Review Summary: Jefferson Airplane create their masterpiece with Volunteers. An album filled with all around strong tracks not to be missed.
Quick! Name the most underrated album of the 60’s. If you guessed anything other than Jefferson Airplane’s Volunteers you are wrong. In 1969 The Beatles were not the only band nearing the end. San Francisco’s Jefferson Airplane were near the end too, and released their final album, with their classic lineup, Volunteers. At the time of the albums release it was very controversial because some the songs, namely We Can Be Together, used profanity and because the original title was to be Volunteers of Amerika. When the title was disallowed Jefferson Airplane changed it to Volunteers so the album could be released to the public.
The first thing one might notice about Volunteers is that it has a completely different sound than previous efforts. While Surrealistic Pillow and After Bathing at Baxter’s had more of a psychedelic feel to them Volunteers does not. It is a rock record blended with country influences. The country influences are most noticeable on songs The Farm and Turn My Life Down because of the guitar work on the songs and the lyrics. While the guitar work on these songs is not complex it serves the songs well and certainly makes the songs stronger. I believe The Farm to be the stronger song as it features Grace Slick on vocals while Turn My Life Down has Marty Balin on vocals. Not only does Balin’s voice not fit the song their is nothing interesting about the song either.
The album starts off strong with We Can Be Together a political song with great guitar work and powerful lyrics, “We are all outlaws in the eyes of America In order to survive we cheat, lie, forge fred hide and deal.” Those who have listened to this record claim that We Can Be Together is the band’s masterpiece, and while it is a great song I feel that the bands masterpiece is, the fourth track on the album, Hey Frederick. The song is an eight an half minute long epic with powerful vocals from Grace Slick and a gut-wrenching guitar line from Jorma Kaukonen. The song may seem to drag a little bit as the second half of the song is all instrumental, but really the length strengthens the song as one has time to appreciate Kaukonen’s amazing guitar work.
One of the most famous songs off the album is Wooden Ships. The song features both Slick and Balin on vocals. Personally, I was never a huge fan of Balin’s vocals, but his voice works very well on this song and he does a wonderful job singing with Slick. After the wonderful Wooden Ships is Eskimo Blue Day. Truly an odd title for song, but don’t let the title distract from the song because it is one of Jefferson Airplane’s best. It features Slick on vocals and another amazing guitar performance from Kaukonen. I must say that Eskimo Blue Day is Slick’s finest moment because in the song she sings with so much emotion.
The next two songs on the album, A Song for All Seasons and Meadowlands, may seem like filler to those who are new to the album, but after many listens they suit the album well. A Song For All Seasons is another song that features Balin on vocals. I look past this however because of the lyrics. While the lyrics aren’t deep they are comical. The lyrics deal with a band that is falling apart while their albums are finding success on the music charts. Now Meadowlands is only about a minute long, but it is a beautiful instrumental, and a perfect lead into the final track Volunteers. Volunteers is the the albums most famous track. The song is the perfect way to end this classic album as it sums up the entire album nicely and ends the album on a high note.
This is a classic album in every sense of the word. It has wonderful vocals from Slick and strong guitar work form Kaukonen. It is surely on the best records from 1969 and without a doubt the band’s finest moment. While Surrealistic Pillow may have White Rabbit and Somebody to Love Volunteers one ups its because it is a whole album not just two strong singles. Please, do yourself a favor and hear this album. You will not regret it!
We Can Be Together
Eskimo Blue Day