "A Small Package Of Value Will Come To You Shortly", "Young Girl Sunday Blues", "Martha", "Wild Tyme (H)", "The Last Wall Of The Castle", "rejoyce", "Watch Her Ride", "Spare Chaynge", "Two Heads", "Won't You Try / Saturday Afternoon"
bonus tracks: "The Ballad Of You & Me & Pooneil" [Alternate Version], "Martha" [Mono Single Version], "Two Heads" [Alternate Version], "Things Are Better In The East" [Demo]
Crown Of Creation
On Crown Of Creation the band harnessed the innovations from Baxter's and reeled in the indulgencies and came up with a more solid (but tamer) album. "Lather" and "Crown Of Creation" are the most immediately catchy, but the rest of the album is terrific top to bottom. "Triad", a tale of ménage à trois written by David Crosby (and rejected by The Byrds) gets a powerful reading by Grace Slick, and "The House At Pooneil Corners" is a nice followup to the Baxter's opener. The first two bonus tracks reveal some more experimentation. They're interesting, but wisely left off the album. The second, "Would You Like A Snack?" is a unlikely collaboration between Grace Slick and Frank Zappa. Along with Volunteers, this is probably the best introduction to the Airplane.
tracks: "Lather", "In Time", "Triad", "Star Track", "Share A Little Joke", "Chushingura", "If You Feel", "Crown Of Creation", "Ice Cream Phoenix", "Greasy Heart", "The House At Pooneil Corners"
bonus tracks: "Ribump Ba Bap Dum Dum", "Would You Like A Snack?", "Share A Little Joke" [Mono Single Version], "The Saga Of Sydney Spacepig"