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Music Review: Jefferson Airplane – Live At The Fillmore Auditorium 10/16/66 Early & Late Shows – Grace’s Debut

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Signe Anderson performed her last concert with The Jefferson Airplane on October 16, 1966 at The Fillmore Auditorium. She had been a vocalist with the Airplane almost from its beginnings in 1965. Her public reason for leaving was a desire to spend more time with her family but her husband did not get along with the members of the group.

I don’t think she even made it home before Grace Slick took her place 24 hours later. She was the lead vocalist of The Great Society and was known to the band. While Anderson would disappear at times and be the least visible member of the group, Grace Slick would be a very different presence. I doubt the other group members realized at the time what they were in for but she would become a focal point of the band and bring one of the great female voices in rock history with her. When I think of psychedelic and rock music of the late sixties and early seventies, the image of Grace Slick is one that comes to mind.

Collector’s Choice has issued a four CD series of classic live performances by The Jefferson Airplane. Live At The Fillmore Auditorium 10/16/66 Early & Late Shows – Grace’s Debut is the second in the series. The cover picture of Grace and the full inside photo of her face present a young and innocent Slick. I was going to write virginal but given her future history and its perception, I felt it would not fit even at this early period in her career.

While this album may be Grace’s debut, it is really a group affair. She is just trying to fit in. She sings the Anderson harmony parts and while her voice is stronger it is not front and center as it would soon become.

Anderson’s farewell concert and Grace’s debut would both contain 13 songs but only five would be repeats. Not only did the band incorporate a new lead singer a day after the previous one departed but they changed and replaced more than half of their live act.

The Jefferson Airplane would become one of rock’s best improvisational bands and this CD shows them developing those skills. “Thing,” at over ten minutes, allows each musician to stretch out and show their skills. “They give the old rock ‘n’ roll classic “Kansas City” a seven minute workout. One the other hand the six minute “The Other Side Of Life” and the equally long “And I Like It” feature a more controlled improvisation.

Marty Balin was the vocal center of the band. His clear vocal and perfect tone was a vital part of their sound and at times seemed to run counterpoint to the music that was swirling around him.

While this may be a historic performance because of Grace Slick’s debut, it is also a document in the evolution of one of the important rock bands in American music history. Essential for any fan of the era.

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