Review Summary: Almost masterpiece by some other Jefferson Airplane. Forgotten treasure before revolution, studio experiments and too many drugs.
For a couple of years I've been trying to read something about CD before purchase. Usually I get reliable and valuable information. But in case of "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off" I read... well... bluffs. I read it is unsuccessful and very different from other Airplane albums, that I should beware of it, it is not on par with albums made at the end of sixties and so on.
First, this is not the same band who recorded "After Bathing At Baxters", "Crown Of Creation" or "Volunteers" and it is easy to see. The singer here is not Grace Slick but Signe Anderson, and drummer's name is Skip Spence (later known as a guitar player in Moby Grape). The main composer is Marty Balin. Music is not so psychedelic but honest and romantic electric folk rock. All the stuff that made, say, "Baxter" so "uncompromising" are luckily absent. So anyone searching for studio pyrotechnics, weird and revolutionary sounds will be disappointed.
Second, Signe Anderson is less dominant than Grace Slick on the later albums but she did a nice job on her lead "Chauffeur Blues" and harmonizing is very good. Marty Balin shines both as lead vocalist and songwriter with a little help from band.
Third, it is said that if you want to break some rule, first you've got to learn it. And here is evident that Marty and company have learned all the rules how to make a good folk rock song. In fact they sound so good so I must ask why they went "up against the wall" at all. And in my honest opinion "Surrealistic Pillow" was so good because the Airplane perfected craft they had already presented here, not because they went experimenting. So, all the differences I mentioned before are pretty much refreshing.
"Takes Off" is album made by bunch of smart young men and the reason why I like it so much is because it is not so overblown or intended to be a great artistic statement. "Takes off" is inspired collection of often beautiful folk rock songs played on electric guitars and sang in three part harmonies. And that's it. It is not "Rubber Soul" or "Pet Sounds", to be sure, but it is okay played, beautifully sung, and most of all, it has a big heart. Almost every song has some killer hook that other band would have killed for. I can hear that every song on the album (including couple of bonuses) is played inside out before going to studio, so the band sounds better than sum of its parts. And that is big thing, although some band members were still in process of learning (by joining Airplane Spence didn't have any drumming experience), it is all part of album's unique charm.
CD reissue comes with a couple of very good outtakes, so this album is highly recommended for anybody interested in Sixties folk rock. For those who want to hear early days of the one of most popular psychedelic group, this album can be really refreshing.