Jefferson Airplane

Album Reviews:

1967: Surrealistic Pillow

Surrealistic Pillow

Rating: 8.1/10
Rated as
: Album
Album Status
: Classic
Released: 1967
Specific Genre: Psychedelic Rock
Main Genre: Rock, Psychedelia
: Acid Rock, Psychedelic Pop, Psychedelic Folk
Label: RCA Victor

Side One 1. She Has Funny Cars 2. Somebody to Love 3. My Best Friend 4. Today 5. Comin‘ Back to Me
Side Two 6. 3/5 of a Mile in a Second 7. D.C.B.A.-25 8. How Do You Feel 9. Embryonic Journey 10. White Rabbit 11. Plastic Fantastic Lover
CD Bonus Tracks: 12. In the Morning 13. J.P.P. McStep B. Blues 14. Go to Her 15. Come Back Baby 16. Somebody to Love (mono single version) 17. White Rabbit (mono single version)

Feed your head

If you were introduced to this album as the prophecy foresees – meaning, through the acid rock hit singles “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit” – you might approach this album with the idea that this was Grace Slick’s band, and that tastefully distorted e-guitars would dominate the sound. This is not even half true. First, juxtaposed to the spacey but concise rockers are soft, ethereal folk pop ballads carried by Marty Balin’s conciliatory tenor. These gentle, flowery ballads – understanding songs about emotions in relationships trying not to sound bourgeois in ‘67 – actually help to make this a comprehensive monument of summer-of-love-psychedelia, but they aren’t what made this band exciting or memorable. And secondly, the Airplane were a diverse bunch, this isn’t a frontwoman plus band-situation, as Slick had just joined the band – Kaukonen wants to play these wailing psych-blues licks or downhome folk, side-kick Slick belts or whispers what floats her mind, and Balin really tries to be the professional here with impeccable vocals and a diverse and market-oriented approach to songwriting.

Let’s be plain: the album is a classic because of the band’s ethos, wedged somewhere in urbanized canyons between the ocean and the desert with only very vague, but brave ideas about interpersonal freedom. There are a lot of aspects here already commercially derivative in early 1967: they can’t quite chime like the Byrds, they can’t quite charm like the Mamas & Papas, and the Beatles-harmonies and melody on “How Do You Feel” are an almost uncomfortable reminder of just how influential Liverpool was on the Souther-California-Sound. But let’s get back to the good stuff: While three ballads in a row outdoing each other in pastoral haziness tone down the uncontained and jerky acid rock momentum of the two opening tracks, there is proper lore here, people. “White Rabbit” is a definite track, a psychedelic monument the size of the Great Pyramid. It’s up there with “The End” by the Doors, but it does its thing in two and a half minutes and acts as a paranoid trip on the beach instead of a in a mausoleum. Anyhow, semi-domesticated psychedelia by a band with numerous defining ingredients, but there is a very audible reason why they would lose the folk pop-aspects to their craft and specialize in woozy rock pretty quickly. What has been said about Love’s Forever Changes applies here: Our view of what was „successful“ in the late 1960s is obstructed. You need to remember these guys had to challenge Herb Alpert and the likes in order to sell records.