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Music Review: Jefferson Airplane – Bless Its Pointed Little Head

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The Jefferson Airplane, like many of their west coast contemporaries, was a superb live band. They would make the experience as important as the music. The group would constantly experiment and change their sound in concert. As such they could range from not very good to creative and spectacular. Luckily, Bless Its Pointed Little Head finds the Airplane at close to their best and that is very good indeed.

I have heard a number of  Jefferson Airplane concerts and have always found that they are a lot heavier and rocking when playing live and that is the case with this album. The triumvirate of drummer Spencer Dryden, bassist Jack Casady, and guitarist Jorma Kaukonen stand out as they lead a frenetic attack throughout the concert.

Despite all of the above, cracks were beginning to appear in the group’s solidarity. I have always thought it difficult to have two lead vocalists who did little else and here one can discern the competition between Grace Slick and Marty Balin. While they would push each other to some great performances, the tension between the two would continue to build. Slick would engage in relationships with Spencer Dryden and Paul Kantner and would gradually assume the dominant position.

“3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds” and “Somebody To Love” is all out rock ‘n’ roll and as they are presented back to back, are close to eight minutes of pulsating bliss. The first is a far different interpretation than the song which appears on Surrealistic Pillow and “Somebody To Love” is a prime example of the Slick/Balin vocal interaction.

The Donovan song, “Fat Angel,” on the surface may seem like an odd choice for the Jefferson Airplane. However it turned out to be a live classic as they transform this quasi folk song into a rock ‘n’ roll tour de force. There is ample room for Kaukonen and Casady to experiment within the structure of the song.

“Rock Me Baby” is a blues outing for the Airplane. Kaukonen is as technically adept as just about any guitarist of the era and here he and Casady combine to give a glimpse of their future as it was a musical direction they would explore as Hot Tuna.

The Fred Neil tune, “The Other Side Of This Life,” was a concert staple for the group and finds Paul Kantner taking the lead. “Plastic Fantastic Lover” is Marty Balin at his vocal best.

The only song that loses my attention is the eleven minute “Bear Melt.” All the group members except Balin take writing credit and the song has an unfinished feel. While it has some positive points, it just goes on a little too long. It was not a great concert finisher.

Overall, Bless Its Pointed Little Head is a powerful document of the Jefferson Airplane in concert. It presents them at the height of their powers and as one of the best live practitioners of late sixties American rock ‘n’ roll.   

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About David Bowling

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    I always loved the cover photo with Casady passed out at the table with bottle in hand. Casady’s bass runs on “Plastic Fantastic Lover” are also nothing short of amazing.

    -Glen

  • nerf ’09

    Jack is not “passed out”. He is just posing for the camera. Indeed, the table(s) is only partly set to receive the various Haight Ashbury guests, etc..

  • http://theglenblogspot.com Glen Boyd

    Well he sure looks passed out to me.