"After Bathing At Baxter's", Jefferson Airplane's third studio effort is not an album to use to get into the band. The album, unlike their previous, the classic "Surrealistic Pillow", had no pop hits, didn't sell very well, and wasn't marketable, even for the psuedo-hippie crowd that the record companies were whoring out, much like the emo fad today. Even Marty Balin, previously the band's cheif songwriter of pretty love songs and ballads, took backseat to Paul Kantnar, truly a force to be reckoned with.
Now, with this said, Baxter's is not a commercial album, but it is an amazing one. It's divided into 5 suites, for no descernible reason that I can pick up, but it was certainly a cool idea. The first suite, "Streetmasse" begins with one of the most loved songs of JA fans, "The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil". Pooneil is a psychedelic classic, beginning with blistering feedback, a bouncy, catchy guitar riff and delicious vocal harmonies that the Airplane is known and loved for. What's unusual about the song is Jack Casady's bass solo, the first point on the album where Jack really gets to show just what he can do. Pooneil gives way to the interesting filler track "A Small Package of Value will Come to You, Shortly". Nothing can really be said about this 1:20 random-noise freak-out, which leads into "Young Girl Sunday Blues". This is the lone Marty Balin song on the record, and it's certainly one of his better songs. Need I remind anyone of "Miracles"? It's a fast-paced but laid-back song, that probably could have been a well-selling single if given the chance. The rhythm guitar sounds keyboard-like at times, and Jorma really shines on this one. Grace is left out of the vocals though, which is just as well, it's too testosterone-driven for her. Jorma gets a good solo in, which saves the song, which without it, would be sort of bland.
Now, onto the second suite, "The War Is Over". As the title may suggest, the two songs in this section are peaceful and laid-back, particularly "Martha", an acoustic-electric ballad about a teenage runaway. The vocals are soft and soothing, and a recorder can be heard tootling in the background. This is the folksiest song on the album, and one of my favorites, Grace in particular standing out. Then there's Wild Tyme (H), a faster number about God knows what. The lyrics are not the best on the album, and sound almost Balinesque. The rhthym guitar in the beginning again sounds similar to a keyboard. The vocals are great, fierce, but still harmonizing perfectly. Jorma rides again here, soloing over Paul, Grace and Marty singing "it's a wild time" like a mantra. This is probably one of the harder songs on the album, like "Baxter's" answer to "3/5's of a Mile in 10 Seconds".
"Hymn to An Older Generation" is probably my personal favorite of the suites, and holds my favorite track, "rejoyce". "Rejoyce" is the first of two Grace Slick compositions, this one being about the great James Joyce novel "Ulysses" (amazing book, by the way). Her voice is strong and melodic, but her dirging piano is also understated. Jack Casady's fast-moving bass is icing on the cake, absolutely amazing when put through headphones. The other song, "The Last Wall of the Castle", holds some of Jorma Kaukonen's best electric playing. His blusey vocal delivery fits the psychedelic playing on the guitar suprisingly well. Spencer Dryden's pounding tribal-like drumming really stand out to me, suiting Kaukonen perfectly, better than Casady even, at least in this song. This is definatly a song for guitar players. Page has got nothing on Jorma, and this one proves it.
"How Suite It Is" is an odd pairing. On the one hand, we have "Watch Her Ride", a sometimes annoying poppy love song by *gasp!* Paul Kantnar. On the other hand, we have "Spare Chaynge", 9 minutes of guitar, bass, and drum improvising. Sound boring? It isn't. "Spare Chaynge" might take a while to grow on you, but when it does, you're hooked on it. Jorma and Jack make one of the best guitar-bass pairings in history. They fit each other wonderfully, perhaps due in part to Jorma's fingerpicking style. The instruments have pefect chemestry, each seeming to know just what the next is going to do before he does it. "Watch Her Ride" is by far the poppiest of the crop. The harmonies are nice, but the song lacks anything too special and is a run of the mill love tune. However, it's still a good and listenable song.
And finally, there's "Shizoforest Love Suite", featuring the second Slick song, "Two Heads". This song is definatly remeniscent of "White Rabbit", her most famous song, but brings something different. An eastern influence is apparant in the rhthym of the song, and Grace's voice is fantastic. Thanks to studio trickery, she gained the ability to trade off vocals with herself at the end of the song. The final track is "Won't You Try/Saturday Afternoon". The harmonies in the song might feel like something off of "Pillow" or "Volunteers", but the soft psychedelic instrumentation is pure "Baxter's". This is the calmest of all the tracks on the album, keeping true to the band's hippie ideals of peace and love. As far as I know, it's about the free concert in Hyde Park that the band was involved in earlier that year. Jorma gets another solo, and Grace twinkles on the piano a bit. The song feels like something that a few friends might come up with after a few beers, although as we know, the band hated each other, even then. However, they were able to put all differences aside and give us a great song of the psychedelic 60's.
Now then, if you're a fan of psychedelic music in general, or a Jefferson Airplane fan with your starter kit set (namely, you have "Surrealistic Pillow"), this album is an absolute MUST. It's my favorite of Jefferson Airplane's, and one of my favorite albums ever. But, it isn't a totally accesiable album, and I reccomend first getting Surrealistic Pillow before jumping into this one.
Bless Its Pointed Little Head is great. Good example of Jefferson Airplane live. All those San Francisco psychedelia bands really showed off live and on Bless Its Pointed Little Head, the songs are louder, heavier, and more jammed out. I don't know if I prefer them live or in the studio, but it's definitely worth it to check out both sides of the band.
I recently stumbled upon this album at my local record store, and decided, hey, let's check out it! I was quite impressed. I don' t think it has that coolness feel of Surrealistic Pillow, but this album is definitely up there.
Good Review, would be quite amazing with some structure.This Message Edited On 04.22.06
It's late and I'm a bit tired, but want to submit a brief response to this review. Not to get into good/bad eval., I'mthefloor's words are much appreciated by me: they're sort of a painting of a painting (impressionistic, of course). The review could be polished to a fine shine - no doubt, but as it stands, I believe that it's much the equal, stylistically, of it's subject. I LOVE BAXTERS, and I appreciate so much your (ITF's) articulate description and analysis of the work. Like Bach, it's music that I'll enjoy from time to time, all my life. THANK YOU to "IMTHEFLOOR" and, as this is my first time to say aloud, THANK-YOU-JEFFERSON-AIRPLANE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thank you so much for this review; it was very well written despite your paragraph errors. I absolutely loved Surrealistic Pillow, and I was pretty disappointed when I bought a 2nd album, who's name I can't recall, suffice to say it was pretty bad. I didn't know which album to try next, and I wasn't up for putting more cash down without knowledge of what it would sound like. I'd heard Baxter's was crap, but you've convinced me otherwise; I'm downloading it track by track as we speak. That other review I read (not on this site) probably put it down for its lack of accessability, but you're talking to a guy who loves Pink Floyd's Ummagumma. Anyway, yeah, thanks!